When Lizzo dropped her hit single “Juice” this January, she wasn’t singing about Absolut Vodka. But the rapper is changing her tune.
The popular singer was hired by Absolut maker Pernod Ricard to serve as a pitchwoman for Absolut Juice, a line made with vodka that has 5% juice (strawberry or apple) and no artificial flavors. “I can’t wait to sip this with my big grrls all summer and on tour this fall,” says Lizzo in Absolut’s press release, perhaps one of the only times “grrls” has been used in a corporate announcement.
Absolut Juice launched stateside this spring and is positioned as an alternate to rosé. When it's served as a cocktail with club soda, the vodka brand hopes consumers will see it worth the squeeze for containing 20% fewer calories.
“Consumers want easy-to-mix flavored vodkas,” says Simon de Beauregard, engagement director of Absolut, adding Absolut Juice is best sipped in two straightforward cocktail formats: either mixed simply with club soda or with club soda and sparkling wine.
Absolut Juice represents a broader movement away from the wild flavors of yesteryear like cotton candy and Swedish Fish. These days, vodka makers are incorporating natural ingredients and often lower calorie counts as consumers lean toward alcoholic drinks that pack less of a punch. “Consumers are more interested in healthy drinking, and companies are emphasizing that in their production,” says Max Heinemann, client manager of wine and spirits at Nielsen.
Aligning with broader wellness trends may help these newer vodkas enjoy a
Just a month before Absolut Juice debuted in a test run in the United Kingdom, rival Diageo started selling Ketel One Botanicals in May 2018. Made with vodka and infused with fruits and botanicals, the liquors come in flavor combinations like cucumber and mint or peach and orange blossom. Diageo says they have 40% fewer calories than a glass of white wine.
“We have gone all-in on recruiting that wine drinker,” says Jim Ruane, director of Ketel One vodka. The lower alcohol-by-volume content is also appealing to the brunch crowd, moving vodka out of the club scene that has become less culturally relevant in recent years.
There’s proof Diageo’s strategy is working. For the company’s fiscal-year results released in July, Ketel One’s value soared 23% compared with a 1% decline in the year-ago period, according to industry data. Ketel One Botanicals has been described as one of the company’s “most impactful launches in our history.”
“Flavored vodkas had such a hot ride,” Heinemann says. “People wanted to get on the gravy train, it was exploding so quickly.”
Vodka makers first tasted success by launching citrus variations like lemon and orange, flavors that were in line with how consumers already drank vodka. But then almost every brand launched its own version, resulting in a dozen or more of each flavor being sold at liquor stores.
So to stand out, they added a vanilla variation. And then a chocolate vodka. Sure, they weren’t as mixable, but at least these vodkas seemed natural.