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Vodka Trends 2022: The One Tactic Brands Must Use

January 21, 2022 by Joel Davidge

Experts say the gin boom is over and vodka is on the up. But could tequila rival the spirit? We asked two vodka experts for their take on vodka trends for 2022

On the face of it, 2022 should be a good year for vodka.

Last year, spend on gin fell for the first time, according to research by Nielsen. And it was a vodka brand, Smirnoff, which showed the fastest growth across the year.

These figures have led many to predict that we’re seeing the end of the “gin boom” which emerged in the middle of the last decade.

But with tequila also on the rise, we spoke to vodka experts about what brands must do to stay relevant.

As we’ll cover, whilst there are a number of key trends for vodka, education and busting the stereotypes around the spirit will be key.

 

Busting Vodka Stereotypes Is Key

Vodka is poured into a cocktail glass with a salt rim.

Despite vodka sales rising over the past few years, the spirit is often unfairly overlooked.

Massimiliano Uccellatori, brand ambassador at Broken Clock Vodka puts this down to the widespread stereotypes which exist about the spirit.

“The public perception of this spirit was, and still largely is, generally wrong,” he states.

“For decades vodka brands focused on only one type of vodka, which is the ‘traditional’ style of vodka. The ‘tasteless’, purest, cleanest, and often boring vodka.”

Uccellatori notes that this doesn’t include flavoured vodkas, as these are often more akin to a liqueur than a spirit.

Vodka stereotypes are also an issue for Veronika Karlova, founder of Girls Drink Vodka and Chair of Judges at the World Vodka Awards.

She identifies the former USSR’s monopolisation of vodka production as key to the perception of vodka as flavourless and odourless.

The growth of vodka popularity in the US after the Second World War also factors.

“Vodka became a go-to-drink for many people because of its ‘no smell, no taste’ character and was primarily used in cocktails, which were booming.”

Contrasted with exciting smoky mezcals, and floral botanical gins, it’s no wonder that vodka is often thought of as a blander spirit.

Thankfully things are beginning to change.

Karlova takes solace from the fact that vodka is slowly gaining popularity in the craft distilling scene.

“In the recent years, thanks to the craft movement, vodka gained on popularity again not because its neutrality but mostly because of its raw material character and flavour.”

 

Drinks Trends 2022: Tequila vs Vodka

A glass of tequila in a rocks glass on a tray next to a glass with lemon and salt

Nature hates a vacuum, and the drinks industry is no different.

With gin potentially on the wane, the next big 2022 drink trend predicted for the market is tequila. On the rise for a few years, will the agave spirit contend with vodka in 2022?

Search intent would seem to bear this out. Data from MediaVision shows that in 2021 searches for vodka increased by 1.95% compared to 7.88% for tequila.

Veronika Karlova agrees the increase in tequila and mezcal sales is significant.

“Even the tequila martini is a thing now. It will certainly rival vodka in 2022 and steal some volume.”

Massimiliano Uccellatori doesn’t seem too perturbed by this possibility. As tequila characteristics are so different to vodka, he is positive about tequila’s recent success.

“One isn’t better or excludes the other. Variety is key either in a bar or on the shelves of your home-bar.”

He notes that whilst tequila is having its moment in the sun, this is in part due to large investment in marketing budgets and a slew of celebrity endorsements.

Speaking to Oliver Pergl from Proximo Spirits for our recent 2022 drink trend predictions report also highlighted the importance of education and VIP ambassadors when it comes to tequila’s growth.

Given this, our main vodka trends 2022 prediction is that brands need to continue invest in building education and advocacy programmes to push the envelope when it comes to perceptions of vodka.

There are hints, perhaps, that existing strategies using this tactic is beginning to work.

Uccellatori expands on this: “I wouldn’t forget the annual increase of popularity of a timeless cocktail such as the Vodka Martini, slowly replacing the Gin Martini as preference. This will help the vodka category a lot in the years to come.”

 

Botanical Vodka: inspired by gin?

Brown-Forman’s Finlandia vodka botanical range at a lower ABV is part of larger vodka trends of botanical inspired vodka

Another of the wave of vodka trends predicted recently is the continued rise of botanical vodka.

In recent years, brands like Finlandia, Ketel One, and Stoli have all released botanical flavoured product lines.

Often with a lower ABV, the marketing for these products leant heavily on the natural fruit notes. Speaking to the Spirits Business, Pekka Pellinen from Finlandia noted that vodka was now being infused with botanical ingredients “in a way previously only associated with gin.”

Veronika Karlova agrees that botanical vodka is now a subcategory of the spirit and is growing fast.

“For lower-calorie-conscious people botanical vodka might be a great substitution for flavoured vodka, which normally contains a lot of sugar and artificial flavourings.”

 

Flavour is Everything

A bottle of Broken Clock vodka lies in a bed of botanicals and herbs, part of rising vodka trends towards botanical infused vodka

Whilst botanicals make the vodka category more interesting, Massimiliano Uccellatori is keen to point out that there is more to vodka than this trend.

“People usually do not expect to be able to sip and enjoy a neat Vodka at room temperature, no ice, no mixers.”

As ambassador for Broken Clock vodka, he cites this as an example of a vodka distilled using botanical ingredients; a vodka with character and subtle favours but without specific references to the botanicals used.

Made in the traditional method including a copper pot distillation, Broken Clock’s base of 100% British wheat is infused with time-honoured botanicals from an English country garden.

“Broken Clock has a subtle infusion of ingredients without one to overpower the others. The spirit is completely transparent, it’s a ‘sophisticated’ vodka with character more than a vodka with a specific flavour,” he comments.

The result is a drink which sits between a traditional and a flavoured vodka. You wouldn’t confuse it with gin, but the botanical elements, inspired by recipes taken from Georgian-era books is unmistakable.

“It’s like trying Vodka for the first time,” says Uccellatori.

“You can experience a proper tasting of the spirit, starting from the nose, the palate and then the aftertaste, to catch the bouquet of flavours like you would with wine.”

 

Low and No Alcohol

Vodka Trends 2022: a row of vodka bottles on a shelf

Lower ABV spirits is another fast-growing trend in the drinks sector.

As younger generations move towards a more mindful approach to drinking, often opting for alcohol free alternatives, drinks brands are having to pivot to capture this section of the market.

Vodka trends have followed the rest of the sector in part, with new lower ABV vodka lines released. However, both our experts agree that the sector is unlikely to head further in this direction any time soon.

Veronika Karlova suspects that wine drinkers will be tempted more by this category than those who drink vodka.

“Judging by my own experience, once you enjoy drinking vodka and vodka-based cocktails, a low-ABV replacement won’t be your go-to option.”

It is something different, a new trend for a specific target of people, which is increasing a lot but still limited in number,” says Massimiliano Uccellatori.

“If the products are well made, with a good idea and story behind, it’s good to have as many options as possible. At the end of the day, it’s the customer choice. They need to find what fits their taste.”

 

Vodka Trends 2022: All About Education

A vodka bottle

Let’s review what we know. Interest in gin looks like it’s beginning to plateau. Though vodka sales look to be healthy this year, tequila has seen remarkable success as education breaks down stereotypes around the spirit.

With vodka often overlooked as bland and flavourless, The Cocktail Service reckons that increased efforts to educate consumers of the different flavours and character of vodka will pay dividends.

With that in mind we asked our vodka experts which vodka myth they’d most like to bust.

“Definitely, it’s about the marketing strategies,” says Uccellatori.

“Personally, the most obvious is that an infinite number of distillations and filtrations through diamonds or lunar rocks or whatever else and water taken directly from the North Pole, doesn’t make vodka better!”

Karlova opts for the often-touted myth that “all vodka is made from potatoes.”

“This is a vodka myth that is particularly spread across the UK. Vodka can be made from a vast variety of ingredients, including wheat, barley, rye, corn, rice, grape, molasses, and plenty others.”

According to her, another vodka myth to consign to history is that “all vodka tastes the same”.

“Thanks to different base spirit the flavour and character of vodka varies a lot, this comes forward, especially when tasting vodka neat at room temperature.”

 

You can find Massimiliano on Instagram @massimilianouccellatori. For more about Broken Clock head over on their website

Veronika regularly showcases the best new vodkas over on Instagram @girlsdrinkvodkacom.

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