The world’s most popular alcoholic drink in 2017 was the South Korean soju brand Jinro, owned by Hite-Jinro, according to the IWSR Real 100, the definitive ranking of the world’s largest spirits brands by volume. Selling almost 76m nine-litre cases, Jinro retains its number one position from last year, and once again by a staggering margin of over 44m cases. Jinro has grown for four years in a row, selling 0.8% (over 600,000 cases) more in 2017 than it did in 2016.
The world’s second and third most-consumed spirits brands swapped places this year. Ruang Khao moves up to second place, the pick-me-up for Thai labourers growing by almost 2% after a dip in 2016. In third place, the world’s biggest brown spirit – and the world’s number one whisky – is ABD’s Officer’s Choice.
The markets for soju in South Korea, local whisky in India and cane spirits in Thailand are so vast that even those brands trailing far behind Jinro, Officer’s Choice and Ruang Khao sit comfortably within the global top 10.
Thai Beverages, who also owns Ruang Khao, is one of only two companies to have two brands in the top 10. Besides McDowell’s, Diageo has Smirnoff vodka at number six. Smirnoff is the first truly global brand on the list, selling over 25m cases across 155 countries, and rising one place in the rankings this year.
While giant domestic Asian brands make up the lion’s share of the top 10, the international bestsellers are not far behind. Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky grew by 2% last year, but fell one place to 12th, just ahead of Bacardi rum, unchanged in 13th, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey, which rose two places to 14th. These Western brands don’t completely rule their home markets as they face more competition from other international spirits brands, but their global reach ensures that they are still available to hundreds of millions of potential consumers and generally at affordable price points.
Eighteen of the brands in the Real 100 belong to Diageo, making the British company the most-represented owner on the list. Pernod Ricard follows with ten brands.
The most-represented category in the Real 100 is whisky, with 29 brands featured. Fifteen of these whiskies are Indian, of which ten are owned by either Diageo or Pernod Ricard. The biggest climbers of the whisky category were Japanese whisky Nikka, climbing from 96th to 87th place (12% growth 2016-2017) and Jameson Irish whiskey which climbed from 48th to 43rd (12.1% growth 2016-2017)
Nineteen vodka brands appear on this year’s list. Tito’s once again surged up the rankings: impressive growth of 17.6% in 2017 means that the brand has leapt from 93rd place to 35th in the space of just two years.
The list features six rum brands. Bacardi stays at 13th, Captain Morgan breaks back into the top 20 in 19th place, and Havana Club’s growth of 6.3% is only enough to rise one place to 67th.