Drinks Trade and Circana reveal Australia’s hottest liquor brands

June 28, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Recently, Drinks Trade worked alongside Circana to create the 2024 Drinks Trade Hottest Brands List, a collation of the eight Australian liquor brands that brought in the most cumulative sales revenue throughout 2023 as per Circana’s MarketEdge Retail Liquor Weighted data. These eight brands collectively generated a cumulative $405 million in drinks industry revenue.

Additionally, Circana also provided detailed insight into current and emerging liquor industry trends in its Hottest Brands Report 2024. Included in this report is exclusive commentary discussing ways that brands can be successful in current trading conditions.

Both the Hottest Brands List and Hottest Brands Report can be read in full in the latest print edition of Drinks Trade, available for free here.

Without further adieu, these are the eight hottest drinks brands of Australia’s drinks industry:

#1. Hard Rated 

The brand that brought in the most cumulative revenue in 2023 was Carlton & United Breweries’ Hard Rated, generating $157 million in Australia’s liquor sector throughout 2023 alone.​ It achieved this result despite only making its debut to market as recently as July of last year.

According to Circana’s report, Hard Rated’s success is attributable to a number of factors, including its ability to capitalise on the nostalgic lemon flavour and its ability to blur traditional category boundary lines. Circana’s latest MarketEdge report shows that “lemon is the most popular light RTD flavour, having grown its share to more than 30% this year.”

According to Circana, “leveraging a great tasting lemon liquid has seen Hard Rated transcend category, gender and generational divides, appealing to women in their 20s at the same rate as Gen X men and regular beer drinkers.”

This has seen the sector soar in popularity, accounting for +$243 million actual growth and for the top six growth SKUs. 

#2. Great Northern

Great Northern brought in the second highest cumulative sales in 2023 due to the popularity of its ginger beer, which blends contemporary beer plus ginger. According to Circana, “the fusion of ginger with beer is giving a new twist on a refreshing ‘Aussie thirst quencher.” Trailing lemon, ginger is the second nostalgic flavour driving liquor sales growth. Great Northern brought in a cumulative $96 million last year, an increase of 7% on the year prior. 

#3. Billson’s

Out of the top eight brands that were established before 2023, Billson’s experienced the highest percentage of growth, up 173% on the year before. Whilst first established in 1865, the revitalised Billson’s draws on Billson’s Distillery’s heritage crafting traditional cordials, by combining techniques from the non-alcoholic with a wide range of retailer exclusive flavours. The final products are all easy drinking, refreshing and seasonable.

#4 Brookvale Union

According to Circana, Brookvale Union “epitomises the blurring of lines between beer and RTDs, borrowing its flavour cues from classic soft drinks.” Whilst not a new brand, the company’s sales grew by 48% and by $60 million over the course of 2023. Brookvale Union’s success is the perfect example of the growth of nostalgic RTD flavours. According to Circana’s report, “the secret behind today’s highest performing brands is impactful innovation underpinned by products blending influences from other categories, brands, geographies and generational preferences, for example, nostalgic serves.”

Circana’s report found that ginger flavoured beverages brought in $43 million of actual growth and accounted for three of the top 12 growth brands. 

 #5 Hahn

Despite its history, Hahn has managed to remain right at the forefront of the current better-for-you trend through careful portfolio additions such as SuperDry 3.5% and Ultra Low Carb. As a result, it’s little surprise that Hahn came in fifth place in the Hottest Brands List for 2024, contributing $56 million to Australia’s liquor sector throughout the course of 2023 alone. This is an increase of 20% on the year before. 

According to Circana, Hahn has achieved succes by catering to the growing sector of consumers seeking out mindful choices without compromising on flavour: “tightening budgets influence drinkers to be more prone to prioritising (low) price and promotions, evidenced in the growth of value-tier price point offerings.” 

The release of Hahn Ultra, an ultra-low carb beer, has already developed a strong following among calorie-conscious beer drinkers since being launched to market in early 2023. Each bottle of Hahn Ultra contains less than 1 gram of carbs and only 87 calories per bottle. 

#6 Minus 196

Largely responsible for kickstarting the current lemon RTD trend in Australia, Suntory’s Minus 196 incorporates innovate selling points such as its Freeze Crush Infusion technology, along with careful range extensions, to ensure that the company stays at the forefront of the sector. 

In addition to Double Lemon and Double Grape, which launched in Australia mid 2021 and late 2022 respectively, Minus 196 also recently launched Double Peach in March. 

“Over the last two and a half years, the brand has become a pioneer within the category of light, fruit-flavoured RTDs in Australia, capturing the extreme Japanese spirit, and expanding our local Minus 196 fanbase,” said Trent Chapman.

“Since its launch, Suntory -196 has had a huge impact on the Ready to Drink category; we have long known that Aussies have loved the Strong Zero products they’ve experienced in Japan and it’s great to see the-196 brand being just as well received.”

Minus 196 brought in an additional $36 million worth of revenue, an increase of 26%.

To read more about Suntory Minus 196, visit page 28 of Drinks Trade Autumn.

#7 Balter

The number one new product in the beer category belongs to Balter for its Cerveza Lager. This beer fits Circana’s trend of “blurring boundaries between traditional categories” along with also appealing to value-oriented consumers.

“Balter blurred global boundaries with its successful local expression of an international style – an easy- going beer targeting the relaxed ‘arvo’ moment to become the #1 new product in the beer category,” said Circana’s report. 

Balter grew 45% throughout and by $35 million 2023, an impressive feat considering the pressures that were beginning to be felt across the craft beer sector.

#8 Asahi 

Up $24 million and 12% on the year before, Asahi has managed to deliver additional value to customers through supplying larger 500ml pack sizes for its Super Dry brand. The launch of Asahi Super Dry 0.0% also successfully tapped into the growing demand for alcohol free options.

In the Hottest Brands Report 2024, the data provided by Circana suggests that the lifespan of drinks trends is changing.

“The rapid rise and fall of hard seltzers indicate shorter trend cycles; and while ‘no and low alcoholic’ beverages growth is faster than retail liquor overall, it’s consistently slowing in both absolute and percentage terms from a 2020 high,” reads the report. 

Drinks Trade Winter 2024 is currently being distributed nationwide and is available to read online here.

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