Seems as though everywhere you go in NYC, you run into an ad for Malibu Black. It’s a new entry that according to the owners seeks to combine the smooth coconut flavor that you love with higher proof and less sweetness for a bolder taste of the Caribbean.
Translation: We’ve been watching the Flavored Rum category and finally noticed that Sailor Jerry was changing the Rum game so we thought we would follow along.
In fact, higher-proof, dark and spiced Rums are doing well. According to Shanken News Daily, Sailor Jerry (92 proof) grew by 59% in 2010 to 635,000 cases. The team that invented it now runs Proximo and their recent entry, Kraken (94 proof) sold 75,000 cases in its first year. The other three or four new entries in this sub-category are still trying to gain traction.
A few observations:
Seems to me, the 6 million case gorilla known as Captain Morgan, is stuck at the dock (including the 100 proof entry) while the flotilla sails off. Admiral Nelson and others are growing at the expense of the base brand and the line extensions don’t seem to be helping. Someone needs to walk the plank.
Malibu Black? Higher proof at 70? It’s still a coconut Rum without an image likely to appeal to the Sailor Jerry or Kraken drinker. Can’t you just hear the conversation leading up to the launch – “let’s make a dark rum, up the proof a bit and call it Black… a sure winner…well gotta run, don’t want to miss the 5:40.”
I had a number of conversations with James Espey about Malibu over the years. James, along with Tom Jago and Peter Fleck, created the brand. (Currently they also are the owners of Last Drop Distillers Limited.)
James has written an interesting article called The True Story of Malibu. The article raises some interesting concepts on the creation of Malibu that are still applicable to the brand and new entries in general. (Send me an email or hit the comment box if you’d like a copy.)
James points out that Malibu succeeded because the product innovation was bold and outside the box. That was facilitated by an entrepreneurial spirit and effort that managed to overcome corporate obstacles. Above all, instinct and tenacity were key elements rather than studying the concept to death.
These elements apply to Sailor Jerry and to Kraken, in my view. Which helps to explain why the spirits industry giants are better at buying new brands than creating them.