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American whiskey challenges Johnnie Walker lead in alcohol power list

Published:  10 June, 2015

Johnnie Walker has retained its title as the world's leading alcohol power brand - but risks losing the crown in future years.

Diageo stablemate Smirnoff is hot on the heels of the global Scotch brand in the Power 100 chart produced by brand strategy and development agency Intangible Business.

But it's American whiskey, led by Jack Daniel's, that's closing the gap fastest as Johnnie Walker suffers from the impact of falling Scotch sales in China and a slowdown in exports.

Brown-Forman's JD saw its score in power list rise by 7% over the past year, putting it in fourth place behind the two Diageo brands and Bacardi.

Johnnie Walker's score fell by 11% over the same period.

Stuart Whitwell, joint managing director of Intangible Business, said: "China's falling appetite for Scotch has certainly hit the market hard. Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal and Rémy Martin have all felt the effects.

"While consumers will always be prepared to pay for premium Scotch, other premium whiskey categories such as Bourbon, Japanese and Irish are starting to be genuinely attractive in the premium and super-premium segments. Scotch is facing some tough competition."

China's clampdown on luxury gift-giving has hit Scotch whisky harder than other spirit sectors.

Whitwell added: "Diageo's ability to retain supremacy with Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff reiterates the sheer market power it possesses and its dexterity in reacting to adverse marketing conditions."

Wine brands Kendall Jackson and Lindemans were the biggest risers in the Power 100 over the year, up 17 and 13 places respectively, while Hardys fell 16 places to 46th.

In spirits, Southern Comfort was a big riser and Three Olives vodka saw the biggest slide in ranking.

The Power 100 is compiled using data on market share, projected growth, price positioning and reach into different world markets.

It also takes into account ratings from a panel of drinks industry experts on aspects such as brand awareness, heritage and perception.