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Issue: October 2010
The Premium Instigator

by: David Gadd
"It's a great year to be in the premium tequila business." So says Amy Weisenbach, U.S. Director of Tequila and Rum for Beam Global, and she ought to know. As the person responsible for Beam Global's tequila portfolio, which includes five brands on three tiers, Weisenbach is most excited about Hornitos, her premium tequila.

 
Horitos stands ready to instigate a more interesting night at Maximo Cocino Mexicana & Tequila Lounge in Dallas.
PHOTO: KIRK WEDDLE
 She's got the figures to back up her enthusiasm. "Premium tequila is up 16 percent in volume for the latest 13 weeks, outpacing the category," she tells THE TASTING PANEL, "while standard and super-premium brands are lagging. And Hornitos is even outpacing premium tequila, up 22.3 percent over the same time period."

Impressive stats, given that all the buzz in tequila for as long as most of today's drinkers can remember has been centered around super-premiums (where Beam positions its venerable Tres Generaciones and El Tesoro brands).

But there's still an even more impressive number to come: Hornitos Plata is up an almost incredible 74 percent, Weisenbach reports. That's what we call premium performance.

What factors could fuel such phenomenal growth? Let's find out.

Heritage, History and Beyond

As part of the Sauza family of tequilas, Hornitos is fortunate to share its parent brand's DNA, which also includes an illustrious past. The Sauzas are one of Mexico's oldest agave-growing and tequila-making families. They played a crucial role in the development of tequila and its government-protected appellation, and they were among the very first to import the spirit to the United States.

At the same time, contemporary investment in environmentally responsible practices, organic growing methods and new propagation techniques keep Sauza in the forefront. "In Hornitos, this amazing heritage and history," Weisenbach notes, "is juxtaposed with what we are about today, which is on the cutting edge of tequila."

A More Interesting Night

Consumers and bartenders alike share Weisenbach's enthusiasm for the Hornitos brand. A part of the mystique lies in the name itself. Even though it means "little ovens" in Spanish (a reference to the baking of the agave hearts in tequila production), "you can have a lot of fun with the name Hornitos," admits Weisenbach with a laugh.

With its edgy appeal, the brand prides itself on being an instigator, and the message the brand likes to get across to on-premise patrons is the Hornitos instigates a more interesting night. As a 100-percent blue agave tequila, Hornitos is a memorable step up from standard tequilas that customers often order from the well without even knowing their brand names.

Weisenbach says that in speaking with consumers, they typically talk about two kinds of tequila experience. "There's cheap party tequila at the low end, and there's pretentious bling tequila at the high end," she explains. While both the low end and the high are each strongly dominated by one single brand, Weisenbach notes that "there's this really big hole in the middle that no one brand has dominated-premium tequila, and it's growing." Hornitos can take a significant share of the credit for bringing growth to this previously stagnant category. As Weisenbach puts it: "Hornitos is the premium tequila that hasn't forgotten it's a tequila."

The Premium Shot Occasion

While shots have traditionally been one of the major ways in which tequila is consumed, the days of the inexpensive "mystery tequila" shot-as well as the wallet-wrenching super-premium prestige shot-could be numbered, thanks to the advent of tasty premium tequilas like Hornitos.

"There's really a role for a brand like Hornitos in the shot occasion," opines Weisenbach. "Hornitos will give consumers that really smooth, drinkable shot, but it's still going to be fun-and it will also likely lead to people ordering more."

According to Weisenbach, a bit of back-of-the-envelope math using Nielsen numbers has shown that serving shots of Hornitos is three times more profitable for a bar than selling standard tequila shots, given the likelihood that customers will enjoy the taste (and price point) of Hornitos enough to order another round.
 
Hornitos shots with house-made sangrita at Oh Mexico in Miami Beach.
PHOTO: TOM CLARK
Upping Investment

To promote the brand, Beam has upped its investment level with a high-profile television campaign, choosing networks-such as TBS, Spike and Comedy Central-that cater to the brand's target demographic of LDA 20-somethings who appreciate life on the edge. Any digital junkie worthy of his art-skinned iPhone will have already downloaded the provocative advertisements for Hornitos, originally aired on TV, that have wound up going viral on YouTube and Twitter.

Hornitos also scored big with the growing popularity of hockey as a sponsor of this year's National Hockey League finals. And according to Weisenbach, in 2011 the brand will be rolling out tools to help promote Hornitos on-premise. Details of the push are still top secret, but will almost certainly include branded glassware and other items to "establish the ritual of the Hornitos shot."

Weisenbach, Hornitos Brand Manager Halley Kehoe and Beam Global are still far from the ceiling with Hornitos and its phenomenal growth spurt, but the bottom line is already evident: "We're proud that we're instigating growth in the premium tequila category."

www.hornitostequila.com

  On our October cover: Leslie Whitten, Bar Manager at Maximo Cocino Mexicana & Tequila Lounge, Dallas, poses with Hornitos.
PHOTO: KIRK WEDDLE 

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