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Shanken News Daily: Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

Aug 09, 2023

The bitters category—including well-known Italian brands like Campari and Aperol as well has U.S.-based craft players—has seen strong growth from a relatively small base in recent years. Bitters are set up for continued success both on- and off-premise, as Italian cocktail culture and low- and no-abv drinks continue appealing to a wide swath of consumers.

Within the wide world of Italian bitters, two names are ubiquitous: Campari and Aperol. “Those brands are king of the hill,” says Chris McNeal, liquor manager at Colorado retailer Molly’s Spirits. “In my experience, when someone comes in for their bitter liqueur of choice [which tend to be one of those popular labels], there’s no point in trying to talk them out of it, either.”

Campari America’s Aperol ($22 a 750-ml.), leveraging its signature Spritz cocktail, rose from just 9,000 cases back in 2010 to 390,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank. Portfoliomate Campari reached 227,000 cases in 2022, more than double its 2015 volume. Campari has made marketing pushes at events like the Coachella music festival to continue getting in front of consumers, according to Campari head of marketing Andrea Sengara.

Bacardi-owned Martini & Rossi has eyed bitter liqueurs more closely in recent years. Its Fiero expression is a blend of white wines and botanicals, including Murcia orange peel and artemisia absinthium. Fabio Raffaelli, North American brand ambassador for Martini & Rossi, says the bitter liqueur is now the primary growth driver for the brand, which also has a Riserva Speciale bitter ($30) in its portfolio.

Luxardo, part of the Hotaling & Co. portfolio, is another competitor in the bitter liqueur space, with offerings including Bitter Rosso ($28), Bitter Bianco ($28), and Aperitivo ($24). “Spritzes and Negronis have been the place that it started, but now there’s more of a spotlight on Italian drinking culture across the board, and we’re excited to see where the category goes,” says Luxardo brand manager Clayton Danielson.

Galliano, imported by Lucas Bols USA, joined the bitter liqueur mix in 2017 with L’Aperitivo ($25 a 375-ml.). Fernet-Branca (Branca USA), Amaro Montenegro (Gallo), Amaro Nonino (Terlato), and Averna (Campari) are other prominent brands in the category.

“The non-alcoholic section of aperitivo, of bitter liqueurs, is on fire right now,” adds Raffaelli. “That section of the category is the biggest right now, not in terms of number, but growth.” He adds that non-alcoholic SKUs Martini & Rossi Floreale and Vibrante (both $20 a 750-ml.) will take focus for the company over the next fiscal year. Market Watch has more.


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