Flavor innovation helped boost the spirits industry in 2012 and is fostering continued growth in 2013, according to Chicago-based Technomic’s recently released “2013 Spirits Trends in Adult Beverage (TAB)” report.

“Many of the trends that drove the spirits market in 2011 continued in 2012, such as premiumization and consumer interest in exploring different categories, but the real driver was product innovation, particularly around flavor,” said Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic, in a statement. “Spirits suppliers came to market with compelling products featuring interesting and sometimes unexpected flavor profiles. Consumers were intrigued, especially the all-important millennial consumer group.”

Consumers with a thirst for new flavor experiences gravitated toward single-malt Scotch whiskies, candy- and dessert-flavored vodkas, as well as spicier selections offered in rum, cordials and liqueurs, according to Technomic.

In 2012, a new wave of multi-layered flavored vodkas gained attention, such as Absolut Cherrykran, Belvedere Lemon Tea, 360 Buttered Popcorn and Van Gogh PB&J, according to Technomic. The flavored vodka segment posted a double-digit percent gain to account for 28 percent of total vodka volume, it says.

Flavor innovation went beyond the vodka category, however, with both sweet and spicy flavored liqueur versions of American and Canadian whiskeys. These specialty products accounted for a 14 percent share of the leading cordial and liqueur flavor classifications, Technomic reports. Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, a spicy Canadian whisky liqueur, ranked among the fastest-growing brands of the year, it says.

Flavored rum, which includes spiced rums, outpaced total rum growth and accounted for slightly more than half of category volume in 2012, according to Technomic. Captain Morgan was a leading brand, while other labels, such as Sailor Jerry and Admiral Nelson, attracted millennials and realized notable volume increases as a result, it says.

Some brands merged different categories to deliver new flavor experiences, such as Malibu Red, which combines rum and tequila, Technomic reports.

These flavor trends are continuing in 2013, according to Technomic. “Included in the 120 new spirits products introduced in the first quarter of 2013, which we record through the New Product Tracker in our Drink database, were 21 flavored vodkas, 23 cordials and liqueurs, seven flavored rums, and six flavored whiskeys,” Crecca said in a statement, noting that suppliers are going beyond traditional flavor profiles to attract consumers. “We’re seeing unexpected flavors, such as Pernod Ricard’s Mama Walker’s line of breakfast-inspired liqueurs involving flavors like Maple Bacon and Blueberry Pancake. The dessert trend is continuing in vodka with Smirnoff Sorbet Light in Mango Passion Fruit and Raspberry Pomegranate launching and Beam adding Rainbow Sherbet to the already extensive Pinnacle lineup. Spice is showing up in whiskeys and liqueurs, and exotic fruit and floral flavors are also still on trend.”

Technomic projects continued growth for flavored vodka, whiskey, tequila and rum, as well as expansion in cordials and liqueurs in 2013.