Mariah Carey enters the booming Irish cream market

Is there a celebrity who doesn’t have their own spirit brand? Mariah Carey has joined the throng, announcing last week that she’s launched her own Irish cream range, called Black Irish.

“I have been putting my heart into this project for almost two years and I am so excited to finally share this news with you all,” Carey said. “I wanted to create something that embodies the holidays and gives everyone a reason to celebrate year-round, and I really think we have done that with Black Irish.”

The brand’s name pays tribute to Carey’s mixed heritage – her mother, Patricia Hickey, had Irish parents, and her father, Alfred Carey, had a black Venezuelan background.

The Irish cream liqueur comes in three flavours: Original, White Chocolate and Salted Caramel.  It’s produced in Ireland and has gone on sale in 33 states in the US. Each flavour comes in 750ml bottles ($US29.99) and 50ml minis ($US3.99).

However, it’s already facing a legal battle. Filings in the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) reveal the music star is embroiled in a year-long battle for the trademark Black Irish, against a group of well-known Irish drinks entrepreneurs who already hold its trademark in the EU. 

The Currency notes: “A representative of Carey is believed to have approached the Irish company early on to try and acquire the Black Irish trademark in the European Union, but it did not secure a deal.” 

Read more about the fight here.

The Irish cream revival

It’s a canny move by Carey to enter the Irish cream market, with Diageo reporting Baileys sales boomed in FY21.

CEO Ivan Menezes told Marketing Week at results briefing that marketing investment was a “big driver” of the quality of the company’s performance.

“Some years ago Bailey’s was a brand that was struggling to grow and we now have Baileys growing 24%,” he said. “It’s not your liqueur at Christmas occasion, or Mother’s Day, or the gift you give to your grandmother. It is now all about everyday treats, which is a much bigger market than spirits or alcohol. Rather than the big ad at Christmas and at Easter, we are now on 24/7.”

According to Menezes, the Baileys brand touches on ‘passion points’ of indulgence, food and entertaining at home, which he described as a great example of where the team have “transformed the trajectory” of a brand.

Australia’s love affair with Irish cream

The Irish cream category is a relatively new invention in the drinks world. It was created in 1973, during a 45-minute experiment by advertising gurus David Gluckman and Hugh Reade Seymour-Davies that resulted in Baileys Irish Cream.

Australia was one of the first countries to fall in love with Baileys.

“Whereas the wine and single malt buffs in the UK and Europe still held it at arm’s length, the Aussies had few pretensions and the local managing director, after a visit to the Baileys’ plant in Dublin, pronounced it in classic Australian fashion ‘a bloody good drop’,” noted David Gluckman in his book ‘That S*it Will Never Sell’.

“He promptly ordered a full container, the contents of which flew off the shelves as soon as it landed. He ordered two more. Baileys became so popular that liquor stores carried signs which said things like ‘It’ll be here in a week. Place your orders now.’”

According to the IWSR 2020 Australia Report, cream liqueurs account for 38% volume share of total liqueurs and grew 34.7% in 2020. This growth was driven by consumers looking for versatile, authentic and comforting drinks that can be used to create cocktails at home and elevate, or even replace, desserts.

At-home revival for cream liqueurs

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