A battle is brewing south of the border care of two musicians-turned-moguls, who have just announced ventures with leading global liquor houses to co-create high-end tequila brands.
Justin Timberlake, who founded his own tequila line called 901 (for the area code of his hometown, Memphis) in 2009, will team up with the Beam Inc.-owned Sauza Tequila house to launch a "super-premium" beverage called Sauza 901 early this year, the company said.
An 80-proof, 750 ml bottle will be priced at $29.99 and feature co-branded packaging, according to Beam. While the launch begins in the states, it will gradually roll out to international markets--given Timberlake's global appeal and Beam's expansive reach.
The brand will also have a presence on Timberlake's current world tour, The 20/20 Experience, with a Sauza 901 bar at every show.
Timberlake's deal comes fresh off the announcement yesterday that Sean 'Diddy' Combs--another star who has made a splash in the cocktail industry--is aiming to follow up the success of his seven-year-old Ciroc vodka range by expanding into the tequila category, too.
Combs and his Ciroc partner, Diageo, have agreed to make a 50/50 purchase of the "ultra-premium" tequila brand DeLeon--which has "a loyal following in Hollywood and the U.S. music industry," Diageo said.
DeLeon markets five variants of tequila whose prices range from $120 to over $1,000 per bottle. The brand is distributed in roughly 20 states.
"Celebration is a cornerstone of all my businesses, and this joint venture is a natural extension of that portfolio," Combs said in a statement.
The mood around tequila today is celebratory indeed. Imports of Mexico's native spirit have grown 72% since 2002 at an average rate of 5.5% per year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
While "value" and "premium" brands serve as the "backbone of the U.S. market," the Council said, "the fastest growth has been in high-end and super premium brands"--like Sauza 901 and DeLeon.
And Timberlake and Combs are not alone. Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney founded the ultra-premium Casmigos Tequila brand with Rande Gerber earlier this year.