Absolut TuneIt’s hard to imagine there is market demand for yet another new flavored vodka. The number of SKUs is staggering and there’s no end in sight. According to several industry sources, the popularity of flavored vodkas is soaring. Between 2010 and 2012, volume increased 38 percent. Of the 171 vodkas introduced in 2012, 122 were flavored. Experts say 2013 will be another banner year.

So, where do these flavor ideas come from? While many are concocted first as drinks in bars and restaurants, more and more distillers are hiring food scientists and researchers to develop new flavors. According to industry watchers, fruit flavors are seen as perennially popular, the recent “indulgent and sweet” trend is now giving way to spicy hot and herbal.

Truth be told, flavor trends are coming from everywhere. Color chips? Yes, the lime flavor trend started when the Color Institute identified a lime-green color pantone color as coming into favor, er flavor. Some trend spotters look to cultural anthropology, global trends and even art. Growing interest in Latin cuisine and an increasing Hispanic population are driving flavor choices in theU.S.

The race to win legal age Millennials is also driving flavor trends. This group grew up with a more global outlook and are said to have a more exotic palate. But, they’re both global and local, they like buying worldly fare at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but they’re also drawn to locally grown co-ops and farmer’s markets. So, watch for more “local” sourcing to become a trend – perhaps not sourced down the street, but ingredient origin is important to them.

The newest twist? Absolut Tune, a sparkling fusion of premium vodka and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Spirits flavored vodka. Absolut led the way with one of the first vodka hybrids. Introduced in eight markets in October 2012, it is now distributed nationally and considered a huge success.

Absolut senior marketing manager Shefali Murdia says Absolut Tune gives consumers a sparkling drink with the extra oomph of vodka, creating an entirely new category in the overcrowded flavored vodka space. The new hybrid was inspired by consumers tired of the tried and true and looking for the next new thing.  And, others are quickly jumping in. In fact, just last month Exclusiv Vodka launched its brandy flavored vodka, XO Napoleon in eight states.

What’s next? Well, Absolut just introduced cilantro flavor.  Perhaps cardamom vodka is on the horizon!