November 3, 2008
just-drinks.com editor's weekly highlights
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It was very much a case of from the sublime to the... sublime for us here at just-drinks last week. We started on Monday at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes. This week-long, annual event brings the entire travel retail world – wine, spirits, beer, fags, handbags et al – together under one enormous roof, to show off its wares and ply for custom from around the globe. While there appeared to be a slight – yet still begrudging – acceptance from around the halls that the current economic gloom would make its presence felt in the travel retail channel, I found the overwhelming atmosphere on the two days I was there to be one of optimism. “These people will always have money”, is the hope.
The trip also gave me the opportunity to sit down with the head of the second largest spirits company in the world – soon to be first, according to the man himself – Vijay Mallya from The UB Group. The fruits of this labour – hardly work, let's be fair – will be on the site in the form of a special interview later this month.
Bookending the week, Thursday (30 October) found us celebrating the global launch of Pernod Ricard's gin extension, Beefeater 24. Taking place in a fancy country pile on the outskirts of London, and employing the talents of the Lost Vagueness gang – a troupe of burlesque funfair folk – the occasion was nothing if not memorable... and a shade bizarre. One further aspect of this weirdness, however, was that the brand was actually launched in travel retail (they really are lucky devils, aren't they?) on 1 October, but the party didn't take place until almost a month later.
From the sublime to the ridiculous after all, then.
On the just-drinks newsdesk last week, we saw Pernod Ricard defy the credit crunch gloom with a 13% rise in net sales in its first quarter. News brewing at Mexico's Femsa was more downbeat, with net income down 24% in the third quarter.
French winemakers are no strangers to protests, but last week' co-ordinated action across many of the country's wine regions was a special event even for them. Thousands of winemakers marched through the streets, angered by what they see as a creeping “prohibition” movement.
Finally, this weekly edition looks ahead to Tuesday's US presidential election, one of the most eagerly anticipated for years.
Obama has admitted to drinking alcohol during his time at High School, while McCain has been forced to reject suggestions that he favours prohibitionist policies.
Interestingly, John McCain's wife, Cindy, was reported in July to be in line for a payout from the InBev, Anheuser-Busch deal – as a shareholder in the US brewing giant. One report, by the California-based Marin Institute, claimed that the alcohol industry has dished out up to US$750,000 in funding for the candidates, with McCain the favoured choice.
Will the outcome make much difference to the drinks sector? In terms of economic policy, the US appears to be heading for a mini Ice Age over the next couple of years, which is unlikely to leave either candidate with much room to manoeuvre.
Until next time...
Olly Wehring, Managing Editor
Design, elegance and quality make Valverde the one and only mineral water.
Consumer markets may be bracing themselves for the impact of the economic downturn, but Patrón Spirits Company has no intention of being deflected from its marketing-led growth strategy. In this month’s just-drinks interview, Olly Wehring found John McDonnell, Patrón’s chief operating officer, in bullish mood, determined that his company will defend the position it has built through continued investment.
The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Doha Development Round is now at a crossroads. After coming to a hair’s breadth of striking a deal at a ministerial summit in July, there is now a serious risk that agreements wrung from these seven years of discussions could now unravel. If trade ministers are prepared to return to Geneva to solve the limited range of issues over which they were unable to reach agreement, a Doha deal could be secured this year. But, this seems unlikely, with the US presidential election looming. In this month's briefing, we assess the prospects of the WTO recovering from this latest setback and consider what is at stake.
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