Analysis - Brown-Forman's whiskey success adds to Southern Comfort's woes
Jack Daniel's has two flavoured extensions including Tennessee Fire
Speaking after the release of Brown-Forman's first-quarter results yesterday, CEO Paul Varga was typically upbeat over the performance of fledgling flavoured whiskey Tennessee Fire.
The cinnamon Jack Daniel's extension is about to enter five new US states, bringing its total footprint since its launch earlier this year to eight. Varga said the brand has already found “acceptance” and - though he admitted companies usually say this about new products - believes it has a bright future.
Any success would add to the confirmed gains of the other Jack Daniel's flavour, Tennessee Honey, which was possibly in Pernod Ricard CEO Pierre Pringuet's mind today when he blamed flavoured whiskies in the US for taking a chunk out of his Absolut vodka brand's sales.
But there's another side to this story, as it's not just rival brands that Fire and Honey are encroaching on. I've written about Southern Comfort before, but its suffice to say here that despite the best efforts of a global marketing campaign, sales have been falling for some time.
But while previously head winds came from a competitive spirits market as a whole, some of the blame for Southern Comfort's poor performance can now be laid at the feet of some of Brown-Forman's other brands, namely, its whiskies.
In a note from Nomura today, the analyst highlighted pressure from flavoured whiskies as one of the reasons the outlook for Southern Comfort “remains challenging”. Underlying growth for Southern Comfort, according to Nomura, stood at -7% in FY14 compared to -2% in FY13, proving that any sales boost from the ongoing marketing campaign has well and truly spluttered out.
When I spoke to Southern Comfort's brand management near the start of that campaign last year, they told me they wanted to make the brand stand out again, and “really establish something new”. Unfortunately for them, Brown-Forman has done exactly that with Fire and Honey, thus making Southern Comfort's job that much harder.
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