The beverage business blog from Andy Morton
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From absinthe to wadadli: Around the world in 80 drinks
10 Dec 2013 15:38
Here's an interesting guide that could come in handy next time you are planning a trip - a list of 80 countries and their most iconic drinks.
But some drinks firms will be pleased to see a few of their brands make the list. The Coca-Cola Co has the US sewn up with its namesake soft drink, while Rémy Cointreau gets a look in with Barbados's Mount Gay rum. And while SABMiller may have had a few problems with Foster's Group since it bought the unit in 2011, at least its Victoria Bitter beer is this list's Australian representative.
A Britvic Q&A, without the Qs
26 Nov 2013 15:05
Britvic, you would think, is a company that's worth analysts unpicking a bit.
Today saw the release of much-improved full-year results after a miserable 2012 hampered by bad weather and the recall of its Fruit Shoot brand. The company is also in the middle of a major cost-cutting plan that will close three of its UK and Ireland sites, while a concurrent expansion of its US franchising strategy continues apace.
All of which made it very surprising when, in the post-results conference call with investors and analysts this afternoon, there was a long, and slightly embarrassing, silence when it was turned over for questions.
No one, it seemed, wanted to ask Britvic anything. Either that, or the world's drinks analysts were still at lunch.
To put it into context, I've listened in to countless numbers of these calls, across the global beverage industry, and there has always been a few questions.
CEO Simon Litherland, who was fronting the call, took it in his stride. “Thank you very much everybody for listening in to the call,” he said after a slight hesitation. “And I wish you a good day.”
Till next time, Simon. Perhaps.
Diageo saddles up White Horse for serendipitous Scotch ride
22 Nov 2013 16:03
One would never accuse Diageo of missing a trick, and the launch this week of a limited-edition expression from one of its lesser-known blended Scotch labels shows why.
White Horse may have been the preferred whisky of Jackie Gleason's legendary pool shark Fats Minnesota in “The Hustler” (thanks, Wikipedia), but it doesn't quite have the profile of other Diageo blended drams we could mention, especially in Asia.
Nevertheless, next year is the Year of the Horse in the Chinese lunar calendar, and some canny operator in the Diageo marketing team must have been wise to White Horse's auspicious potential. Before you can say “Asian whisky boom”, out pops White Horse Gold Edition 1890, soon to be available in Asia-Pacific Travel Retail, ready for a serendipitous sales bump from travelling Chinese consumers.
If the ploy works, soon all the other whisky makers will be digging through their portfolios in search of horse-related brands, not to mention sheep, cow, snake, tiger, rat, dragon, monkey...
Will "consequence-free" drink drive us out of a job?
12 Nov 2013 17:44
Professor David Nutt, a clever bod who used to advise the UK Government on addiction, claims he is close to discovering a chemical compound that replicates the feeling of drunkenness, but without the hangover.
So what does this mean? Is the alcohol industry about to collapse as everyone shuns beer, spirits and wine for these new, consequence free, super drinks?
As Nutt himself writes: “The challenge is to prepare the new drink in a fashion that makes it as tasty and appealing.” Which, reading between the lines, tells me his chemical compounds taste about as inviting as they sound. Certainly not a patch on a 12-year-old malt.
Another reason we're all still likely to keep our jobs is that there are other factors for why people choose to drink.
According to Ronald Siegel's book “Intoxication - Life in Pursuit of Artificial Paradise”, our desire to indulge is really an innate longing to alter our state of awareness. Siegal calls it the “fourth drive”, and puts it alongside food, sex and thirst as humankind's greatest and most basic motivators.
Though, of course, if, as Siegal says, all we desire from alcohol is the changed brain state that comes with it, then perhaps Nutt's chemical stand-ins are the perfect replacement. We scratch the itch, but we don't bleed, as it were.
In which case, we are all out of a job. And I'm in need of a stiff drink.
Complex Cognac sales made simple with reindeer
08 Nov 2013 15:50
There are not many things that will stop an interview quicker than asking the head of a Cognac house what his - or her - stock situation is. That's what I've learned, anyway, after talking to two of them recently.
Stocks are the Cognac industry's most closely-guarded secret, with executives more likely to divulge their online banking passwords than confess to how much eau de vie they hold. As Hine head François Le Grelle told me in Cannes last month: “If you have the (stock) profile then you can read the future of the company.”
All of which makes the purchase of a Cognac house an interesting prospect, as the buyer, initially, can only guess at what he's stumping up for. Once exclusivity agreements are reached, inventory information can be disclosed and, as Le Grelle says, there has to be some level of trust between the two parties, which means there is no nasty surprises when the warehouse doors are finally unlocked.
But still, it's a complex process.
The CEO of Altia Corp, which bought Larsen Cognac in September, tried to simplify the situation for me this week with a bit of home-spun wisdom from his native Finland. “In Lapland,” Antti Pankakoski said, “if you ask someone how many reindeer they have, they will reply, how much money do you have in the bank?”
So, bear that in mind when you're next at the bargaining point in western France.
TFWA Day One - Let them drink wine!
22 Oct 2013 15:10
Yesterday was the first day of the 2013 Tax Free World Association World Exhibition and just-drinks is back on the Riviera to deliver a first-hand account of what is happening in the alcohol industry's most lavish get-together.
We didn't have long to wait for the likely winner of most opulent display. Step forward Bordeaux negotiant Cordier Mestrezat Grands Cru who has turned up this year with a gift box made from the wood of Marie Antoinette's favourite tree. The 322-year-old oak, which grew in the Palace of Versailles, died in 2003 and a few years later was shorn of its branches. Those very limbs under which Antoinette supposedly whiled away afternoons before she too succumbed to the blade have now been turned into three wine boxes that house four of Cordier Mestrezat's most high-end wines, including a Château Pape-Clément. Despite the EUR100,000 price tag, one of the three has already been sold, although future buyers should be aware that, due to the limited nature of the raw materials, only 15 will ever be made.
Cordier Mestrezat's export director Ronan Tremelot told just-drinks that the Royal4box is one way the company lets clients at TFWA know that it is not just another Bordeaux wine merchant. “It shows that we can create and invent new things. It shows that anything is possible.”
The parties in Cannes are as flash as the displays - the show brings more money in to the city than its higher-profile film festival. Last night was Pernod Ricard's turn, and the French group did not disappoint, with dinner in the Carlton hotel on the Croisette, hosted by future CEO Alex Ricard. But, as with Cordier Mestrezat, behind the pizazz lies the usual hard-headed business. The drinks firms are in Cannes to sell, and as the clock neared midnight, Ricard was off, not to bed but to a business meeting with clients.
Tiring enough, but then there's still four days left of this.
Buffett cuts through bluster to lend PepsiCo support
16 Oct 2013 16:03
The past couple of months have seen much talk over Nelson Peltz's manoeuvrings to pressure PepsiCo into paring off its beverage units into a stand-alone company ahead of a possible sell off.
However, cutting through all the noise that has surrounded the issue - and indirectly lending support to Nooyi's cause - was the ever-reliable Warren Buffett. In an interview with CNBC today, the legendary investor simply said that, if he was running PepsiCo, he would keep both snacks and beverages, as “one of them is a terrific business (snacks) and the other is a perfectly good business (drinks)”.
Who says business is complicated?
What does beer and Hollywood have in common? - video
23 Sep 2013 16:47
The beer industry has, over the past few decades at least, not been best served by American cinema.
While spirits have a sharp-edged coolness on the big screen - the opening scene in Apocalypse Now, those bits inbetween the drug-taking in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - beer is merely a back-catalogue of blue-collar tropes and scenes set in that same Irish bar, the one with a pool table and a neon shamrock on the wall.
That may be about to change. Dubbed the “Sideways” of beer, “Drinking Buddies”, due out in the UK and Ireland in November, attempts to jettison the working class American clichés and update the genre for beer's newest audience - the craft connoisseur.
The movie was released in North America earlier this year and got some very respectable reviews, too (currently 79% on Rotten Tomatoes). But you may have missed it because it was on a limited release and has so far taken less than a quarter of a million US dollars at the box office. Compare that to Insidious: Chapter 2 (Rotton Tomatoes rating: 35%), a new horror movie that this week alone took US$14.5m.
So maybe the beer industry, where craft beer takes all the good reviews despite holding just 7% of the US beer market, has something in common with Hollywood after all. With both, the indies get the critical acclaim but the majority of the audience sticks with the blockbusters.
UK cider a pressing concern for government
12 Sep 2013 15:35
Judge the UK cider industry on the amount of people it attracted to its reception at the Houses of Parliament this week and you would say it is doing very well indeed.
Cider makers, MPs and journalists were crammed in to the Terrace Marquee alongside the River Thames, with conversation nearly drowned out by the cacophony of other voices.
I did just manage to hear Thatchers' MD, Martin Thatcher, say it was by far the busiest of the bi-annual events he has been to in his decades of attendance, as did Westons Cider's head of marketing, Ian Lewis.
People, especially politicians, are attracted to successful stories, they were saying, and UK cider has one of the most compelling narratives around - unparalleled growth in the domestic market, coupled with new and growing ventures in Australia and the US. No wonder it was five deep at the bar.
Of course, another reason for the crush may have been the vote in the Houses of Commons on an important piece of legislation that ended just as the cider function got into swing. Governance is thirsty work, after all.
At the same time, it is interesting to note what the House of Commons vote, just up the stairs, was regarding. Yes, it was the catchily-titled 'Transparency of Lobbying Bill, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill', which is aiming to set new rules on political campaigning by non-political campaign groups. Then consider this - all-party parliamentary groups, such as the Parliamentary Cider Group that hosted the event, have been criticised as back doors for corporate interests to sway political opinion, and were partly a catalyst for the Lobbying Bill in the first place.
It is unclear at this point if the new Bill will affect all-party parliamentary groups, and end what has become a twice-a-year tradition for the cider industry. If not, it's safe to assume we'll all meet again next year, and, if cider continues its upwards trajectory, with even less standing room than before.
Rémy Cointreau putting Bruichladdich on the map
04 Sep 2013 12:12
Bruichladdich's international expansion continues apace a year on from its US$90m sale to Rémy Cointreau. The Scotch whisky producer's management team are off to Singapore today (4 September) for the launch of its namesake range in the city-state.
When just-drinks spoke to Bruichladdich's CEO in Cannes last year, shortly after the announcement of the Rémy deal, Simon Coughlin said one of the reasons investors swung behind the decision was Rémy's distribution network and the opportunities it gave Bruichladdich abroad.
With today's news that Scotch exports are rising in both value and volume terms - in Singapore, for example, sales jumped by 19% to GBP174m in the first half of this year - a visit to the Lion City surely won't be the only foreign jaunt for the Islay distillery's executives over the next 12 months.