The beverage business blog from Andy Morton
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Small step for vodka but Cognac wins the space race
24 Feb 2014 22:41
La Martiniquaise-Bardinet's vodka brand Poliakov has today (24 February) claimed a first with the news that it has launched a bottle into space. Well, 20 miles up, at least.
As far as marketing tactics go, the footage of the bottle rising into the stratosphere is fairly impressive, though strikingly similar to that of other amateur YouTube space launches that have seen action figures, and even a slice of pizza, hit similar heights.
Vodka, however, has a surprisingly limited relationship with the great unknown - which is surprising, bearing in mind its connections with that most space-travelled of nations, Russia.
While US missions have always been alcohol free, cosmonauts have long been allowed the odd tipple, though not of vodka, of Cognac. Handy for those cold nights on the Mir space station.
According to this article in the UK's Daily Telegraph, back in the 1990s, Mir crew members used to have so many bottles of the French spirit hidden around the vessel, they would show up unexpectedly.
"Sometimes we would bump into a bottle of Cognac," one said. "What a joy it was."
Diageo's Bell's whisky ad proves industry is a soft touch
07 Feb 2014 12:28
It seems to me that ads for alcohol used to fall into two categories - funny or cool.
Nowadays, our marketing men are branching out into a third option - touchie-feelie. Last week's Super Bowl provided us with more than a few cry-fests (and an adorable puppy). And now Diageo's Bell's whisky brand practically pokes us in the tear-ducts with its South African commercial that shows an illiterate man desperate to read a particular book.
After the Super Bowl, a marketing professor told Reuters: “We are seeing companies talk about more inspirational topics.”
For inspiring, read emotional. So, will 2014 be the year of the advertising weepies? Well, put it like this - the Bell's ad already has half-a-million views just a week out from its launch.
That's pretty impressive for a single-market commercial.
Hankies at the ready, everyone.
Pernod Ricard looks for material gains with wearable tech
29 Jan 2014 17:23
Here at just-drinks we like to be on the cutting-edge of technology, so here's a nod (and a wink) to the latest in fashion unveiled at Pernod Ricard's "innovation" day in Paris this week.
Below is our exclusive footage of a T-shirt that displays personalised messages and images keyed in from a computer or mobile device. The women holding it is creator Alison Lewis, who owns Californian wearable technology firm Switch, and the prototype design was only completed a few days before it was brought to Paris.
But what's this got to do with drinks?
Well, the technology is part-funded by Pernod's blended Scotch whisky brand Ballantine's, who's marketing team came up with the idea a few years ago. An earlier prototype in 2012 managed to bring about 200,000 visitors to Ballantine's website and was featured in about 500 blogs. That prototype, however, was not very wearable, and came with a EUR14,000 (US$19,000) price tag. The new one is washable and scrunchable, and a comparative snip, at just EUR3,000!
What you won't find on the T-shirt, however, is the Ballantine's logo. Brand managers are aware a personalised message system is open to abuse and don't want the whisky associated with the questionable words and images that users will inevitably broadcast on their chests. Which rather raises the question, to what end is Pernod investing in this tech?
On Tuesday, I was told that the success of the earlier prototype in raising Ballantine's profile means the project can already be deemed a success. But why keep investing in something that doesn't appear to give anything back to the brand? Pernod doesn't even have rights to the technology - that belongs to Switch, with the French group merely owning the project's name, T-shirt OS.
Strange that a campaign that is all about delivering a message might not do the same for Pernod.
To read a comment piece on Pernod's innovation day, click here.
Monster Beverage Corp may regret latest punch line
21 Jan 2014 16:33
Does Monster Beverage Corp wish to make itself more of a target than it already is?
Currently bogged down in food safety investigations and lawsuits, the energy drinks firm has announced a new line. Punch Monster will start shipping to US retailers in the first quarter, company CEO Rodney Sacks told analysts in a business update this month.
It will replace the underperforming DUB Edition but is a brand new formulation. “Changed flavour, changed positioning, changed cans,” as Sacks said.
Perhaps he should consider changing the name, too? Punch Monster, in these embattled times, sounds like an offer, metaphorically speaking, some of the people behind the lawsuits and investigations may find hard to turn down.
Did somebody mention breakfast? Not PepsiCo's new Kickstart flavours
15 Jan 2014 10:51
A late breakfast
“Kickstart Your Night,” shouts the ad logo for PepsiCo's new Mountain Dew Kickstart flavours, unveiled yesterday (15 January).
But hold on, wasn't the original Kickstart marketed as a “breakfast beverage”? Perhaps PepsiCo's ad men pulled a few too many late nighters and breakfast got forgotten about.
Not so, a PepsiCo spokesperson told me. The new flavours and branding are "an expansion of the line, not a marketing change".
Whatever the reason, Kickstart has obviously not been missing out on its own fortifying breakfast as the brand has amassed US$150m in sales since its launch last February. Now that's news worth staying up late for.
From absinthe to wadadli: Around the world in 80 drinks
10 Dec 2013 15:38
Here's an interesting guide - 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.