Andy Morton

The beverage business blog from Andy Morton

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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?

Not quite.

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.

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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.

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TFWA Day One - Let them drink wine!

22 Oct 2013 15:10

The Royal4box

The Royal4box

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.

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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. 

Management has so far resisted the pressure, and today (16 October), as the company announced its year-to-date results, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi made no mention of Peltz or any beverage break-up.

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?

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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. 

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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.

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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 CointreauThe 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.

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Coca-Cola Co turns consumers into hard copy with 3D printer

02 Sep 2013 15:50

I've written before about the Coca-Cola Co's chops in the marketing department, but its team in Israel has really pushed some boundaries.

To highlight the launch of a smaller bottle for brand Coca-Cola, the company brought winners of a nation-wide competition into a studio and used 3D printers to produce mini-me versions of them.

The results, as you can see from the above video, are strangely out of focus and, if I'm honest, a bit creepy. But you have to agree, it adds a whole new dimension to marketing.  

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Beam Inc defends "unconventional" bee campaign

28 Aug 2013 17:47

In a blog last week, I highlighted Beam Inc's new campaign to raise awareness for the fight to combat a global decline in honey bee numbers. 

I also questioned Beam's wisdom in using humour (the Jim Beam Honey campaign has drafted in fictional Seinfeld lawyer Jackie Chiles to “sue the bears” for stealing honey) over what is a serious environmental issue.

The folk behind the campaign are keen to point out that their unconventional approach is not intended to make light of the matter. Instead, it is to get the attention of Jim Beam Honey's target markets of 20-something males in an “engaging and entertaining way”.

(The US$25,000 that Beam has set aside to fund a research project into falling bee numbers is certainly serious enough.)

The campaign last week was given a bit more context with the launch of its second online video, see below, starring Chiles and his fight to make the bears pay for their pilfering. 

So, hats off to Beam for this push and, if I may be flippant for a moment, thanks for reversing one devastating loss - it has been 15 years since we saw Chiles and his idiosyncratic approach to the law in the final episode of the popular show. 

Welcome back, Jackie. We missed you.

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Heineken pedals Radlers to Africa

21 Aug 2013 16:38

Heineken's Radler beers continue to expand their presence, with the Dutch brewer confirming in first-half results today they are now available in 24 of its markets. That's 12 more than at the beginning of the year.

More surprisingly, the lemon-flavoured, low-strength beer style with its origins in 1920s Germany, has pedalled its way to Africa. Heineken's Primus Radler was launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April and Bourbon Radler entered La Reunion last month, a company spokesperson told just-drinks today (21 August).

For a drink that means “cyclist” in German, that's a lot of pedalling.

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