Comment - Notes from a Deputy Editor's First Week
It's been quite a first week for just-drinks' new deputy editor, James Wilmore. By way of introduction to the global drinks industry, he's been out and about already, meeting the likes of Pernod Ricard and the Champagne Bureau. Today, he's with Britvic and then Auchentoshan. He'll sleep well this weekend. Not before he consider what he's learnt so far.
How much economic doom and gloom can people take? Even for a news junkie like myself I'm finding it increasingly difficult to stomach the ever-relentless diet of unemployment, negative growth and tales of woe that pervade the airwaves. It gives a bitter twang to my morning fruit and fibre.
How do businesses cope? Particularly businesses that, to some extent, rely on that good-time feeling, like drinks companies? For Pernod Ricard, it seems, the answer is to focus on the idea that, when people do want to treat themselves, they want to do it properly; by upgrading. The company's latest initiative in the UK, announced earlier this week, aims to turn more wine consumers on to the more premium end: in the GBP6.50 (US$10.20) to GBP8.50 per bottle range. Based on research, Pernod's UK unit believes this is an area that offers growth as overall volumes decline.
Let's face it, it's a tough task. Even the company bods at this week's press briefing admitted that many consumers are still swayed by price in-store and are overwhelmed by the broadness of the category as a whole. The numbers confirm this, with only 11% of those surveyed currently consuming premium wines, while 58% said they would be willing to buy into the category.
But, with 'at-home' consumption still on the rise, it's a battle Pernod believes it can win and attract those “floating voters”.
The French firm may take solace from news from another category this week. Champagne Bureau figures revealed the sector is still in growth globally. However, despite the positive spin, some on-the-ball hack in the UK picked up on the fact that volumes actually slightly declined last year in the country. Or, as someone I spoke to at the report's launch event: “They (the journalist) did their homework”.
I guess it comes back to the old adage that people like a drink in the good times, to celebrate, and they like a drink in the bad times, to take their mind off things. I learnt this early on in a previous life, working the beat on UK pub trade magazine The Publican.
But now, I'm delighted to be assuming the mantle of deputy editor at just-drinks, being introduced to the world of drinks on a more global scale by managing editor Olly Wehring.
It's been a whirlwind, but thoroughly enjoyable first week and I look forward to meeting many of you along my travels. Just don't go calling when I'm chowing down on my morning fruit and fibre.
Bugbears, by definition, are meant to cause annoyance. I'm starting to find, however, that as I get older I'm actually starting to enjoy my bugbears....
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