The beverage business blog from James Wilmore
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Constellation's CEO looks to the stars for Christmas
13 Dec 2013 16:56
Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands appears a happy man right now. His company took full control of Grupo Modelo's US beer business in the US earlier this year and now the holiday season is just round the corner, when sales should soar.
Sands, whose company also operates in the wine and spirits sector, spoke to CNBC about the prospects for the season and in the process managed to namecheck many of the group's brands. He also reflected on why the drinks industry is a "recession resistant" business and explained why millennials - 21-36 year-olds - are a "key demographic" for Constellation.
To view the interview, click here
Pernod's US top man talks Christmas and cocktails
10 Dec 2013 18:03
The US is an increasingly key battleground for global wine and spirits producers over the Christmas period. In an interview with Fox Business last week, Pernod Ricard's US chief, Brian Fry, revealed that the unit sells a third of its annual Champagne volumes between October and December.
The just-drinks Weekly Round-Up
25 Nov 2013 15:38
On just-drinks last week:
Guinness gaff draws a grin from Diageo's top man
20 Nov 2013 16:58
Four months into his premiership at Diageo, Ivan Menezes showed that he can cope with the odd curveball thrown at him by media.
At a press gathering, following an investors day in London yesterday, I decided to ask him about a slightly uncomfortable recent episode in the UK involving Guinness. The team behind the Irish stout brand took the unusal step of booking out an entire three-minute ad slot during an episode last month of ITV's primetime chatathon The Jonathan Ross Show.
So far, so good.
But the spot featured Jonathan Ross himself in a bizarre pseudo chat environment, with comedian Danny Wallace and Professor Robin Dunbar talking about the benefits of male bonding. As we reported at the time, the Twitterati were not impressed and neither was my colleague Olly Wehring.
So what what did Mr Menezes think of the debacle?
In a relaxed manner, with even a slight grin on his face, he told just-drinks: “It didn't turn to be as good as we wanted, but I'm glad they tried it... I want people to push the boundaries.”
He added: “If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.”
On that basis, I can't wait to see what the Guinness gang try next.
The just-drinks Weekly Round-Up
18 Nov 2013 16:38
On just-drinks last week:
- Carlsberg is continuing to up its focus on Asia, last week unveiling a new boss for its regional unit. It came as the Danish brewer reported flat nine-month sales as its Russian woes remain, but its CEO predicts brighter things next year. Meanwhile, rivals Anheuser-Busch InBev were updating analysts on how it sees the US beer market, while SABMiller reported sad news of a relapse for its chairman and former CEO Graham Mackay.
- In spirits, columnist Richard Woodard rattled the cage over the issue of category definitions – with absinthe's rough treatment raising the ire of our commentator. Newly-listed Stock Spirits revealed details of a deal to distribute Diageo's premium portfolio in Czech, while Stock CEO Chris Heath insisted to just-drinks the tie-up is “complementary”.
- In soft drinks, PepsiCo put down a marker in India, saying it intends to invest US$5.5bn in the country by 2020. Meanwhile, iPro Sports Group has signed a GBP7m (US$11.3m) deal to rename Derby County's Football Club's ground after its isontic sports drink brand.
- In wine, Pernod Ricard's US unit is eyeing major expansion over the next five years and unveiled a new team to drive that effort. Back in the UK, it emerged that Direct Wines is selling the UK unit of Virgin Wines for GBP14m (US$22.4m) to the division's management team.
- Finally, we ran a round-up of the drinks industry's contribution to the relief effort in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Our thoughts and condolences go out to those affected by the disaster.
Heineken kidnapping film gets go-ahead
09 Oct 2013 17:02
Heineken is about to have the most dramatic moment in its history given the Hollywood blockbuster treatment.
'Kidnapping Freddy Heineken' will tell the story of Alfred 'Freddy' Heineken, the grandson of the founder of the Dutch brewery, who, in 1983 was kidnapped, along with his driver Ab Doderer. 'Freddy', who was CEO of the group at the time, and Doderer, were only released after a ransom of NLG35m (US$20m) was paid, the largest ransom to have been met at the time for an individual.
The kidnappers were eventually caught and served jail terms.
British actor Sir Anthony Hopkins will play 'Freddy', according to the Hollywood Reporter.
It's actually the second film to be made about the incident, after a Dutch version - De Heineken Ontvoering – was released in 2011.
But, from what I have heard, neither film has had the blessing of the company; it's understandably still a sensitive topic for the group.
It looks like there will be a fresh spotlight on Heineken's past, whether the brewer likes it or not.
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Cameron's Smirnoff quip: A good idea?
02 Oct 2013 13:04
UK Prime Minister David Cameron used Diageo's Smirnoff brand as a weapon for a spot of political retaliation during his speech at the Conservative Party conference today (2 October).
In a counter-dig at a Russian official's reported “small island” comment about Britain last month, Cameron bragged that the world's biggest-selling vodka - Smirnoff - is actually produced in the UK. In Fife, Scotland, to be precise.
One wonders, however, how Diageo's bigwigs feel about Cameron highlighting this fact? Does the average consumer know that Smirnoff is made in Fife? Does s/he perhaps think of it as a Russian brand? (Interestingly, it was originally created in a Moscow distillery in the 1860s).
Hugo Rifkind, a journalist for The Times, tweeted during the speech: “Suspect Smirnoff won't be too thrilled by that.” Other tweeters expressed surprise at discovering the production home of the vodka brand.
Might former CEO Paul Walsh, who is still involved with Diageo, and was, until last year, part of the Government's Business Advisory Group, be having a word with Cameron?
Barry's day as Irish Distillers bids goodbye to main man
06 Sep 2013 11:49
Barry Crockett is calling time on his 47-year Irish whiskey career
Emotions were running high at Irish Distillers earlier this week as the Pernod Ricard-owned company said an official farewell to its master distiller, Barry Crockett.
Barry, who has been with the Jameson producer in its various forms for an amazing 47 years, was the local star of the show at an event to showcase a EUR100m upgrade to the unit's Midleton Distillery in County Cork. Tastings, local food and live music were laid on for around 900 guests as part of the 'housewarming' festival. Journalists were also given a chance to nose around the site's new Garden Stillhouse and a new Irish whiskey academy and archive.
But it was Barry's day really.
At the end of the festivities, a selected crowd was asked to come and see the main man speak and accept a gift. Bizarrely, the gathered throng were treated to the sight of a huge, gaudy, gold-framed portrait of the departing distiller and his successor, Brian Nation. A speech from Barry offered a mark of the man, as he spent little time talking about himself, instead regaling the crowd with anecdotes he'd discovered in the company's archives.
The portrait turned out to be a red herring, as behind it was a sign marking the fact that the company's old stillhouse has been renamed the ‘Barry Crockett Stillhouse’.
Irish Distillers CEO, Anna Malmhake, explained to me later the thinking behind the joke. Affectionately, she described Barry as “the perfect gentleman”, adding with a smile: “Having a big picture of himself is the worst thing he could imagine”.
The man himself was also treated to a standing ovation at a dinner held in one of the company's warehouses, rounded off with a live set by The Chieftains.
Cheers Barry, enjoy your retirement.
No chance of weather raining on Monster's parade
09 Aug 2013 16:18
Good to hear that not all companies blame the weather when they're having a rough time.
"We don't have weather in our vocabulary," said straight-talking Monster CEO Rodney Sacks yesterday (9 August), when being questioned by analysts following its disappointing first-half results yesterday (8 August).
"I think that weather does play a part in every beverage," he added. "But we really don't know what effect it has. We don't measure it... we generally tend to try and manage the business outside of the weather issues."
Certainly a refreshing response considering all the whingeing over weather we've been hearing recently from drinks firms.
Still, with the threat of regulation and legal action still hanging over the energy drinks group, no wonder Sacks is unconcerned about the odd spot of rain.
Writing (not) on the wall for SABMiller's Australian friends
17 Jul 2013 17:43
Gentle, self-deprecation isn't normally associated with company bigwigs. So, it was a refreshing change when SABMiller's Asia-Pacific MD Ari Mervis had analysts and hacks chuckling to themselves after a humourous aside at the group's regional presentation in London today.
A video was shown to illustrate the integration of Carlton & United Breweries' into SABMiller, following 2011's takeover. Unsurprisingly, it featured a line-up of brewers and sales folk waxing lyrical about their new(ish) corporate paymasters.
Sensing the slight cheesiness of the content, Mervis turned to the room following the video's conclusion and said: "The most impressive thing about that video is the fact the guys could read my handwriting, after I'd given them the answers."
Light relief is always welcome at these kinds of things, cheers Ari.