Comment - Spirits - A Word with Woodard
Resident columnist and spirits know-it-all Richard Woodard provides his monthly take on the latest in the global white spirits industry.
By: Richard Woodard
For years, rum was lined up to be the spirits industry's next big thing. And yet, for all the shining promise of the category's mix of heritage, mixability and positive lifestyle cues, that potential has never quite been fully exploited, particularly in the vital US market. Richard Woodard reports.
Brown-Forman's recent strategic moves represent a narrowing of the company's focus on its core strengths: Whisk(e)y in all its forms, with Tequila playing a supporting role. The big question now is whether that process should continue to its logical conclusion with the disposal of Finlandia vodka, a brand that has hardly been a star performer in recent times.
What is the best way to evaluate a spirits brand's performance? Is it all about volume? Is it about value? Or, is there more to it than that? Do some brands deserve extra credit for pioneering a new segment, over-achieving in their given sphere, transcending their category? Johnnie Walker is one name that ticks most - if not all - of these boxes; Jameson is, arguably, another. But, what about Patrón Tequila?
Much as all looks rosy in the UK, the gin sector has struggled in the US in recent years. What is the segment doing wrong, in a spirits market that offers generous bounty? Richard Woodard investigates.
This month, white spirits commentator Richard Woodard considers the present health - or lack thereof - of Pernod Ricard's flagship vodka brand, Absolut.
While some have predicted turbulent times for the Global Travel Retail business, spirits columnist Richard Woodard sees a long and lucrative future for the sector.
Since almost the turn of the Century, it's been all about the BRICs. Brazil, Russia, India and China have spent the last 16 years as the focus for growth for every drinks company out there. Richard Woodard takes a look at the four countries and surveys their importance in 2016.
Do you remember the Pepsi Taste Challenge? Richard Woodard does, and he sees echoes of it in Bacardi's latest activation for its Oakheart spiced rum brand.
This month, Richard Woodard drills down into the perceived threat of craft spirits and finds more than just a load of small-scale brand names to worry about.
This month, Richard Woodard considers the marketing opportunity - or lack thereof - of provenance when it comes to marketing in the vodka segment.
Earlier this month, Bacardi announced its purchase of Banks, a Mauritius-based range of rums. Why would a company whose name is synonymous with the rum category - almost transcends it - buy a rum brand? Richard Woodard investigates.
When you look at the way the various spirits categories are defined, you'd be forgiven for concluding that the liqueurs segment comprises 'everything else'. Evenso, argues Richard Woodard, the sector is still worth operating in, thanks in part to consumers' perceptions of liqueurs.
Despite the market split, the Tequila category is on the cusp of its own boomtime. But, the positioning of the mixto sector compared to 100% agave carries echoes of Scotch whisky past-tendency to hype single malts to the expense of blends. And now, Scotch volumes are suffering. Will Tequila make the same mistake? Richard Woodard investigates.
Gruppo Campari's decision to change the names of several rum brands in its Appleton Estate portfolio suggests that the segment may have stumbled on its own language. Does this mark the end of rum's reliance on the terminology used by Cognac and Scotch whisky? Richard Woodard delves deeper.
Last week, Diageo announced plans to invest US$400m on its operations in Mexico. While the headlines centred on the company's Don Julio Tequila operations, the country itself is ripe for growth. Richard Woodard investigates.
Dutch spirits firm Lucas Bols has endured an occasionally turbulent time in its 450-year history. Will an effort to list on the Euronext Amsterdam through an IPO bolster the company? Here, our spirits columnist Richard Woodard examines the group's history for answers.
The rise of 'craft' continues, with new spirits brands riding the wave in the US. One such overnight success in Tito's Handmade Vodka, which has seen sales soar in the last couple of years. The downside, however, has been that the brand has caught the eye over its craft claims. Richard Woodard considers the evidence.The rise of 'craft' continues, with new spirits brands riding the wave in the US. One such overnight success in Tito's Handmade Vodka, which has seen sales soar in the last couple of years. The downside, however, has been that the brand has caught the eye over its craft claims. Richard Woodard considers the evidence.
Late last month, in Pernod Ricard's full-year results, the spirits company flagged a tough time for Absolut vodka. Richard Woodard surveys the wreckage and considers the brand's future.
This month, Richard Woodard looks at the NPD trend of blending spirits either together or with another alcoholic segment to create a whole, new sub-category. Is this really innovation at its purest?
It's been three months since Suntory completed its purchase of Beam Inc. What better time that the summer lull for Richard Woodard to take a long, hard look at just what the Japanese group got for its US$16bn.
For a spirits brand, what does being a “category leader” mean? Is it purely a blunt measure of cases sold? Profit made? Or something more elusive and nebulous? Richard Woodard, gin in hand, investigates.
The aim of all brand owners is to secure consumer loyalty above all competitors. But, as Richard Woodard suggests, this might be an unattainable - and hence unrealistic - aim.
Following a flurry of activity in the Tequila sector last month, has Diageo finally returned to the point it had previously reached when it handled Jose Cuervo? Richard Woodard compares then to now.
Flavoured vodka may have hit a bump in the US, but there's a major opportunity in global markets for the sub-category, argues Richard Woodard.
Category definitions are an on-going minefield in parts of the spirits industry. Gin, rum and Tequila have all suffered from muddled thinking. But none compare to what absinthe has experienced. Here, Richard Woodard wages war on the red-tape wretchedness that surrounds the category
Returning to the just-drinks fold in the guise of our white spirits commentator, Richard Woodard kicks off his latest stint with us with a look at Bacardi's recently-announced global marketing push for its Grey Goose vodka brand.
They may be linked by little but geographical origin, but cachaça and Tequila have quite a bit more in common that one might initially believe. It's just that, according to Richard Woodard, you've got to really look for the link.
When Pernod Ricard said last week that it is updating the packaging for - and raising the price of - Plymouth Gin, there was a run on tonic water at Richard Woodard's local shop. It's taken a while, but the brand is back, and Woodard would like to celebrate.
A new generation of Russian vodka brands is struggling to get its voice heard, the moneyed Russian Standard aside. Richard Woodard thinks some collective bargaining might do the trick.
Innovation in the spirits industry is 'a good thing'. But, Richard Woodard is worried that, of occasion, some spirits companies run the risk of disappearing up their own still pipes when they over-innovate.
Diageo's Paul Walsh isn't short of people telling him what to do with his company's money. So, on the back of a strong set of full-year results, Richard Woodard decided to have a nose around the Diageo stable to see what is still missing.
Ladies are all the rage in the drinks industry, it would appear. With product launches in beer, soft drinks and spirits targetting the fairer sex, it would appear that the female of the species is in the spotlight. But, Richard Woodard is unimpressed - and he's got Diageo in his crosshairs.
The Japanese are coming! Granted, Japanese whisky has been available in export markets for quite some time, but, according to Richard Woodard, the country's distillers would do well to take a fresh look at their marketing messages, to try to get consumers aware of their existence.
The recent launch of a gin brand here in the UK has riled traditionalist gin fans. Richard Woodard believes the fuss is merited – calling a gin-like spirit gin is sure to get people's juices flowing, concedes Woodard. But, hey, why not call it a vodka and have done?
A change in permitted terms for Irish whiskey in the US has been turned from a problem into an opportunity by the market leader, Pernod Ricard's Irish Distillers. Whilst Richard Woodard is happy to applaud the unit's handling of the matter, could this not be used as a springboard, he asks, for the category as a whole to really hit the gas?
A recent product extension in the Scotch whisky category has caught Richard Woodard's eye this month. While the move is certainly a positive in its use of innovation, it also shows how difficult it is for such innovation to make a breakthrough in the category. It's also got a rubbish name, says natural brunette - albeit with silver flecks - Woodard.
Diageo's results last week spelt out one strong message, as far as M&A nut Richard Woodard is concerned. Let's watch him clap his hands and jump up and down as he tells us what he heard.
A down-in-the-dumps Richard Woodard is a Richard Woodard best-avoided. But, the spirits giants of this world can bring him out of his stupor. And, all it would take is a little bit of spending.
The spirits industry, like all sectors in the drinks world, has its fair share of snobbery between categories. The current black sheep is vodka. But, Richard Woodard argues, the clear spirit that tastes of nothing has done more to draw consumers into spirits than it is given credit for.
The launch of two age-statemented Cognacs by Courvoisier late last month has turned the spotlight on to the sector's classification groupings. Confusing, sure, but, is knowledge really power? Richard Woodard isn't so sure.
Scanning some of the reaction to last week’s news that William Grant & Sons is selling its recently-acquired Irish liqueur brands to Gruppo Campari, the first word that springs to mind is “blarney”.
Minimum pricing has been the talk of the town this year for alcoholic drinks. In Russia, a nation built on vodka, the Government has moved beyond its introduction of a minimum price for its national spirit and is mulling doubling the current limit. Richard Woodard argues, however, that a country as at ease with the black market as Russia, could struggle to cope with the fallout of such a move.
It must be madness, but Richard Woodard is in buying mood. Considering the state of the world's finances, his timing could be well off. But only Hine-sight will show whether he is a genius, or a fool...
Some journalistic questions are not so much serious enquiries as a ticking of the boxes – you ask because you have to, but you already know what the answer’s going to be.
Okay, I’d better admit this straight off: I don’t like trade fairs. Call me crazy, but the idea of spending two or three exhausting days deprived of daylight, digestible food and the company of people who aren’t in the drinks trade isn’t one that has me skipping down the aisle of a DLR train.
Following our discussion of premiumisation in the spirits industry with Diageo's CMO earlier this week, Richard Woodard queries a new, Scotch whisky addition to the price bracket. Is premiumisation a victory of style over substance? Or does it satisfy a genuine consumer desire? The answer, of course, is both.
Cognac has caught the eye of high-profile bartenders around the world, but producers need to add a little more style to their substance if they are to win over new, cocktail-loving consumers, argues Richard Woodard following a visit to the International Cognac Summit.
It’s already been christened, in typical journalese, the “Rum Wars”. It’s prompted angry exchanges in the Caribbean, questions on Capitol Hill and, most recently, a vitriolic attack by the world’s biggest drinks company on one of its rivals. So just what is going on with Diageo’s new Captain Morgan distillery? Richard Woodard picks apart Captain Morgan's current adventure.
Diageo’s recent court victory in the Vodkat “passing off” case has brought the world of spirit regulations into the headlines. But, according to Richard Woodard, two more low-profile announcements have arguably even more long-term significance for the category at large.
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