Drambuie 15 has helped its owner post a full-year sales rise

Drambuie 15 has helped its owner post a full-year sales rise

The head of whisky liqueur maker Drambuie has said he won't abandon Greece despite plummeting sales and a new focus on emerging markets.

Volumes in Greece have fallen by half since its heyday as the company's second-biggest market a few years ago, Drambuie CEO Michael Kennedy told just-drinks. In Drambuie's full-year figures released last week volumes in Greece dropped by 27% year-on year.

But Kennedy said: “We're not walking away.

“We're still investing to a degree, though not like we did in the past, because there are a lot of consumers out there. The brand is relatively healthy in terms of age of consumers in Greece relative to more mature markets.”

Greece's decline, coupled with volume falls in Spain and Italy, saw Drambuie's overall volumes for the year remain flat. Kennedy says the priority there now as more buyers go to the wall is market management.

“A lot of our big customers have run into credit issues, and quite a lot of the guys we were dealing with five, six years ago who were great customers have gone bankrupt,” he said. “So a lot of the issue there is trading and making sure you are getting paid for what you are selling.”

“It's about making sure you have availability but not taking too many risks.”

Germany and Scandinavia have so far proved resilient in Europe, Kennedy said, though admitted beverage rivals faced a similar pattern.

“The more encouraging thing for us is that we're starting to see a turnaround in the US, which is our biggest market, and there's a real trend out there for authentic dark spirits.”

Meanwhile, Drambuie is upping investment in new markets. The company exports to 120 countries, but Kennedy said he wants a “more meaningful presence” in targeted regions. 

Brand Drambuie was launched in India last year and the company is taking its first tentative steps into South-East Asia, where latest product Drambuie 15 is doing well in trials in Vietnam, Kennedy said.

Drambuie 15, launched in the UK last year, was the company's first new product in a decade. It has since been launched in the US, where Kennedy said it has benefited from the boom in honeyed whiskies.

Kennedy is pleased with its early performance. In Travel Retail, where it has been established longest, sales are one-fifth of brand Drambuie, above the company's one-tenth target.  

“We hope sales will develop significantly,” Kennedy added.

Drambuie 15 helped Drambuie post a 4.5% sales increase in FY results last week. Operating profits jumped by 29%, but Kennedy said a better measure was the 9% operating profits rise that took the year's favourable foreign exchange rates out of the equation.