First Drinks is now known as William Grant & Sons UK

First Drinks is now known as William Grant & Sons UK

First Drinks, the UK division of William Grant & Sons, has announced a name change.

The unit, which is headed up by industry veteran Chris Mason, said late yesterday (10 July) that it will henceforth be known as William Grant & Sons UK. The announcement came as the division released its annual report looking into the Champagne and spirits markets in the country.

“Becoming William Grant & Sons UK will allow us to benefit from the international footprint of our group,” said Mason.

Speaking to just-drinks at the launch event in London, Mason conceded that William Grant UK is suffering from a number of category gaps, following the termination of the third-party distribution agreement by Remy Cointreau in March. “While we constantly appraise the portfolio, we're free in a number of categories,” said Mason. “We're in talks with a number of people at present, but it has to be complementary to our existing brands.”

Mason flagged that Cognac and rum are the primary gaps, following Remy's departure.

The unit's annual report, which dissects the broader Champagne and spirits categories, has found that the UK consumer maintains a recessionary mindset, despite the recession being officially over in the country. “The market is more polarised than ever,” said the unit's marketing director, Gary Keogh. “It is premium brands that can really take advantage of this trend.”

Premium spirits in the off-trade posted a 6.4% rise in value terms, last year, with non-premium spirits up by just 4.5%.

Details emerged earlier this week showing that parent company William Grant & Sons had donated GBP185,000 (US$317,000) to the Scottish 'No' campaign ahead of September's independence referendum in the country.