• CEO hails "full pipeline" of new products
  • New-look Ricard to fend off copycats
  • Ricard improves market share in France
Pernod Ricards new, square-bottomed Ricard bottle

Pernod Ricard's new, square-bottomed Ricard bottle

Pernod Ricard's CEO, Pierre Pringuet, has said that the company has a "full pipeline" of new drinks being prepared for launch in 2011.

Pringuet said that Pernod has ploughed greater resources into innovation over the last couple of years and has launched 40 new products, including rebranded drinks and line extensions, in the last 12 months.

More relaunches and new products are on the way, Pringuet told analysts at a conference to mark the launch of the new Ricard pastis bottle this week. "There is a full pipeline of new products which are due to come to the market in the coming months," he said, without disclosing specific details.

Pernod's high debt following its acquisition of Absolut vodka owner Vin & Sprit in 2008, in addition to the onset of the global financial crisis, has forced the group to focus on organic growth over the last two years.

It is reported to have spent EUR5m (US$6.8m) to develop the new, square-bottomed Ricard bottle, which is arguably the most high-profile relaunch of the French company's inward-looking era.

Concerns over copycat brands in the pastis category drove the decision to change Ricard, which remains a symbol of where it all began for the group back in 1932. "We are constantly copied," said Ricard's company chairman, Philippe Savinel. "The risk of becoming the generic brand in the [pastis] category has become too big. This time, we will be very tough to copy," he said.

Ricard is the clear market leader for aniseed-based drinks in France, its largest market. Savinel said that the brand has increased its volume market share by 1.5% over the last six months, to 40%. In value terms, Ricard accounts for 46% of aniseed-based spirits sales in the country.

Pernod Ricard's desire to reconnect Ricard with younger consumers in France, as well as push into new markets, was also key in the decision to repackage the brand. Sales of pastis and other aniseed-based drinks have struggled for several years due to their image in France as aperitifs for old men.

More recently, however, Ricard has shown that it retains the potential to grow. The launch of a 35cl bottle size helped Ricard volume sales increase by 3% in France, to around 37m litres, in Pernod's most recent fiscal year, to the end of June. That compares to an aniseed spirits sector down by 0.2% over the same period.

"The design will both strengthen the bond with our loyal consumers and reach out to new ones," said Savinel, who added that Ricard constitutes 50% of Pernod's business in France.

Globally, Ricard volumes were flat for Pernod's last fiscal year, at around 50m litres, with net sales up by 1% on the previous year, excluding currency fluctuations.

Analysts have tipped Pernod for a strong 2011, due to its high advertising spend and strong geographic positions in key spirits categories. To read more on this, click here.