The beverage business blog from Olly Wehring
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How to offend a nation without really trying
14 Jul 2006 16:27
The landlady of a pub in the south-west of England has been the target of hate mail recently for upsetting the Welsh. Angie Sayer, of the New Inn in Wedmore, Somerset, has received letters and answerphone messages accusing her of racism.
Ms Sayer used a Welsh flag in a rather peculiar way when celebrating St George’s Day on 23 April. The English saint, of course, was famous for slaying a dragon, so Ms Sayer used the Welsh flag – which has a dragon on it – for locals to fire arrows at in the pub’s skittle alley.
“The whole incident has been blown out of proportion,” she told trade magazine the Publican. “We needed a dragon to shoot at and happened to use the flag.”
Not all's fair in love and (cola) war
10 Jul 2006 11:13
It’s pleasing to see that a little honour still exists in today’s dog-eat-dog corporate world.
PepsiCo has won well-deserved praise for its refusal to accept alleged secret information about Coca-Cola, and even told its arch-rival about the plot.
Late last week, it emerged that three people in the US - including a Coke employee - had been charged with fraud along with stealing and selling trade secrets, which included a sample of a new drink being developed by Coke. The trio tried to sell the information in deals worth US$1.5m. Coke learned of the theft and the attempted sale of the “very detailed and confidential information” from Pepsi - and alerted the FBI.
Pepsi could have taken the information and used it to gain an edge over the nearest competitor. After all, the two companies have been in fierce competition for well over a century, a battle that has become all the more intense as consumers shy away of fizzy drinks in favour of healthier beverages.
Admittedly, there may have been a degree of self-interest involved on Pepsi’s part. If Pepsi was caught either accepting the information or not reporting the approach, legal repercussions and/or bad publicity would have landed at the company’s door.
However, it was satisfying to hear that the message from Pepsi was: we play hard - but we play fair.
And let us be clear - there is no end in sight to ‘The Cola Wars’.
Pepsi has been quick to take a swipe at Coke’s launch of Coca-Cola Zero in the UK, embarking on an aggressive ad campaign for Pepsi Max. The campaign’s strapline: “Max Taste, Zero Hype” leaves little doubt that the rivalry is alive and kicking.
Diageo - huge, but still growing
04 Jul 2006 11:11
Resilience, reliability, durability - not characteristics guaranteed to set the heart racing, are they? But these were exactly the credentials on display at Diageo last week as the UK drinks giant issued a buoyant trading update ahead of its full-year results next month.
Some analysts, however, were unconvinced. They were disappointed that, after hefty marketing investment, Diageo would only say that growth in operating profit was in line with its previous forecast. However, earnings growth of 7% and sales growth of 6% are figures not to be sniffed at for a consumer goods juggernaut like Diageo.
Premium spirits sales in North America and growth from emerging markets, particularly in Latin America, have been behind the strong performance. The company also seems to have breathed new life into key brands, notably Guinness, which has seen sales in the UK rise on the back of a popular campaign that showed man’s evolution leading to a pint of the black stuff.
Sure, Diageo still has work to do. It needs to up its presence in other emerging markets particularly in India and China, where global rival Pernod Ricard was faster to recognise the potential of the market and has carved a very strong position in the premium spirits category. Diageo has also warned that European markets remain “subdued” but CEO Paul Walsh said the company would continue to invest more in marketing in an attempt to drive sales.
In the US, where the thirst for premium spirits shows no sign of abating, the drinks giant holds a strong position. Add to this a growing focus on emerging markets and a willingness to flex its marketing muscle to revitalise sales in a stagnant Europe, and Diageo seems set to post similar numbers in the months and, maybe, years ahead.
What’s more, Diageo is less exposed than some of its rivals to the grape glut in Australia and the resultant debilitating effects of price wars in major wine markets. Excess wine and falling prices weighed on profits at Constellation Brands last week, while Foster’s also announced that it was set to offload three wineries as it looks to trim back its business post-Southcorp.
No football does not a football-free just-drinks blog make
28 Jun 2006 14:01
It’s the first day for over two weeks that we’re World Cup football-free, but not here at just-football, I mean, just-drinks.
The following announcements should help to calm withdrawal symptoms.
Germans are making a killing from football fans with a taste for beer - but no idea about the country’s deposit laws. Thousands of savvy Germans are collecting discarded glass and plastic bottles and aluminium cans and turning them into a healthy profit.
“Just today, I’ve made EUR80 (US$101),” Joseph Werwa, 72, told Associated Press this week as England and Sweden fans toasted their teams’ draw. “It is, simply, easy money.” Empty cans earn EUR0.15, while glass bottles are worth EUR0.08 to whoever returns them.
Meanwhile, those England fans among you who have found your national team’s performance as dull as I have, may like to see the matches repeated, courtesy of The Juice Doctor, by fruit. The grape’s injury two minutes into the game against Sweden, as well as the tall man up front (a banana, naturally) is pretty priceless.
Coke must look outside of CSDs
26 Jun 2006 17:53
You don’t get appointed to lead the world’s largest drinks company if you’re not confident that you can take the business forward.
Neville Isdell returned to Coca-Cola Co. two years ago to rescue the US soft drinks giant from declining growth and failed product launches. Isdell has urged company executives to draw up sharper marketing campaigns to revitalise the Coca-Cola brand and to focus more on innovation to reduce dependence on a declining carbonated soft drinks segment.
To some extent, Isdell’s strategy has worked. In April, the company posted a 10% rise in first-quarter profits with non-CSD volumes up 11%. Coke has been far more active on the innovation front, enjoying success with Coke Zero in Australia and, for the first time in the company’s history, testing and launching a new product - Coke Blak - outside the US. And with the launch of media campaigns including “The Coke Side of Life” earlier this year, the company is working hard to re-engage with consumers presented with more and more choice.
But has Isdell’s success caused him to set one target too far? Speaking at the World Food Business Summit in Paris last week, Isdell said the company would aim to double the brand value of Coca-Cola to account for half of the company’s sales by 2015. Growing Coke’s “core” CSD sales was one of “six strategic growth paths” to achieving that aim, Isdell insisted, with “enormous opportunities” in the category - and not just in emerging markets.
However, with consumers turning away from full-calorie, sugary soft drinks in favour of healthier options, Coke is sure to find it tough to drive value from its flagship brand. As the company posted in its most recent figures, volumes in North America, its largest market, were propped up by other brands, including Powerade and Dasani.
Just one indication of the work that needs to be done is the future of its drinks venture with Nestlé. The two companies have been reported to be in talks over the future of the venture, Beverage Partners Worldwide, which markets Nestea iced teas and coffees worldwide. US reports said that Nestea sales had slumped in the first quarter of the year, in stark contrast to a buoyant bottled teas category. Meanwhile, Coke is suffering from falling volumes in key overseas markets like Japan and the Philippines.
The company would be better off giving more attention to the ‘non-Coke’ parts of its portfolio. Health drinks, teas and juices are the growing segments of the soft drinks category and Isdell needs to address these areas if he wants to take the company further.
35+? Check. Lust for Life? Check. Affluent...?
23 Jun 2006 08:58
I went to a Chivas Brothers’ tasting down at their London offices yesterday.
The Pernod Ricard unit’s flagship brand - Chivas Regal - seems very proud of itself at the moment, with last year’s total sales of 3.8m cases continuing its upward trajectory.
I couldn’t help feeling slightly inadequate as I left proceedings, however. All the talk of targeting affluent, 35+ consumers with a desire for life ticked all my boxes, I felt. Clearly, I thought, I’m just the type to live ‘The Chivas Life’.
Although the parting gift of a Chivas wallet designed to hold up to 16 credit cards convinced me that I still had some way to go on this front.
Saudis say no to silverware
19 Jun 2006 15:03
Yet more from the World Cup in Germany…
Saudi Arabia might not be many pundits’ tip to go all the way to the final. In spite of a 2-2 draw with Tunisia last week, they still have to face Ukraine and the much-fancied Spanish squad to get to the second round.
It will need all 11 Saudi players to put in man-of-the-match performances to get anywhere near progressing through to the knockout stages. Not that they’d get anything for their efforts.
The Muslim team have advised FIFA that, should any of their players be chosen as man of the match, they would refuse it.
The award is a silver mug with the Anheuser-Busch logo on it.
“We will activate common sense in this situation, but it is a given that no Saudi player will be nominated for the award, simply because we know for certain that they will refuse to accept it,” a FIFA official told Associated Press.
Good job they weren’t going commando
19 Jun 2006 15:00
The deal struck pre-World Cup between Anheuser-Busch and German brewer Bitburger was a victory for common sense, in which a compromise was found to keep both sides satisfied. While A-B maintained the presence it had paid for in the stadia for the viewing public to see, Bitburger helped keep some of the beer available in the stadia German, thereby sating the locals’ demand for a local brew.
Job done. But a new row appears to have broken out in Germany on the brewer front.
Dutch brewer Bavaria has been playing the patriot card, offering consumers the chance to buy orange lederhosen – with the Bavaria logo on the front.
Last Friday, when Holland faced the Ivory Coast, over 1,000 Dutch fans in the stadium were told to remove their Bavaria trousers, as Bavaria is not an official World Cup sponsor.
“It’s ridiculous,” Sjoerd Schreurs, a Dutch supporter who had to take his trousers off, told the Guardian. “I queued for 25 minutes to get in. When I reached the front, an official told me: ‘You’re not getting in like that’. I took my trousers off. I watched the game in my pants,” he added. “Fortunately I had quite a long T-shirt.”
Please, buy our products - No, not you.
19 Jun 2006 14:54
Probably the most popular buzzword in the drinks industry of the last few years has been ‘premiumisation’. Hated by many for its lazy butchering of the English language, the premise of the word is really quite simple.
Getting consumers to trade-up and spend more is the aim of pretty much all of you out there, but what happens if, in trying to do this, a company finds itself attracting what it feels is the wrong crowd?
French Champagne maker Louis Roederer’s run-in last week with rapper Jay-Z is a class example of the potential minefield facing all brands.
In an interview with The Economist magazine, the company’s managing director, Frederic Rouzaud, was asked if his Cristal Champagne’s association with the hip-hop industry could harm his brand. “That’s a good question, but what can we do?” he replied. “We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”
Jay-Z took exception to Rouzaud’s comments last week, deeming them “racist” and leading a boycott.
At the other end of the scale, this reminded me of an interview a couple of years ago with (then Interbrew but now) InBev’s John Woods about his Stella Artois brand. Here in the UK, GBP5 will get you six cans of Stella, a brand which boasts of being ‘reassuringly expensive’. “If there were evidence that price discounting was having a bad effect on the brand, then we would be concerned, but we don’t have any such evidence,” Woods told me.
Both situations highlight what’s on either side of the tightrope that brand managers need to walk.
And yet, both brands are also household names - although Cristal might be more of an aspiration than a realisation in most households - suggesting that one needs to be careful what one wishes for.
Drink if you're winning. You only drink if you're winning.
14 Jun 2006 13:22
I know, I know – not another World Cup-related blog? I apologise, but when one puts as much effort into watching as much of the tournament as I do (look, darling, it’s just for four weeks every four years), you understand how I have little else to write about.
England’s second game tomorrow (15 June) sees them come up against the underdogs of Trinidad & Tobago, a team who are just happy to be at the finals.
Angostura Rum, meanwhile, has served up an incentive that could see the ‘Soca Warriors’ put up quite a fight against, Beckham, Owen et al. Trinidad & Tobago’s 23 players and coach will each receive a barrel of Angostura’s most historic rum if they win.
The rum was laid down for maturation in Trinidadian warehouses on 31 August 2002 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of independence from the UK. Angostura had earmarked the rum for an extra special occasion, and chairman Lawrence Duprey has declared that rewarding the players for a win against their former colonial rulers would be a fitting use. He will also present a barrel and honorary keys to the distillery, allowing visitation access at any time, to Leo Beenhakker if the coach can lead the team to victory.
“We hope the barrel bonus will act as an extra incentive for the players as there are few Trinidadians that don’t like a drop of rum and these casks hold the best in the world,” said Angostura’s marketing manager Nigel Bissoon.