It was Brown-Forman’s “stellar year”, according to company CFO Don Berg.
More accurately, however, it was the year of Jack Daniel’s, which in yesterday’s full-year results posted 11% sales growth – not bad for what Brown-Forman claims is the only truly global “premium” spirits brand.
It was this “strong interest in higher-priced spirits” that helped push Brown-Forman’s FY profits up by 15% and sales up by 5%, according to the Wall Street Journal, with more of the same expected for the year ahead.
But if you want to break Brown-Forman’s year down into even finer detail, then fiscal 2012 will likely be remembered as the year Tennessee Honey came of age. The Jack Daniel’s extension was launched back in March 2011 and in its first full year sold “over 400,000” cases.
Now, in its second full year, and with an international presence, it is achieving lift off.
The label’s sales may only be 7% of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, but last fiscal year it took big strides in closing the gap. According to Brown-Forman, global net sales nearly doubled while sales in the US grew by 37%.
Berg says he is looking for more growth next year, but he has already made the industry sit up and take notice with what could have been a dangerous move into uncharted territory.
Brown spirits makers would surely argue that vodka has backed itself into a corner with its conveyor belt of flavour innovations, with more variants the only way to feed sales growth. But instead of devaluing the core brand, Brown-Forman says Tennessee Honey has increased sales throughout the whole Jack Daniel’s range. “You can buy whipped cream from the store and put it in Jack Daniel’s if you want but you’re probably not going to see it from us,” Berg said in December.
Now other whisk(e)y companies are looking for their own piece of honey. Last month, just-drinks reported that Edrington is trialling flavoured variants of The Famous Grouse blended Scotch whisky, while in March, Bacardi announced the launch of Dewar’s Highlander Honey.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Brown-Forman must be revelling in the adulation.