Brown-Forman has tried to revitalize Southern Comfort sales

Brown-Forman has tried to revitalize Southern Comfort sales

Brown-Forman's CEO has said sales of the Southern Comfort brand would have declined even faster if not for efforts by the company to shore them up.

Speaking to analysts after the release of full-year results today, Paul Varga said the company has "done some of the best work we can do" on the flavoured liqueur, which has seen global sales suffer over the past five years, despite a Brown-Forman marketing push. A global campaign launched in 2013 initially helped sales rebound in the US and then in other global markets, before falling back.

In today's results, the brand saw sales both in the US and globally fall by 5%, with Brown-Forman blaming "the growth in the flavoured whiskey category" for SoCo's travails.

"(Southern Comfort) would have competitively deteriorated more had we not taken some of the steps we've taken," Varga said. "We feel that we've done some of the best work we can do there; it's just competitively under assault."

Varga also added some colour to Brown-Forman's acquisition this week of Slane Castle Irish Whiskey Ltd and its intention to build a new distillery. The CEO said Irish whiskey is an attractive category as it is still in its infancy and bears many of the same characteristics as North American whiskey. However, he said that there are far fewer competitors in Irish whiskey, making the market place less fierce than in Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.

Varga added: "While I expect that to change, it is a very attractive part of the category."

In full-year results, Brown-Forman reported a near-4% increase in both sales and profits for its fiscal-2014-15, with the outlook set fair for the current financial year.