Gruppo Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz said Bulldog Gin would roll out to all of Camparis markets

Gruppo Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz said Bulldog Gin would roll out to all of Campari's markets

Yesterday, Gruppo Campari posted strong sales and an adjusted profits leap for 2016. Speaking to just-drinks following the full-year results announcement, CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz discusses plans for newly-acquired Bulldog gin, a move away from flavoured vodka and the path to premium rum in the US.

just-drinks: You announced your purchase of Bulldog London Dry Gin last month. Why did you decide to buy the brand now, rather than wait until 2020 to excercise your agreed option to take ownership then?

Bob Kunze-Concewitz: Gin as a category is hot and Bulldog is a hot brand within that category. Our in-market companies account for 75% of the brand's sales. We decided to anticipate the timings so we could have full control of the marketing of the brand. We thought it would simplify things.

The brand is growing double digits everywhere, so it's really now about extending its distribution reach. It has been doing really well in the on-premise, so there will be some focus in the off-premise.

We're looking to extend Bulldog to all of our markets.

j-d: Full-year sales for Skyy Vodka fell by 1.4% in organic terms. Why is that?

B K-C: In its home market (the US), Skyy was impacted by destocking, which we drove ahead of route-to-market changes in Q4. The real weakness was on the flavours side - on Skyy Infusions. Also, what really didn't help was its second market, Brazil - the market tanked.

We also decided to destock in South Africa, which is one of its top five markets, ahead of a change in route-to-market there. So, partially it was some of our own doing and partially it was market conditions. But, we still feel very good about Skyy. It's doing very well defending its position in the US. And, it's growing double-digits outside [of the US].

j-d: Will you pull back on Skyy flavours?

B K-C: We have already reduced the pace significantly.

j-d: What are your plans for newly-launched Bourbon brands Bond & Lillard and Old Ripy?

B K-C: We entered with some small, craft-like brands. It's a quiet launch - historical trademarks, beautiful brands which had sort of died off, but they have authenticity, they have roots. We brought back their formulations and improved upon their packaging. We launched them into two or three [US] markets and we will grow them organically from there.

j-d: Will there be a global roll-out?

B K-C: First, we will focus on the US, before they become global. It will take a while. We have only just started growing Russell's Reserve outside of the US this year.

j-d: Rum went flat in the US for Campari last year. Why is that?

You have to look into the numbers, because Appleton Estate had mid-single-digit growth and Wray White Overproof grew double-digits. But, we began the transition from Appleton White and Special - the mixing drinks - to a new brand, which we call J Wray. We want the Appleton brand name focused on Appleton Estate - high-end, aged, super- and ultra-premium brands. So, we created this new brand, which meant we delisted Appleton White and Special, lost listings and then it took some time to regain listings with J Wray.

This is part of the [wider] relaunch and reestablishment of Appleton. We feel it is important that Appleton is only focused in the super and ultra-premium range of dark aged rums. Of course, this has affected volumes.

j-d: Once again, your non-core sugar business in Jamaica pulled on performance. Do you anticipate this will continue?

B K-C: Its economics are going to improve but that's a business that in its best days broke even, so we don't see any changes there. Obviously, it's a very integrated part of both the Appleton story and the supply chain.

j-d: Are there any divestments left in association with your Marnier-Lapostolle acquisition?

B K-C: It's no secret that we're getting out of still wines. Within the Marnier-Lapostolle portfolio there were two wineries - one in Chile and one in France. The Chilean winery was disposed of. We have a French winery left and there is a process on course. But, there is no time frame.

Click here for full coverage of Gruppo Campari's 2016 results