Campari Group CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz

Campari Group CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz

Last month, just-drinks sat down with Campari Group CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz during a visit to the new Appleton Estate visitors centre to discuss the rum category. While we had him, Kunze-Concewitz broached a number of other subjects including Campari's M&A ambitions, the overheated Irish whiskey category and why a ban on plastic straws may not be the way to solve waste issues.

just-drinks: You have said before that Campari is like an unfinished cathedral. Which parts have to be built next?

Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz: We are a bit like [Barcelona's] Sagrada Família, the building keeps on going and it never finishes. But, we work on different parts simultaneously, it all depends which one comes quicker.

j-d: I was in Barcelona not so long ago, and they plan to finish the Sagrada Família one day.

BKC: We keep on working. I'm not sure it will be finished.

j-d: What categories would you like to see built in this cathedral?

"The only major category left where we are not playing is Irish whiskey"

BKC: The only major category left where we are not playing is Irish whiskey. I don't think we want to play in there [Campari offloaded the Carolans Irish Cream and Irish Mist brands to Heaven Hill Brands for US$165m last year]. It's a category that is totally dominated by Jameson first, and Tullamore Dew a distant second. At the same time, there have been major, major investments in creating new distilleries in Ireland and all of these will come on stream in the next three to four years. I think the world will be swimming in Irish whiskey.

j-d: Yet, Irish whiskey is growing fast. Do you not see that growth continuing?

BKC: The question is, is it the growth of the category or is it the growth of two brands? We are very much on the sidelines, we are very happy with our category. We can probably layer from a category perspective. We might add more brands in the same categories, but they would have to play in a different price position.

j-d: As a cocktail-oriented company, are you not interested in Irish whiskey?

BKC: Sure, but the intrinsic characteristics of Irish whiskey you can also find in Canadian whisky. That's where Forty Creek [Campari's Canadian whisky brand] plays a role.

j-d: Analysts say you have a lot of money to spend. Are you not eager to buy?

BKC: Sure, but money has never burnt a hole in our pocket. It's about finding the right target at the right price at the right time.

j-d: One purchase you have made recently is Bisquit Dubouché et Cie Cognac. Was this an opportunity purchase or had you been looking at the brand for a while?

"The major Cognac brands are all spoken for, so this is going to be a slow build for us"

BKC: It was one that came up. We see Cognac as an interesting category, particularly in the US. The major brands are all spoken for, so this is going to be a slow build for us. We were looking for a brand that has global awareness as well as a story to tell. Bisquit in the post-war years was a top three Cognac brand, so there is a lot of latent equity there. At the same time, we were looking for a brand that had also a nice aged eau de vie inventory and, clearly, a lot came with this. Again, it's not something that will explode overnight, but we will do our part.

j-d: Do you have a US launch planned for the brand?

BKC: Clearly, the US is part of the appeal. It is one of the key markets.

j-d: There has been a lot of talk around sustainability in spirits. Diageo and Pernod Ricard have both recently announced a ban on plastic straws and stirrers. Will Campari do the same?

BKC: We are having those discussions internally because we clearly share the objective of reducing waste. On the other hand, I'm not so sure that getting rid of plastic straws is the right thing. We are having this debate, but the reality is, if you really want to recycle something, then plastic is very recyclable. If you move to some of the other alternatives, they are not.

j-d: Are Diageo and Pernod making a mistake with their plastic bans?

BKC: The intention is very good and we absolutely share that. We are still debating whether it is the right thing. Plastic per se is not bad if you recycle it. So, you really need to ensure that your key partners in the on-premise and consumers understand that they can recycle plastic.

Click here for the first part of just-drinks' interview in Jamaica with Campari Group CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz

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Davide Campari-Milano S.p.A. - Strategy, SWOT and Corporate Finance Report

Davide Campari-Milano S.p.A. - Strategy, SWOT and Corporate Finance Report

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