Scotch whisky: Blending In

28 May, 2015

 Latin America remains a region with great potential for blended scotch, with Diageo’s Buchanan’s and Old Parr Tribute recording strong growth in Columbia. Morgan notes: “In Mexico broad distribution, along with the media campaign Keep Walking Mexico, drove Johnnie Walker Red Label’s 40% contribution to net sales growth. We also introduced Black & White to participate in the segment, resulting in net sales growth of 70%.” 

With blended scotch sales falling significantly across the board in mainland China, “marketing spend for Johnnie Walker is being focused on the modern on-trade to improve profitability,” according to Morgan, “and to launch Johnnie Walker Double Black and test new campaigns in the more profitable off-trade channel to build new occasions for scotch”. 

He adds: “Marketing spend in China was also focused on Johnnie Walker Blue Label and the Johnnie Walker Houses, including the addition of the Johnnie Walker House in Chengdu.”

Africa is increasingly being viewed as a key blended scotch whisky continent, and Morgan says: “Johnnie Walker’s net sales were up 15% in Africa in the first half. The brand more than doubled in Angola and showed strong growth in other African countries, including South Africa, where Johnnie Walker Black Label and Red Label net sales were up 13% and 17% respectively, supported by the Where Flavour is King and Johnnie & Ginger campaigns that focus on quality and liquid credentials.”

In terms of recent releases, Johnnie Walker has added two Private Collection expressions, one last year and the second early in 2015. These are limited annual editions, designed to showcase different elements of Johnnie Walker’s character – to date ‘smoke’ and ‘fruit’. Essentially they are bottlings intended to compete in terms of liquid quality and prestige with high-end single malts and alternative spirits, rather than other blends, as price tags around the £475/£550 mark reflect.

Third place in the global blended scotch top 10 behind Johnnie Walker Red Label and Black Label goes to Pernod Ricard’s Ballantine’s range of blends. Global brand director Peter Moore says: “Our latest half-yearly figures for Ballantine’s are pleasing. Volumes were up 6% and organic sales growth 5%. Asia remains our biggest challenge, though there is positive momentum in Japan.”

Latin America has seen strong performances for Ballantine’s, with double-digit growth and, specifically, a 40% volume increase in Brazil. “We’ve done lots of promotional work in Brazil around music with a high level of digital material,” says Moore.  

“The brand has been in Brazil for a very long time, but we’re at an early stage of development in Mexico. However, we are doing well there.”

Moore also nominates Africa, India and eastern Europe as markets where Ballantine’s sales have been strong, noting that: “In Europe, we are also seeing greater stability in markets such as Spain [where overall scotch whisky volumes rose by 1% in 2014], with positive signs during the past three or four months, after six years of decline.”

Scotch whisky exports to France, the biggest market by volume and second biggest by value, were up 2% to £445m and 3% to 183m bottles in 2014. Moore says: “We’ve seen modest growth in France, which is our biggest single market with our strongest Ballantine’s portfolio presence in Europe. We have Finest, blended malt, 12-year-old and even 17-year-old in France.”

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