Whisky Magazine Issue 35
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'Own label' whisky brands are thriving across the world. But how does the market work and how has it developed the way it has? Peter Mulryan reports
The world of whisky has not been unaffected by the growth of the multinationals, in fact, the whisky industry has led the way. As early as the 1920s Johnnie Walker was sold in more than 120 countries; now four bottles of the brand are consumed every second, of every minute, of every day.
Between them Diageo, which owns Bell's and Johnnie Walker; Pernod Ricard, which owns Chivas; and Allied Domecq, which owns Teacher's and Laphroaig, now account for almost 60 per cent of global Scotch sales.
But along side the multinational global brands there exists another kind of whisky; one without a logo, whose major market advantage is price.
It's a parallel universe split between cheap Glen-Something supermarket brands and premium own label products created for individual markets.
It's all come a long way since the 1960s, when large supermarkets first started spreading across the United Kingdom. The idea then was simple; create and sell a whisky that was the same or better quality than the brands, but without the associated branding costs. With no enormous marketing budgets, supermarkets would make their money selling bulk, rather than from a large mark-up.
Sainsbury's was first into the market, and it was followed shortly afterwards by Tesco; this is a sure indicator that the experiment was working and that the public had taken to own brand whisky.
For the next generation, that was where its aspirations lay. The market prospered and today retailer own brand makes up a not insubst...