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Issue 86 - Reasons to be cheerful

Whisky Magazine Issue 86
February 2010


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Reasons to be cheerful

Actually, maybe that should read “reasons to be cautiously optimistic”, but it doesn't scan quite as well. Instead of the usual discursive ramblings here's some personal thoughts on some trends which whisky could face. Yes I know it's a damned foolhardy thing to do, but what the hell, I'm here to be shot at.

Minimum Pricing – The issue of imposing a fixed cost per unit of alcohol as a way to eradicate “binge drinking” is currently exercising UK politicians. I'd guess that some form of minimum pricing will happen in the near future. I know it will punish sensible drinkers and hit the already depressed pub trade, but while it makes no sense to solve the problem in such a crude fashion, the campaign now has momentum. While firms will moan about it, they only have themselves to blame as it is they who helped cause the problem in the first place by kow-towing to the demands of supermarkets, thereby creating a cheap booze culture.

Goodbye UK – How important is the UK to Scotch whisky firms? Answer, see above. The cheap booze culture has reduced margins and profits and as a result seen advertising and promotional spends cut. The consequence is that, with a few exceptions, whisky firms have operated a maintenance strategy for their UK business. Taiwan, Brazil etc., are more exciting and when money is tight you go to where you see business opportunities. There's less education for the UK trade and therefore less understanding about whisky. Result? We remain woeful at selling and promoting our national product at a time when tourist numbers are increasing. Will it change? I hope so, but don't hold your breath.

Takeovers and mergers – Expect the Diageo/LVMH deal to take place. It gives Diageo Hennessy, plus entry into premium wine business, but what of the ramifications for whis...

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