New Booze Products: Brilliant and Dumb

Wine and Spirits Daily had two announcements about new spirits product recently. One makes sense and the other, well, you decide.

Highlander honeyGood Idea

The flavored whiskey category has been on fire with brands like Wild Turkey American Honey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, and Jim Beam Red Stag among others. Now the folks from Dewar’s Scotch (owned by Bacardi) are entering the flavored whisk(e)y category with Highlander Honey, a scotch infused with honey.

Imagine, they have the audacity to try to break down the stuffiness and out-of-date sacred walls of the blended scotch category. Never mind that blended scotch growth has been declining to flat in the past decade while other whiskies (including malts) have been growing. It’s not about adapting to changing tastes, it’s about a stiff upper lip refusing to swallow change.

Check this out. The Diageo head of whisky outreach (huh? I think that’s a way of saying, ‘can I buy you a drink?’), was quoted as saying Scotch has too much “integrity” and “authenticity” to get into flavors. Diageo and integrity in the same sentence? My word! Also, the Scotch Whiskey Association is not very happy about it. Better to go down with the ship, eh, what?

Hey, it’s a good idea for the reasons I shared with Wine and Spirits Daily,

“It’s a terrific idea and well worth trying,” long-time industry exec Arthur Shapiro told WSD. ” First, the blended scotch market is declining and this could be a shot in the arm. Second, the flavored whiskey (US) brands have ‘greased the skids’ so consumer acceptance would be easier than it might have been before these brands came on the market. Third, it adds contemporariness to the scotch area and removes the stuffiness. Fourth, probably makes for a good mixed drink. Finally, I like the ‘seriousness’ of scotch and the fun of a flavored scotch product.”

Put that in your copper still and cook it.

Mama WalkerYou gotta be kidding me

Pernod Ricard, who until recently earned my respect for terrific innovations and new products, has launched what seems to be an April Fool’s joke.

They are introducing a line of new products under the Hiram Walker name called Mama Walker’s breakfast liqueurs. Apparently it’s intended to “tap into the comfort food, sweet and savory flavor combinations” trend (or is it fad?) not to mention the confectionary/cake vodka flavors. This breakfast of champions is available in Maple Bacon, Blueberry Pancake and Glazed Donut.

Come on folks, are you serious? Next thing you’re going to tell us is that they hardly taste artificial.

Can’t you just see the ad campaign?

“A bit hung over from a hard night of drinking? Looking for something to smooth out the rough edges? Forget about the all night diner and the bacon, eggs and pancake special. Try some of Mama Walker’s breakfast liqueurs… we’ll perk you right up with our original comfort booze. Just remember… your Mama knows best.”

Or:

“Tired of the same old breakfast? Cereal, eggs or fruit can be soooo boring… Start you day off right with Mama Walker’s breakfast liqueurs. What a great way to face the stress of what awaits you. Boss on your back? Kids on your nerves? Mama can help…Comes with or without a brown paper bag… But, remember, don’t eat breakfast and drive!”

Any thoughts on either product?

 

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Diageo Innovations

Why do large companies suck at new products?

I get this question all the time and the answers are really quite simple. At the top of the list, it’s easier to buy than build. Why invest the time and effort and divert attention from the existing portfolio just to dig a dry hole?

More important is the simple arithmetic throughout the food chain. “How am I going to make my bonus/meet management’s expectations/reach my sales quota – you fill in the rest – if I divert my attention to a start up brand?”

So, if you’re a major player, you have a number of options when it comes to new products and brands.

First, you can bite the bullet and say, as I did at the outset of this posting, why bother? Let someone else build it, I’ll make an offer they can’t refuse. Mainly Diageo, but also others, fit this mode.

If you’re aggressive and smart, chances are, you’re also attuned to the marketplace (consumers and trade) and know how to create demand or capitalize on an opportunity. Just look at White Rock, Proximo, Beam, Campari and others.

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Diageo Daze

Dear Diageo,

You produce great brands and are the sales and profit leader in the alcohol industry. According to press reports, you are about to acquire a large stake in Cuervo, which will be important to your future. Your global strategy of acquisition and growth in developing countries is second to none.

You are indeed the Emperor of the Booze World.

So, how come your senior management skills run from arrogant to stupid? Do you hire them that way or are they a product of a unique management development program?

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