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Unpredictable consumers

Published:  23 July, 2008

Consumption patterns are becoming more fragmented and therefore more difficult to predict as people's choice of drink becomes increasingly occasion-based.

Bengt Baron, chief executive officer of Vin & Sprit, which owns Absolut vodka, was speaking at the the Swedish government-owned drinks company's annual briefing on

9 November. Commenting on the launch of peach-flavoured Absolut (due in the UK in the spring), he said: Innovation continues to be important, since the way people drink is becoming occasion-based - someone will have a gin and tonic and then move to wine.

Flavours will come and go, just like flavours in cooking. We've had an explosion of cuisines and tastes. Vodka can adapt to trends and tastes and can be mixed with the flavour of the day. We believe we are seeing a broader repertoire of drinks across all age groups,' said Baron.

It is like music. In the 1950s we had Elvis. In the '60s there were two or three bands; and by the '70s there were lots of bands but different genres, like punk. By the '80s it has all spread out. Now there is everything, but a few icons, such as the Rolling Stones and Madonna, stand out, although neither is the same as they were in, say, 1981.'

The former Olympic swimmer said that the company, which is the world's sixth-largest drinks company, was delighted to get 100% ownership of Plymouth gin and was in the throes of acquiring the majority of Cruzan rum. Asked which brand he would choose from the Allied portfolio if he could, Baron replied: Sauza is an interesting brand - I'd love to have a Tequila.'

On wine, he said: There is too much for us to catch up. There are too many players, and we are too far down the line. We do not have the expertise, and anyway it is tough to succeed in wine. There are not many companies making any money out of it.

I'm pleased it is being approached as branded goods, which has not been the case for the previous 6,000 years,' quipped the former Coca-Cola and Kodak man.