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Pernod aims to grow "massive" uplift in Christmas spirits with two premium focused campaigns

Published:  17 August, 2017

Pernod Ricard kicked off its Christmas briefing strategy this morning with a reminder of why Christmas is the most important period in the trade’s calendar.

With disposable income reaching a high during the end of the year thanks to Christmas bonuses and careful saving throughout the year, consumers are willing not only to spend, but to spend up.

A focus on premiumisation was perhaps unsurprisingly unveiled as the world’s number two in spirits’ focus for the second half of 2017, with Chris Shead, channel director for grocery at Pernod Ricard UK, issuing a stern warning to retailers: “Ignore premium this Christmas and you will miss out.”

Shead aimed to quantify the importance of Christmas by pointing to the uplift in some particularly seasonal categories: whisky for example – which was reported as seeing sales rise 68% during last year’s eight-week festive period.

Whisky is the first of two off-trade focused campaigns being run by Pernod this winter.

It’s purpose is to “demystify” whisky and challenge rigid buying habits which, Pernod says, are especially ingrained with this particularly category.

“80% of whisky purchases are planned and 51% of consumers will have a particular brand in mind,” said Pernod Ricard UK marketing controller Ravinder Atwal.

“Whisky is a very difficult category to shop for. There’s a lot of single-facing products and also new products, which leads to habitual purchasing.”

In a effort to try and break these patterns, the company is launching a flavour-led campaign, which aims to guide consumers’ choices based on simple descriptors such as “rich and smooth”.


During the briefing, Pernod also highlighted the premium opportunities for various sectors of the market.

According to the company, since January 2017, on-trade sales of premium spirits have risen to be on an even keel with non-premiums spirits, representing a 50/50 split.

This demonstrated “structural changes” in the habits of consumers said Shead, who went on to share predictions that premium spirits will have the majority share by 2020.

It’s worth noting that Pernod counts all of its products as premium.

Pernod, along with many other major spirits producers, considers “premium” to be anything over 20% of the average bottle price in the category - a contentious calculation in some circles.

In the off-trade, more work needs to be done to capitalise on premium growth opportunities said various Pernod representatives.

The impulse channel shows the most potential movement, with premium spirits accounting for only 18% of convenience sales, they said.

For grocery and the multiples, the figure was higher at, 30% - although there was still a major pendulum swing between grocers making the most of and those losing out on premium sales.

Christmas presents an opportunity for premium grocery spirits sales to rise, Shead said, to 50% if retailers can “rationalise ranges to maximise the big opportunity for premium spirits”.

His advice for driving this growth is to start think about in-store strategies early, in September and October, rather than at the beginning of December.

“It’s important to use the season to kick-start a behaviour change that will encourage shoppers to continue buying premium all year round. Our message is simple: ignore premium this Christmas and you will miss out,” he added.

Ways of increasing basket spend was also highlighted, leading to Pernod’s second campaign, which is centred around persuading consumers to make cocktails at home.

“Offering a serve rather than one product leads to better returns,” impulse channel director, James Middleton, observed.

Their strategy for this, which will straddle convenience and the multiples, involves cocktail ideas around key brands: ginger ale and lime for Jameson; Plymouth Gin and tonic for a G&T; and Absolut, expresso and coffee liqueur (Pernod suggests its own Kahlua brand here) for a DIY expresso martini.

“Across the internet, searches for ‘how to make cocktails’ goes up by 20% at Christmas,” said Middleton, linking it to other festive shopping themes such as the desire to impress at Christmas and to be more extravagant generally with purchases.

Spotlight on Scotch

According to Pernod Ricard, sales of premium Scotch are on the rise up 8% in volume and 7% value, compared to total spirits which grew by 1.5% volume and 1.7% value for the two years CAGR to March 2017 (Nielsen).