John Daly meets Conor McQuaid to discuss the success of Irish Distillers in USA.
Irish Distillers experienced another strong financial year in 2018/2019, accelerated by the continued growth of Jameson Irish whiskey, which is now in double or triple-digit growth in more than 70 markets across the world.
Jameson, one of Ireland’s most recognised brands worldwide, continues to spearhead the renaissance of the Irish whiskey category with the brand achieving its 30th year of consecutive growth, selling 7.7 million cases in 2018/19, up from 7.3 million cases the previous year.
“As these results show, we continue to develop our historically strong markets while penetrating new markets for Irish whiskey,” said Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO.
“Jameson is quickly becoming a truly global brand. Additionally, our dedication to innovation continues to be important as we drive sales across our portfolio, solidifying our position as makers of some of the world’s most enjoyed Irish whiskeys.”
In the US market, the Irish whiskey category sold 4.5 million nine-litre cases in 2018, with sales of Jameson representing 78% of total Irish whiskey sales.
Additionally, sales of Jameson Black Barrel grew by 22% in the US, making it the first Super Premium Irish whiskey brand to reach 100,000 cases.
Much of the brand’s success across the US is due to the support of the bar owning and bar tending community, he says: “In those local bars that are Irish-owned or themed, bar staff took Jameson to their hearts and were instrumental in introducing customers to the brand and spreading the word.
“When bartenders stand behind and encourage customers to try Jameson, it becomes a very powerful aspect of the brand’s popularity — and you really can’t get a greater endorsement than that.”
Conor adds that it is a fundamental factor in the drinks industry that drinks which emanate from the US in what is cool and trendy have a cascade effect impacting on global trends: “There is no doubt that the popularity of Jameson in the US and the success that it has there was the tailwind to the global renaissance of Irish whiskey, and Jameson in particular, over the last thirty years.”
Another prestigious feather in the Jameson cap saw it enter the top 10 of IMPACT magazine’s annual Top 100 Premium Spirits Brands Worldwide list for the first time ever.
In addition, Jameson scored its 18th consecutive year on the title’s ‘Hot Brands’ in the USA list, delivering 9% growth in the market as an established brand over the same period.
Entering the top 10 marks a milestone for the brand, which has added more than 2.5m cases and risen five places in the list over as many years, according to IMPACT Databank, which publishes the report each year in collaboration with the international drinks trade media magazine.
Up from 11th place in 2018’s list, Jameson sits alongside Jägermeister in ninth and tenth place in the list, each reporting volume sales of 7.5m nine-litre cases.
Jameson is one of only two premium spirits brands in the top 10 to achieve Hot Brand status, a curated list of brands that each sell a minimum of 200,000 cases in the USA and fulfil at least one of four sophisticated measurement methods designed by IMPACT.
“The release of IMPACT magazine’s Top 100 and Hot Brands lists highlights the fact that Jameson now sells more than any Scotch whisky, bar Johnnie Walker, further affirming the growing role and importance of Jameson and Irish whiskey on the global spirits stage,” explains Conor.
The popularity of Jameson has helped the company’s other brands, with customers opting to ‘trade up within the Jameson family’ — as exemplified by the growth of Black Barrel to 200,000 cases.
Jameson is now seeing double or triple-digit sales growth in more than 70 countries.
Growth was driven by sales of its prestige range — including Redbreast, the Spot range, and Jameson Black Barrel.
The US, South Africa, Russia, Ireland and the UK continue to be Jameson’s chief markets, but it is now growing in Canada and emerging markets like Nigeria, India, Mexico and Brazil as well.
“We continue to develop our historically strong markets while penetrating new markets.”
Jameson continues to perform well in emerging markets, up 23%, with Nigeria (+141%), India (+55%), Mexico (+20%) and Brazil (+13%) all recording high growth.
The Jameson family also saw sales increase by 12% in Eastern Europe, driven by the Ukrainian (+24%) and Russian (+7%) markets.
“Global growth of our prestige range, led by Redbreast and the Spot range, reflects the increase in consumer appetite for premium and super-premium Irish whiskeys.
"The growth of Jameson Black Barrel, Redbreast and the Spot range in the US is a clear testament to this.
"Our largest markets continue to be the USA, South Africa and Russia, followed by Ireland and UK.”
Irish Distillers looks set to grow its portfolio of brands after the purchase of New York-based Castle Brands for $223m. The extensive list of brands in the acquisition include Jefferson’s Bourbon, Goslings rum and The Arran single malt Scotch.
“Pernod Ricard is continually on the lookout for exciting brands with a real provenance and heritage,” says Conor.
“Jefferson Bourbon is the jewel in the Castle Brands crown, and the acquisition was made as we seek to have a greater presence in the American whiskey market and to enhance our broader portfolio.
“The stronger Pernod Ricard is in the American marketplace, the better the portfolio is for our customers and trade partners.
“In a broader sense, it can only help to increase our footprint in the US.”