WORLDWIDE sales of Jameson Irish Whiskey grew by 7% – on a year-on-year basis – over the six months to the end of December.
This, however, proved to be a rare highlight from the Irish operations of French drinks giant Pernod Ricard during the first half of its current financial year.
Irish Distillers – Pernod Ricard’s Irish subsidiary – said its business suffered, in the first half, as the Irish market “declined dramatically”. The overall Irish drinks market is declining at a rate of around 10% currently and spirits is the worst hit sub-sector given its vulnerability to cross border trade.
Commenting on the period in question, Irish Distillers chairman/chief executive Alexandre Ricard said: “In contrast to the buoyant performance of Jameson, the home market in Ireland declined dramatically during these six months as a result of the faltering economy, a severe contraction in consumer confidence and a surge in cross border sales. In line with this very challenging market, the Irish Distillers spirits portfolio experienced volume declines, although it won share overall in a tough environment,” he added.
Mr Ricard did, however, salute the excise reduction move made by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in the most recent budget, saying it had already had a positive effect on consumer spending in the Republic and has been “a welcome boost” for the entire drinks industry here.
The only other real first-half positive for Irish Distillers was a whopping 91% jump in sales of its West Coast Cooler brand; although with sales of 2.76 million cases of Jameson confirmed for the calendar year 2009, the company is also confident that the whiskey will meet its next identified milestone of three million cases in the next fiscal year.
On a group-wide basis, Pernod Ricard reported a 2% year-on-year drop in net profit to €615m for its first half, while net sales for the six months were down by 10% to just under €3.8bn.
It added that while performance was robust in emerging markets – such as China and India – profits from recurring operations in Europe fell by 18%.
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