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The cream team

Will Carolans’ €16m redesign help the brand achieve its goal of one million cases? The signs are looking good, says Penny Boothman

A LONG BATH, a cosy night in relaxing by a crackling fire – the perfect setting for a glass of Carolans? Irish cream liqueurs have established a comforting image and this has made for an extremely stable category over the years.

However, this summer, Carolans was re-launched with new packaging as part of a €16 million overhaul and investment programme to spark new interest in the category and bring the image of the liqueur up to date.

The 17% abv blend of cream, honey and Irish spirits first came to the UK as long ago as 1979, and the new packaging is the first major overhaul since a label redesign in 1995.  The brand owners hope the new modern aesthetics will encourage more consumers to try Carolans.

"The new pack and bottle shape give us a USP against other creams as the bottle stands out on shelf," comments marketing manager for Carolans at brand owner C&C International, Ann O’Leary. "We also have a quality image and unique flavour."

The new bottle clearly stands apart from other Irish creams as the rounded curves contrast with the usual sloping shoulder style, and the redesign has also given Carolan’s Celtic shamrock symbol a modern, stylised look.

"We want to promote a contemporary, quality image of an indulgent, relaxing, ‘time-out’ product," explains O’Leary.  "The core of our consumers are 30-45 year-old females.  We spent some time identifying this, and the liqueurs category is quite varied, but the cream category is certainly more female oriented."

This was carefully researched to establish the focus for marketing activity.  "We have a consumer press campaign, as well as trade press advertising, consumer PR and sampling activity, point-of-sale material and gift packs," says O’Leary.  "These will continue going forward next year."

Within the spirits category, liqueurs are a specialised group, but the cream liqueurs class is more specialised still.  "The cream liqueurs category is unusual," says O’Leary.  "We have one major global competitor but there are a very large number of small players and we see a massive opportunity for Carolans there."

However, within this small field there are a number of opportunities for diversification. Carolans’ main competitor, Baileys, has recently extended its range with Glide and Baileys for Coffee, which raises the challenge for Carolans.

"We are always looking for new opportunities and we recently launched a 4x100ml minis pack in the US, which we will be bringing to the UK before long," says O’Leary.  "Our sales are predominantly in the offtrade," she comments.  "We sell 8m bottles annually, which translates to about 630,000 cases. We have a goal to see this reach one million cases."  And this looks like a realistic target. 

"Within the overall market, the spirits and liqueurs category is the most buoyant. If you track back over 10 years, liqueurs have been growing at 60%.  This is a huge opportunity for Carolans," says O’Leary.

The brand is now in its fifth year of consecutive growth. Managing director of C&C International, Brian Walsh says: "There is still huge potential in North America, as well as in Europe and elsewhere." 

With the USA accounting for half Carolan’s sales, it’s not surprising that the new styling was intensively researched there before its official release.  "The USA is our biggest market, followed by Canada," explains O’Leary. 

"Other significant export markets include, Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Australia.   The UK, as our third largest market, is a key focus for us." 

UK distribution is in the experienced hands of Allied Domecq UK, and brand manager Joanne Smith comments: "It’s too early to assess the full impact of the relaunch in the UK, but early feedback is that the new pack has been well received both by the trade and by consumers.

Carolans now has greater shelf stand-out and we fully expect this to follow through with greater brand awareness and ultimately sales."  Careful planning and strategic timing look set to build the brand’s strong image, and not just in the UK.

"We are determined to consolidate and grow our world number two position for Carolans, and feel this new look has all the right ingredients for success," Walsh concludes.  "Given the current strength of the cream liqueur market worldwide, the timing is opportune to be revitalising the brand."

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