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Five Miunte Read – December 2003

Around the world this month takes a look at Diageo’s redesign of the Johnnie Walker stable of labels in the US; ponders over the giants of the soft drinks industry, Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola being brought to heel by a 15-year old from Canada; and reports the good news that, despite their desperate plight, the workers at beleaguered and insolvent Champagne house, Bricout et Delbeck have abandoned the barricades and agreed not to destroy 7m precious bottles of the lovely, bubbly liquid.

In news, we  consider a report on closures which shows a consumer preference for cork. Does the industry think this is a good thing? We find out. We also mourn the sad passing of that most noble and grand-daddy of all RTDs, Hooch, which has been consigned to the bin after many years of loyal service at the bar. Then, we take a peek at the surprise results of the drinks business website polls – which of the supermarket wine buying teams does the trade  rate most highly? And who is considered the most powerful executive? Also, get the gen on Vladivar’s first TV advertising campaign. 

In product news we reveal the plethora of new drinks to hit the market, from a guarana-based fruit concoction that plans to “do a Viagra” for the UK libido, to the most delightfully potent gin from that inventive new company, the Reformed Spirits group.

Our columnists this month have sharpened their quills on a number of themes. Dave Broom ponders the difference between the Japanese and UK whisky drinker. Over here, he claims, he has to wade through a crowd of anoraked geeks keen to get their hands on the latest bottling for free; over there, he’s treated like a god by Japanese young enough to be his kids, all of whom give whisky a cutting-edge feel. Charlotte Hey deals with the small matter of TV marketing and asks if programme sponsorship deals will be the next big thing.

In the big interview, we talk to Peter Cowan, managing director of the wine division of Lion Nathan. He explains the vision for the company’s future wine endeavours and spells out loud and clear that for this conglomerate at least, volume is not what matters. Instead, a federation of wineries is the way forward, each with its own individual marketing approach. Can this strategy bring in the results, given the tough competition in the international market place?

Our special market review takes a look at brandy, and in particular Cognac, which dominates the scene. Nick Faith poses the question, does the category, and Cognac especially, have a promising future? Those involved in the business, will breathe a heavy sigh of relief, when they find out that Nick truly believes it does – with some reservations.

Meanwhile, Robyn Lewis reports on the interesting findings to emerge from the alcoholics drinks conference held by WARC last month. In the year in review, we run through the highs and lows of a year in which we have seen Southcorp come close to collapse but seen the likes of Origin transform the fortunes of the Thresher group. And this month we announce the launch of the drinks business awards – the first set of awards for the industry that plans to reward those people behind the product and its promotion, rather than the product itself. From businessman and businesswoman of the year, to best promotional campaign, if you think you’re worth an entry, then give us a call and we’ll send you an entry form to fill in and return.

In our luxury focus, Patrick Schmitt tries to define the ever evolving luxury concept and asks whether it’s one that is slowly, but surely losing its shiny lustre as a wave of so called “luxury” goods continue to flood the market to entertain the masses.
Michael Edwards takes a hard look at Beaujolais and its fluctuating fortunes. What, he asks, does it have to do to repair its tarnished reputation and is it possible for the marketing boys to give the category a makeover to be proud of?

We preview the first three major shows of 2004, Prowein, Vinisud and Vinitaly, and report on the antics at the celebrations for eight years of the Carlton Restaurant Awards, for which the drinks business continues as the official trade publication.
In retail, Robyn Lewis takes a peek behind the counter at Spar and finds out that convenience is big business in the UK, particularly for those drinks brands lucky enough to make it onto the limited shelf space. In marketing, Jon Rees considers the dubious attempts to market to the youth of today, and the impact that big budgets can have on impressionable teenagers. And in the press rounds up the latest results from the journo’s scribblings. In our on-trade coverage, Hugo Arnold wonders at the rash of closures in the hard-hit restaurant trade, but claims there is hope for those with an entrepreunerial spirit. And Robyn Lewis interviews King Cocktail himself, Mr Dale DeGroff. Meanwhile, Patrick Schmitt gets the lowdown as to why water is becoming almost as important to restaurants as wine.

In brand builders we take a look at Bisol, Italy’s premier producer of Prosecco, and its attempts to rebuild the brand in the UK market.

The WSA diary is packed full this month. And in Q&A Marks and Spencer’s newly anointed MW, Sam Harrop, gives us his view on life and louche living. In finance, the latest fine wine facts and figures flow forth from Liv-ex, and Joanne Hart makes a close inspection of the performance of the big beer companies over the past year. And lastly, Jonny Goodall finally delivers. 

© db December 2003

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