William Grant CEO on the ‘bright’ future of Scotch17th February, 2014 by Amy Hopkins
The future of whisky looks bright, driven by consumersâ€™ growing thirst for â€śproducts with storiesâ€ť, according to Stella David, CEO of William Grant & Sons.
In a rare interview, David, who joined independent spirits company William Grant & Sons in 2009, toldÂ The Spirits Business that despite the slowdown of high-end Scotch in China, the category â€śis doing very well around the world and has plenty of opportunities for growthâ€ť.
In particular, she notes that in order to maintain consumer interest, spirits companies must strive to innovate and pursue a â€ślong-term visionâ€ť, drawing on the heritage of their brands.
â€śIn todayâ€™s marketplace, consumers want to be entertained and have great products,â€ť she said.
â€śTo do this, innovation must be at the centre of a companyâ€™s long-term strategy. The willingness to sit and wait for innovation is something we feel we need to do at William Grant & Sons.
â€śTake the Girvan Patent Still â€“ this type of innovation is so important in maintaining a high level of interest in the industry, allowing it to thrive.â€ť
In October last year, William Grant, maker of Glenfiddich and The Balvenie, released a â€śbraveâ€ť new brand of single grain Scotch whisky in a bid to pioneer a new spirit category, called Girvan Patent Still.
The whisky is produced at the Girvan Distillery in the Lowlands, normally used to create grain whisky for Grantâ€™s blended Scotch.
But, for David, this innovation extends beyond the liquid and into the realm of marketing.
â€śThese days, you need a great quality liquid in great quality packaging. People donâ€™t just drink the liquid, they drink the story. These days, in a massively competitive environment, thereâ€™s a need to add value to a product.
â€śItâ€™s about whatâ€™s in the glass, but itâ€™s also about the heritage of the brand. These elements mean that brands stay relevant and interest remains high.â€ť
David added that it is this focus on communicating heritage which means â€śthereâ€™s more interest in Scotch than vodkaâ€ť because â€śpeople really get very passionately engaged in the whiskyâ€ť.
This level of consumer engagement allowed William Grant & Sons to report another â€śrecord yearâ€ť in October 2013 after its sales topped ÂŁ1 billion for the second year running.
But for David, financial results are not the long-term goal.
â€śOur sole focus isnâ€™t on quarterly results. Itâ€™s about doing the right thing and building the business without dancing to the tune of other companies,â€ť she said.
â€śOf course, this is not to say that results donâ€™t matter in some way or that we can relax, we just focus on what we see as important for the future of the business.â€ť