American whiskey must sell its ‘quality story’

25th March, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

In order to challenge the supremacy of Scotch in the whisky market, American whiskey must sell its “quality story”, claims the CEO of Sazerac.

Mark-Brown-Sazerac

Mark Brown, CEO of Sazerac, claims that American whiskey can challenge the market complacency of Scotch by selling its “quality story”

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Mark Brown, CEO of Buffalo Trace producer Sazerac, said that despite the luxury credentials and vast history of Scotch, American whiskey brands are steadily converting consumers.

“Scotch has had too much of a head start to reign them in completely, but I bet you American whiskey distillers could develop a 75 million case business as an industry,” he said.

However, Brown adds that American whiskey faces a number of “positioning challenges”.

“One that Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s faces is how do they compete with Johnnie Walker Black Label? The respective positioning of the brands is quite different.

“Our job is to sell the quality story of American whiskey.”

Recent figures compiled by DISCUS revealed that US spirits exports reached US$1.5 billion in 2013, driven by soaring global demand for Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.

Meanwhile, premiumisation in whisky is pushing global sales in terms of value across the globe.

Brown predicts this trend is set to continue. “My view is that whisky as a whole will continue to prosper at the premium end of the marketplace into a 500m case category,” he said.

Yet with global demand of high-end whisky, including Bourbon, increasing, Brown acknowledges that Sazerac must undertake carful allocation.

“We just finished our semi-annual review of our inventories, and every brand from the youngest to the oldest is on some form of allocation,” he said.

For our full interview with Brown, see the March issue of The Spirits Business.

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