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Sazerac: flavours ‘not right’ for Southern Comfort

Sazerac CEO Mark Brown has hinted at a significant change for the group’s newly acquired Southern Comfort brand, claiming “flavours are not the correct direction”.

Sazerac views Southern Comfort as as “serious mainstream whiskey brand”

US group Sazerac purchased whiskey-based Southern Comfort and Italian liqueur Tuaca from Brown-Forman in a joint US$542 million deal at the start of this year.

Brown-Forman released numerous flavour extensions of Southern Comfort over recent years, however the brand’s sales have continued to flag, and declined 5% in 2014/15.

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Brown said Sazerac’s focus will be on the core expression of Southern Comfort to bolster growth.

“[We] think the flavours over time are not the correct direction,” he said. “Now there are a couple of exceptions in a couple of markets where the flavours seem to have taken route, but I think we see Southern Comfort as a mainstream serious whiskey brand and we are not big advocates of flavoured whisk(e)y.”

He continued: “If you look at Crown Royal, it’s clearly going after the flavoured segment as a clearly identified segment. We’re not convinced about the wisdom of that.

“It’s very similar to the challenge of Jack Daniel’s. We view that as an iconic mainstream whiskey brand and frankly have some questions about the wisdom of going off into flavours if it.

“So I think on Southern Comfort, if you see anything from us, it will be very much about looking after the mainstream whiskey as opposed to producing another 20 flavours.”

Brown also said that while Sazerac’s Fireball Cinnamon Whisky could be viewed as a flavoured whisky, it is a “proprietary brand that coincidentally happens to have a cinnamon flavour to it”.

The executive added that he believes Southern Comfort has a greater opportunity to thrive outside of the “shadow” of Jack Daniel’s – Brown-Forman’s portfolio star.

“Brown-Forman did a very nice job [on Southern Comfort] over long period of time,” he said. “They bought [the brand] in the 1970s and did a very nice job with it. But I do think, to some extent, it lived in the shadows of Jack Daniel’s.

“Jack Daniel’s has become a remarkably successful global brand and I still think [it] has a long runway in front of it. And I think when you have a brand like that other brands tend to live in the shadow of it, and I think with Southern Comfort out of the shadows, there are lots of opportunities to for us to generate growth, and we are very excited about that.”

To read The Spirits Business’s full interview with Mark Brown, see the November issue of the magazine, out soon.

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