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Beam Suntory ‘cycles out’ Pinnacle flavours

Beam Suntory is “confident” it can return Pinnacle Vodka to growth after substituting declining confectionery flavours for fruit variants, according to the firm’s North American marketing head.

Pinnacle Vodka is moving away from declining confectionary flavours

In an interview with The Spirits Business, Greg Hughes, general manager for North America at Beam Suntory, said that Pinnacle is “in a bit of a transition” and suggested flavour culls have been enforced across the brand’s portfolio to combat declines.

According to Brand Champions figures, the vodka lost more than 300,000 case sales between 2013 and 2015.

“We are seeing unflavoured growth of the brand up 4-5%,” said Hughes. “Clearly there’s a challenge with some of the confectionary flavours that historically have defined Pinnacle’s growth.

“[We are] cycling those flavours out and shifting the mix of the portfolio to fruit flavours, which are consistent with what consumers are looking for. We are confident that when we get that mix right, we can return the brand to growth.”

Hughes said that while Beam Suntory’s US business “leads with whisk[e]y”, vodka is “still a third of every drink made in the US” and one “cannot be a serious spirits player and not play materially in vodka”.

Courvoisier is another brand that Hughes believes has “lost a bit of salience over the years”, with Brand Champions figures showing the Cognac declined 3.7% in 2015, when most of its competitors recorded double-digit gains.

Hughes said of the brand: “We are going back to basics with the right product mix, the quality of the product is still great and we are making sure we have distribution in the right place while engaging with key influencers in local markets to reinvigorate its connection with consumers.”

The executive remains “bullish” on the group’s key US market and expects to exceed broader industry growth of 4-5%.

“We continue to feel confident that we can outpace that growth because of the strength of our whiskey portfolio,” he said. “We need to get brands like Pinnacle and Courvoisier back contributing to that growth, because vodka is certainly a critical category for us and Pinnacle remains a priority brand.”

To see Greg Hughes’s full interview with The Spirits Business, see our January 2017 edition, out soon.

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