THE economic slowdown in the Chinese market and other key Asia Pacific countries will not throw spirits giant Pernod Ricard’s whisky investment drive off course, a top executive has pledged.
The promise from Alexandre Ricard, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive, came after the group admitted at its annual results last week that there had been a slide in Scotch sales in China, South Korea and Thailand – important export markets.
Pernod revealed earlier this year it had earmarked £40 million a year for expansion of its whisky facilities in Scotland, including the reopening of the Glen Keith distillery earlier this year, a new bottling hall at Paisley and a new facility in Speyside by the end of 2014.
Ricard said at a briefing yesterday that Chinese whisky consumption had been hit by a cocktail of a change of government causing “a period of uncertainty”, a slowdown in the country’s economic growth and the personal wealth of consumers being hit as politicians wanted to avoid “a real estate bubble”.
But he added: “We are absolutely confident of a rebound of the Chinese economy. We believe it will happen in 2014. You should not sacrifice long-term growth potential for a short-term blip.”
Laurent Lacassagne, chairman of Chivas Brothers, Pernod’s whisky subsidiary with brands including The Glenlivet, said it was important to boost distillery capacity for “premium” whisky customers, not just for aspirational Chinese but also burgeoning middle classes in the likes of Africa, Russia and Latin America.