SALES at spirits group William Grant & Sons have broken through the £1 billion barrier, boosted by continued strong demand for Glenfiddich, the world’s best-selling single malt.
More than one million cases of Dufftown-produced Glenfiddich were sold in 2011, while sales of Grant’s blended whisky topped five million cases.
The distiller, established in 1887, said it had turned in a strong performance despite a “challenging year” which has seen demand for Scotch whisky decline in some mature markets such as France and Japan amid the ongoing economic turmoil.
Along with Glenfiddich and Grant’s, the firm’s brands includes Balvenie single malt, Hendrick’s Gin, Hudson Baby bourbon and Milagro tequila, which it said was selling well in its core markets of Mexico and the US.
Stella David, William Grant & Sons’ chief executive, said: “Whilst 2011 saw some tough global economic conditions, the company performed well thanks to the continued success of our premium spirits brands and our consistent focus on building brand equity, improving our route to market and investing for the long term.”
Turnover at the family-owned company rose 9 per cent to £1.05bn for 2011, although operating profits dipped to £126.3 million, from £132.4m the previous year, as a result of continued investment in the business.
During the year the company established a marketing office for the Nordic countries, based in Stockholm, a new distribution hub in Singapore and saw the first full year of trading at its recently established distribution companies in Colombia and Australia.
As part of its strategy of building a “premium portfolio” of spirits brands, the company appointed Robert Polet, a former chief executive of the Gucci Group, as a non-executive director. Polet, who was in charge of Unilever’s ice cream and frozen foods division before joining Gucci in 2004, stepped down from the Italian fashion house last year.
In March, William Grant unveiled plans to invest €35m (£28.2m) building an Irish distillery in a move that will bring whiskey production back to Tullamore for the first time since the original plant closed in 1954.
The distiller acquired Tullamore Dew, the world’s second-largest Irish whiskey brand behind Jamesons, as part of a €300m deal with Tennent’s owner C&C two years ago. That deal saw William Grant also take control of liqueur brands Carolans, Frangelico and Irish Mist, but it quickly sold them on to Gruppo Campari for €129m after receiving a “compelling offer” from the Italian group.
Figures released earlier this week by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) showed global whisky exports were flat at £1.8bn during the first half of the year as declining sales in the eurozone and Japan offset strong gains in the US and emerging markets.
However, the SWA said the industry remained confident of growth in the second half, when importers stock up on drinks ahead of festivals such as Christmas.
America’s position as Scotch’s largest market by value was cemented with a 13 per cent jump in sales to £303m, but France witnessed a 14 per cent fall to £188m.
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