Scott Reid: Whisky companies need plan of action

The revelation coincided last week with news of a double-digit slide in whisky exports in the first half of the year. Picture: TSPL
The revelation coincided last week with news of a double-digit slide in whisky exports in the first half of the year. Picture: TSPL
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FOR any devotee of our national drink, it’s worrying news. Vodka is on course to overtake whisky as Britain’s favourite spirit for drinking at home.

Thanks to its ability to be mixed with everything from Coke to cranberry juice, vodka is likely to be outselling Scotch within two years, according to analysis for trade journal The Grocer.

The revelation coincided last week with news of a double-digit slide in whisky exports in the first half of the year. Bosses at the Scotch Whisky Association blamed the fall in sales to £1.78 billion from just under £2bn a year earlier on a number of factors, including an economic slowdown in some key markets and the strong pound.

Scotland’s most iconic product is clearly not immune from global economic difficulties.

The industry has seen periods of boom and bust throughout its 500-odd-year history. Whisky is a premium product and when belts are being tightened cheaper alternatives will be sought.

Sales could well rebound as the economic backcloth improves and the latest export figures revealed encouraging performances in some emerging markets.

Where producers face a challenge is attracting those younger drinkers gravitating towards vodka and other trendier spirits. Distillers ought to take a leaf out of those vodka makers’ books and shake off their often dowdy, cliched image.

Edrington has to be applauded for propelling Famous Grouse into the 21st century with its quirky advertising and online marketing. Others have ditched the tartan and heather schmaltz and opted for something cooler and more eye-catching for the supermarket shelf.

Brewers such as Williams Brothers, Black Isle and BrewDog have shown that a more adventurous approach can ensnare younger consumers and breathe new life into a hitherto stale drinks category. «

Twitter: @scottjamesreid