BURN Stewart, the maker of whiskies including Black Bottle and Scottish Leader, is unveiling a push into overseas markets including South Africa and Taiwan using its range of single malts.
The East Kilbride-based firm is investing £500,000 in a bottling line to improve the packaging of its malts, which include Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory.
Sales director Andy Calder said the firm is targeting markets including the Baltic states, eastern Europe and the United States.
Calder said the new single malt strategy would build on the success of its blended whiskies in countries such as South Africa and Taiwan, where Scottish Leader is ranked as the best-selling “standard blended Scotch”.
He told Scotland on Sunday: “We’re not the biggest company in the industry and so we have to pick the battles that we know we can win.
“We choose our markets very carefully. Having broken into markets with our blends, we can now begin to build up interest in our malts.”
News of the further push into overseas markets comes as Burn Stewart prepares to unveil its latest set of results tomorrow.
Pre-tax profits jumped by 61 per cent in 2011 to £6 million on the back of a 31 per cent rise in turnover to £57.4m.
Commercial director Campbell Stirrat said the company was now reaping the rewards from a change of strategy in 2006, which involved the company moving away from a reliance on big own-label contracts to supply supermarket chains Asda and Waitrose.
“We had been racking up losses for the previous ten years, so we knew it was time to make changes,” explained Stirrat. “So we have shifted the emphasis to our own brands and to bulk supplies for overseas customers.”
Burn Stewart’s sales are now split between own-label contracts with Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, bulk supplies for blending with overseas whiskies in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and a focus on its own blends and single malts.
The company was taken private in late 2002 following a takeover by CL Brands, part of the Trinidad-based conglomerate CL Financial, which also makes Angostura bitters.
Calder and Stirrat are also vocal opponents of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a minimum price for each unit of alcohol and have backed the Scotch Whisky Association’s legal challenge.
A judicial review by the Court of Session is due later this month, while the European Commission is also due to rule on the SNP administration’s legislation.
Calder said: “If a minimum price is introduced then who knows who the winners in the industry will be? Nobody knows how consumers will
react to own-label supermarket whiskies being priced at £14 per 70cl bottle.”
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