Record profit for Glenfiddich maker William Grant

Scotch whisky distiller William Grant & Sons today raised a glass to record profits, helped by a return to sales growth.

Simon Hunt became William Grant's chief executive in March. Picture: Contributed

The family-owned producer of brands including Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Grant’s said profits after tax grew 8.9 per cent to £147.4 million for 2015, “driven by strong volume and value growth across its core portfolio of premium spirit brands”.

A switch in its focus towards its core portfolio and away from the distribution of some third-party brands saw turnover increase 6.1 per cent to £882.5m.

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That change in strategy had seen sales fall almost 17 per cent in 2014, but new chief executive Simon Hunt said the group – which also owns Drambuie liqueur and Hendrick’s gin – was now well positioned to continue with its expansion.

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Glenfiddich sales were up 5 per cent year-on-year in volume terms, while Hendrick’s continued to “grow rapidly”, William Grant said. Monkey Shoulder blended whisky, now ranked among the firm’s core brands, was also highlighted for its “potential for future growth”.

Hunt added: “This success was driven by our constant focus on building brands and investing in them for the long term. We have also continued to invest in our operational capabilities and our route-to-market infrastructure. It has been a challenging market place but we are well positioned to continue our growth in 2016 and beyond.”

Hunt flagged tough trading conditions across eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, combined with increased competition and impact of the weaker pound.

“However, demand for super-premium spirits, particularly in the USA and Asia, remained robust where the markets remained buoyant. Despite these wider economic circumstances the company has continued to invest in its core portfolio, production facilities and people.”

According to the latest figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the equivalent of 533 million 70cl bottles of Scotch were shipped to customers around the world during the first six months of 2016 – an increase of 3.1 per cent a year ago.

The SWA said that France remained the top destination for Scotland’s national drink, with exports increasing 5 per cent to 90.9 million bottles, although the US – the second-largest overseas market – saw volumes decline 3 per cent to 53.1 million bottles.

In terms of value, the US is by far the most valuable customer for Scotch, snapping up some £357.4m worth in the first half – a rise of 9 per cent on a year earlier. In contrast, the value of sales to France, in second place, dropped 5 per cent to £193.1m.