Pernod turns up the volume

Credit to Pernod. The company has done a fine job this week in extolling the success of scotch whisky around the world and in telling important opinion formers that the company is best placed to capitalise on that thirst and in doing so earn lots of money for the company, its suppliers, customers, not forgetting its investors.

Sitting there on Wednesday on a rainy day at its showpiece Glenlivet distillery in picturesque Speyside, you would be forgiven to think that there was only one company in it.

One was overwhelmed by presentations from impressive Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, Gavin Hewitt, followed by equally impressive Chivas Bros CEO Christian Porta, Cesar Giron, head of Pernod France, Horace Ngai, deputy managing director of PR China, Eric Laborde, managing director PR Eastern Europe and then finally after Porta had summed up, Vadim Grigorian  who is in charge of the Pernod Ricard’s strategic move into the luxury sector inhabited by HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals for the uninitiated, about which I will write more extensively in the forthcoming issue of Drinks International).

Frankly, if I’d been a Diageo investor, I’d have thrown in the towel! There is no getting away from it, the French company is superb at PR and I mean press and public relations. All of their senior management are easily accessible and appear to be completely at ease answering the most difficult, searching questions. Diageo could do with taking a leaf out of the Pernod PR manual.

Basically, the analysts want to know where Pernod’s debt levels are at (will they/won’t they buy Beam, Bacardi or plug a gap in the portfolio?) and do they have enough scotch to fulfil demand in the future. With the way demand for scotch appears to be building, particularly from the so-called emerging markets, that is akin to asking : How long is a piece of string.  At the moment, there appears no end or peak to that thirst but some of us are old enough to remember the “whisky loch” about 30 years ago, when young people seemed to be turning their back on brown drinks, favouring lager and vodka to whisky and ale. Talking to one of Pernod’s production team who remembers that time when the loch was siphoned off into cheap own label whisky, he is understandably cautious.

Anyway, without wishing to pour rain on Pernod’s parade (there was enough of that up at Glenlivet on Wednesday), the fact is scotch is incredibly successful at the moment and Pernod Ricard is investing heavily to be able to meet that demand, particularly for premium/prestige spirits, going forward.

Pernod has its weak spots (don’t we all?), specifically Latin/South America and Africa but then it bosses the huge mature scotch market that is France and lauds it inAsia at least for the time being.

I will return to some of the day’s subject matter is a news analysis article in a forthcoming issue of Drinks International.