Proximo to counter-punch Cuervo threat

The newly formed Proximo Spirits UK has set out its plan to build on Jose Cuervo’s dominance of the UK tequila market, dismissing suggestions the brand’s transition from Diageo will dent sales.

In his first interview with the drinks trade media since Proximo Spirits UK became operational in July, MD Dave Steward told Drinks International that Jose Cuervo’s 60% share of the tequila market could be increased through brand education, line extensions and the introduction of long-drink serve ideas.

Steward said: “We are excited about the opportunity - it’s like we have taken over a new brand but one with an 80,000 9-litre case starting point. Since taking over we have talked to all the existing UK accounts and operators.”

The post-Diageo Jose Cuervo, has been a topic of speculation in the spirits industry, with questions raised about how owners JB y Compania and Lanceros SA de CV might reproduce the volume of orders of former distributor Diageo.

Steward said Cuervo is “an iconic brand” and described the transition in the UK as a “seamless segue”.

The Jalisco-produced Jose Cuervo will be the flagship marque of Proximo Spirits UK, enabling more “care and attention" to be afforded to the brand.

Steward said: “No-one has taken the time to talk to people about the history of Jose Cuervo, or the family [behind the brand]. The brand is older than Mexico itself. Other brands would give their left arm to get some of that.”

Steward added that part of his remit - having had been involved in the success of Absolut, Makers Mark and most recently Kraken in the UK market - was to build Jose Cuervo’s reputation and make it “cool” again.

He said: “There’s a lot of rumour and urban myth about Jose Cuervo. When you are the biggest you are susceptible to gossip; you are open to tittle-tattle.”

A broader category approach will also employed, according to Steward. “The UK consumer does not know a lot about tequila. There’s a great opportunity [for brands to act] collectively.”

As a UK subsidiary of the US Proximo Spirits, the company also handle brands such as 1800 tequila, Maestro Dobel tequila, Three Olives, Boodles Gin and Hanger 1.

In Spring next year it will launch the currently-ageing Tin Cup bourbon from Colorado, in the UK, hoping to meet the market's burgeoning demand for American whiskeys.