Smashes from?the ashes

16 April, 2010

The “Not Us Guv” Award for Successfully Pinning Binge- Drinking at the Door of the Supermarkets?Winner: The on-trade lobby?It was the year we learned that supermarkets were selling beer at “less than the price of bottled water”, as the media, politicians and medics didn’t tire of reminding us in a seemingly universal love-in with the good old British pub – while conveniently ignoring the vomit-splattered remains of the nation’s youth adorning our cites’ night-time economy heartlands in the early hours of weekend mornings. Ah, but that’s all to do with pre-loading, we were told. But hang on, aren’t pubs faced with serving someone who’s already over-intoxicated supposed to refuse the sale? And it isn’t that long ago that Wetherspoons was selling Greene King IPA for 99p a pint. January, in fact.

?The About Flipping Time Award for Recognising That Half the Population isn’t Male Winner: Molson Coors for its beer and women campaign?While many brewers came out with vague platitudes about how their latest golden ale would appeal to women, Molson Coors was the one really putting its money where its mouth was, dedicating a whole business unit, with full-time staff, to finding ways to interest more women in beer.

True, the unit’s name, the Bittersweet Partnership, may suggest more of the flavour attributes of cider than beer, and it chose to showcase a colourless liquid with a sweet, fruity flavour and little trace of malt or hops at its launch. But at least it promises to advance the cause of the utter annihilation of beer advertising which features boorish blokes banging on about football.

The Katie Price Award for Shameless Self-publicity?Winner: Brewdog?Allegations of naming a beer after a lethal drug cocktail; threats to sue an industry watchdog for libel; Britain’s first black lager; a low-alcohol brew called Nanny State; the world’s strongest beer; and a fake complaint to the Portman Group about one of its own brands. It’s been one hell of a journey so far, but one thing to remember with all the stunts, folks – don’t lose sight of the fact that what made you famous in the first place was the quality of the beer you brew.

The Newcastle United Award for Washing Dirty Linen in Public?Winner: Australian wine?There were suspicions that a summer spat between leading producers and Wine Australia was just a tactic to distract industry minds from England’s triumph in the Ashes. Australian Vintage withdrew funds from the generic body’s marketing plan because it wanted to see less emphasis on regions and more on the overall Australian “brand”.

You’d expect nothing less from the ultra-competitive Australians, for whom winning is an article of faith. God help us if they ever lose their number one spot in the UK take-home market.

The Less is More Award?Winner: Majestic for six-bottle?minimum purchases?A rule change that required the minimum of investment but helped get Majestic back on track?. An initial two-store trial was described by the chain as “encouraging” and was cautiously rolled out to five more shops. Later in the year, it went national after the bigger trial was said to be “encouraging”. After nine weeks of the national scheme, Majestic said results had been “encouraging”, with a fall off in average spend more than made up for by extra transactions.

It all sounds very, er, encouraging.

The Green Shoots Award for Growth in Times of Hardship?Winner: The English wine industry?The “provenance” marketing angle, concerns over the carbon footprint of wine transportation, and even the impending armageddon as a result of global warming – everything’s working in favour of our domestic wine industry right now. The area under vine has gone up 45% in four years, and the first Sauvignon Blanc is on its way at Denbies. OK, so the days when it challenges France are some way off, but then back in the 1970s Australia used to be the butt of all wine-related comedy – and look where it is now.

The “It’s Always Someone Else, Isn’t It?” Award for Most Industry Dust-ups?Winner: Diageo?When it wasn’t facing strike action from its employees and a pounding from the Scottish press, Britain’s biggest spirits producer was falling out with Sainsbury’s over an alleged Pimm’s lookalike in its own-label range and heading to court with Intercontinental Brands in a passing-off row to do with Vodkat.

The company’s leadership in the education campaigns over alcohol misuse and its opposition to the more extreme views coming out of the health lobby were more welcome.

The Dulux Dog Award for Drink Colour of the Year?Winner: Pink … again?Things moved on in 2009 from the inexorable rise of rosé wine – which survived attempts to allow it to be made by mixing red and white, like nursery school painting – to embrace pink cider (take a bow Thatchers and Rozel) and beer (Kasteel Cru and A Le Coq etc). Look out for limited-edition pink Wispas and renaming of Walkers fishy-flavoured crisps as prawn cocktail rosé in 2010.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery Award?Winner: Glen’s vodka?It was a measure of Glen’s increased status as the nation’s second-biggest spirits brand and serious challenger to Smirnoff, that saw it become the spirit of choice for illicit producers to mimic. Owner Glen Catrine said it was “very damaging” for business but if Oscar Wilde had still been around he’d probably have said: “There’s only one thing worse than having your vodka ripped off by counterfeiters, and that’s not having your vodka ripped off by counterfeiters.”???The Screwcap Award for the New Big Thing in Wine?Winner: Lightweighting?By the start of 2009, the PR machine had milked the Stelvin closure dry, and despite a modest challenge from the Tetra Pak, it was less glass that eventually won the day for wine companies wanting to (a) display their green credentials and (b) save a bit of money at the same time. Watch out for 50cl bottles in 2010 – another win-win, ticking the political boxes both for packaging and lower consumption.

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Lifting the spirits

I were to sum up alcohol sales over Christmas 2017 in one word, it would be “gin”. At Nielsen, we define the Christmas period as the 12 weeks to December 30 and in that time gin sales were £199.4 million, which means they increased by £55.4 million compared with Christmas 2016. There’s no sign the bubble is about to burst either. Growth at Christmas 2016 was £22.4 million, so gin has increased its value growth nearly two-and-a-half times in a year. The spirit added more value to
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