By Charlie Whitting

Since becoming part of the global Proximo business, Proximo Spirits has taken a longer-term approach to brand strategy. The company took over island2island in 2017, and in 2018 island2island became Proximo Australia. Through all these changes, the company achieved double digit growth in 2018, which Managing Director Justin Casey attributes to his team.

“The way the team has navigated the change has been first class. the changes made we will have even more focus on the longer-term strategy and execution of our plans. The mindset shift to becoming a brand-led business has been an exciting transition.”

The past year saw further development of the Irish whiskey category, with the launch of The Sexton, a “single malt with a striking black hexagonal bottle and enticing name for the new whiskey drinker”. In addition, Proximo handed over distribution of the Stoli Group to Think Spirits, a business in which Stoli’s parent company recently bought a majority stake, highlighting the importance of the Australian market to the global spirits industry.

With a portfolio that champions premium brands, Proximo is looking forward to further growth in 2019. Indeed, with premiumisation only growing in Australia, it is within premium categories like gin, whisk(e)y, bitters, and premium tequila, where Casey sees the most potential for growth given current trends.

“Whiskey and gin are the best examples of the premiumisation trend. Consumers are exploring whisky regions such as Scotland, Ireland, America, Japan, Australia and Canada as it’s a wonderfully diverse category.

“Gin is another great example of consumers exploring the raft of flavours which have broken away from the traditional juniper-led product. The opportunity for further premiumisation in other categories is underway as consumers become more adventurous through exploring spirits in a broader sense.”

Casey adds that tequila and rum – with their great variation and premium liquids – are obvious areas with huge potential.

“The growth in The Kraken Black Spiced Rum’s footprint in Australia is incredible and we foresee even further opportunities for The Kraken to grow in 2019 and beyond.

“Tequila and particularly premium tequila will feature more in 2019. The 1800 Tequila range has been growing at a phenomenal rate, and innovation in premium tequila and mezcals globally will be a great opportunity for Proximo to engage Australian consumers with agave-based products.”

Alongside premium, Casey sees refreshment as another key category, with premium spirits also able to play within this market. The consumer trend towards low-ABV and non-alcoholic drinks over the past few years is not one to be ignored, with drinkers looking for what they perceive as healthier alternatives as well as options that are easy to make and mix for home entertainment – a huge trend that is only slated to grow in 2019.

Casey believes that engaging at-home consumers, with Angostura aromatic bitters through the lens of the classic Lemon, Lime & Bitters serve, as well as a range of simple 1800 Tequila Spritz recipes, are key.

“We will be utilising our premium spirit portfolio to leverage the consumer thirst for both exploration and refreshment. We will be focusing our plans in 2019 around leveraging key calendar dates and occasional drinking to talk to these trends with key occasions such as summer, through to Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo, providing a platform for consumers to experience tequila in long serves and in innovative new ways. “We also plan to further disrupt the dark spirits category with The Kraken Rum through more unique and engaging above the line (ATL) platforms designed to drive consumers in-store to trial the product.”

Three wins in 2018

  • Kraken Rum: “We have seen the consumer engagement scores for The Kraken move significantly this year, which has been achieved through brilliant and creative above the line programs, coupled with relevant below the line support at the customer level. This has also resulted in fantastic sales growth.”
  • World of Tequila Program: “This is a key growth driver and we have been delivering this through our 1800 Tequila and Jose Cuervo Tequila brands. Tapping into the education and sociability of tequila is driving increased consumer interaction within the category. We are very focused on changing consumer perception from the shot occasion, to premium long serve drinks to educate and engage more people to discover tequila as an easy-to-drink and refreshing product.”
  • Structural changes: “Proximo has more than doubled the number of personnel in the key account teams, has a new dedicated on-premise team, a Tequila Specialist and overall more customer facing roles. This is backed up by our marketing and head office support team.”

This article was written for the 2019 National Liquor News Annual Industry Leaders Forum published in February.



Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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