In the 2021 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum, we caught up with Colin Rochester, General Manager ANZ of William Grant & Sons. 

Reflecting on the year that is now behind us, Colin Rochester, General Manager ANZ at William Grant & Sons noted how widespread the impact of continued uncertainty was in the liquor industry and said: “2020 has been a year that none of us could have predicted.”

However, Rochester said there was a positive element to come out of such turmoil, providing not only a highlight for the year but also a strong lesson for the year to come.

He said: “Success can be measured in many ways, but for us, ensuring the safety of our team, continuing to operate under ever changing guidelines and staying connected with and supporting our customers were all key areas of achievement for us. I’m very proud of how every member of our team showed so much resilience, agility and creativity as well as teamwork – we’ve never been more isolated and yet so much more connected!

“2020 taught us to be agile, plans had to evolve and so for 2021 we expect we will have to continue with this entrepreneurial approach to maximise opportunities.”

One of the major opportunities for William Grant & Sons this year is consistently and creatively pushing the boundaries to maximise awareness and trial for its portfolio. Rochester said this is where the boosted agility mindset will be even more useful, as he believes 2021 will come with its own set of uncertainties.

He said that in the short term: “We will work with our retail partners to deliver excellent execution in store whilst upweighting resource and investment across the entire omni-channel network to ensure a connected experience for shoppers and consumers.

“Omni-channel is an area that, whilst we don’t have all the answers, we have certainly increased our focus, through utilising insights from customers and our local and extensive global teams in order to maximise value for our partners in this exciting space.”

The stars of 2020

In terms of market performance in 2020, there was strong performance across the William Grant & Sons portfolio, reflecting the growth of the spirits segment as a whole. Rochester said that these positive results in the last year were driven by consumer shifts and trends stemming from the pandemic, which are predicted to continue.

For example, Monkey Shoulder benefitted from the rise of home cocktails while The Balvenie surged in response to premium home experiences, and Glenfiddich and Hendrick’s also increased market share as leaders of two of the fastest growing categories respectively.

“Within our premium brands we attribute growth to an increase in ‘treat’ and ‘experimentation’ occasions at home,” Rochester said.

“Spirits are so varied that for many they can be intimidating, and so consumers tend to stick to what they know. COVID has seen a real change in behaviour, with repertories increasing not just at brand level, but category level.

“I would anticipate that the first half of 2021 we will see similar trends to 2020. At home consumption and entertainment will continue, with international travel still limited, we can expect that domestic sales will continue to see the benefit as a result.”

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Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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