Driving Irish whiskey growth in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland drinks company, Dillon Bass has reported significant growth in its Irish whiskey portfolio, mirroring global growth trends in the category. With an extensive portfolio of over 20 premium Irish whiskeys, including Jameson, Powers, Midleton and Redbreast, Dillon Bass is the largest supplier and distributor of Irish whiskey in Northern Ireland. Joanne O’Hagan, marketing manager, Dillon Bass reflects on a successful 12 months for the Irish whiskey category in Northern Ireland.
Globally, Irish whiskey consumption is on the increase. What’s behind the rise in popularity?
Interest in Irish whiskey has grown significantly in recent years and it’s becoming one of Ireland’s most important exports. People right around the world hold Irish whiskey in increasingly high regard and there is a growing consumer demand for new, innovative and premium products within the category.
Attitudes to Irish whiskey have changed. Traditionally it would have been seen as an after dinner drink for older men but the demographic of the modern whiskey drinker has changed. The use of Irish whiskey in cocktails and in mixed drinks – Jameson, Ginger & Lime being a prime example – has introduced whiskey to new consumers, opening up the category to a younger demographic.
Jameson is the world’s number one Irish whiskey. To give you an idea of the scale, globally it has experienced 25 years of consecutive growth, with double digit growth in 47 markets; 4.7million cases of Jameson have been sold worldwide, representing 65% of the Irish whiskey category.
Has this growth been replicated in Northern Ireland?
Yes, absolutely. Locally, significant growth is also evident, with sales of Jameson in Northern Ireland growing by over 200% in the last 10 years. In 2014, the Dillon Bass Jameson portfolio experienced 16% volume growth on 2013 sales.
In 2014, the Dillon Bass Irish whiskey portfolio experienced a strong year in both the hospitality and retail sectors. In the retail sector, Dillon Bass Irish whiskey brands grew to account for a 52% share of the Irish whiskey market, while in the hospitality sector, its whiskey brands have grown share to over 60%. (Nielson Volume Share of Irish Whiskey sector MAT December 2014).
How has Dillon Bass achieved this growth in Northern Ireland?
Growth in the Irish whiskey category has been driven by Jameson and achieved through investment and expansion of the Dillon Bass premium Irish whiskey range during 2014.
Over the last 12 months, we have significantly increased the distribution of our Irish whiskey portfolio across Northern Ireland, launching new premium whiskeys, growing staff capability through education and ultimately driving rate of sale within the category. This work has been fully embraced by the outlets we have worked with and it has the ability to unlock further profitable growth for both the customer and Dillon Bass in 2015 and beyond.
Last year, we launched a dedicated programme, working closely with top whiskey outlets throughout Northern Ireland to develop the Irish whiskey category. We have developed great partnerships with pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels, working in collaboration to create bespoke pieces of branding and activity that work for our brands and individual outlets.
Many of the outlets have reported significant growth in the sales of Dillon Bass whiskey brands, with several bars citing sales increases of 30-40% year on year.
The popularity of Irish whiskey overseas is also driving growth at home in Northern Ireland – with publicans reporting back to us that there is a strong demand for whiskey from tourists, who see sampling Irish whiskey as part of the visitor experience.
How important is continued investment and innovation for the long term growth of the Irish whiskey category?
It’s crucial. In September 2013, we completed an expansion programme, which included €100million investment in expanding the Midleton Distillery and an additional €100 million investment in a new whiskey maturation facility in Dungourney, Co. Cork. A new Archive and Irish Whiskey Academy was also established in conjunction with the expansion programme.
Innovation and expansion of our Irish whiskey portfolio has been key to our success in Northern Ireland in the last year. Jameson Caskmates – an experimental new whiskey from Jameson that has been finished in stout seasoned barrels – was just one of the new brands added to the Dillon Bass portfolio in 2014.
Are there any further Irish whiskey launches or developments on the horizon?
Yes. In April 2015, we will introduce a limited supply of the recently released Midleton Dair Ghaelach single pot still Irish whiskey to selected outlets across Northern Ireland. The exciting new product is the first ever Irish whiskey to be finished in virgin Irish Oak. Midleton Dair Ghaelach, meaning ‘Irish oak’ is the result of a six-year exploration by the Midleton Masters into using native oak to mature Irish whiskey. Dillon Bass will distribute 105 bottles, each of which can be traced back to one of ten 130-year-old Irish oak trees in Grinsell’s Wood, Ballaghtobin Estate, Co. Kilkenny.
We are passionate about our brands and excited about our plans for the future, which will continue to grow and develop the premium Irish whiskey category in Northern Ireland.
Are there any developments in the pipeline for the wider Dillon Bass wine & spirits portfolio?
In addition to our Irish whiskey brands, Dillon Bass has a strong wine and spirits portfolio with leading spirts brands including Hennessy, Absolut, Havana Club, Malibu, Kahúla, Beefeater Gin, Plymouth Gin, Belvedere vodka and Pernod and world-renowned wine and Champagne brands, Moët and Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Jacobs Creek, Wyndham Estate, Concha Y Toro, Long Mountain, Campo Viejo, Montana, Stoneleigh and Sutter Home.
Throughout 2015, we are celebrating 250 years of Hennessy. Running alongside a global campaign to mark the milestone anniversary, we will be undertaking local activity to celebrate Hennessy 250, which we will reveal soon.
Many of our long-running and successful sponsorships will also continue in 2015 including a film association with Jameson and the QFT and West Coast Cooler FASHIONWEEK.