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Interview, Part 1: Pete Carr, President, Bacardi North America

June 12, 2017

Pete Carr was appointed regional president of Bacardi North America in 2014, marking another milestone in a 25-year drinks industry career that has also included time as executive vice president, Glazer’s; president, U.S. Spirits, Diageo; and president, Diageo-Guinness USA. Since joining Bacardi, Carr has engineered the family-owned spirits giant’s new national alignment with Southern Glazer’s and led the effort to reinvigorate the company’s flagship rum brand with a variety of new initiatives. SND managing editor Daniel Marsteller recently spoke with Carr to discuss the latest developments within the Bacardi portfolio and what the future holds for the company.

SND: A year ago, Bacardi aligned with Southern Glazer’s across more than 40 states. How is the arrangement working out?

Carr: It’s been a huge undertaking, but very successful. Together, we have a North American footprint, a dedicated selling division and a partnership that’s different from any other supplier-distributor relationship, in my opinion, simply because I’ve had the opportunity to walk on both sides of the aisle. One of the things I’ve said to myself whether I was a supplier or distributor was, “Why is there such an adversarial relationship? Why isn’t there transparency? Why aren’t we sharing tools, technology, strategies? If you’re truly my partner, then let’s create it that way.” That’s what we’ve done not only with Southern Glazer’s but also with our franchise distributors. I matched their structure; they didn’t match mine. Southern Glazer’s is nearly an $18 billion company; we’re at about $6 billion. With the new partnership, we plan together and do training over the web, allowing us to have up to 6,000 salespeople at our fingertips. We’re using the same technology systems, and our supply teams are connected, so our forecasting is better and more transparent. That has allowed us to bring down our days of supply. We’ve had great success out of the gate. In our fiscal year ended in March, Bacardi rum grew U.S. depletions at 3%. Bombay was up 3%, d’Usse was up 55% and Cazadores was up 8%. We couldn’t have done that without the investment and the long-term vision we have as a private company.

SND: Last year, you doubled Bacardi rum’s U.S. media spend to $40 million. How is the health of the Bacardi brand as we speak?

Carr: The biggest thing is that we’re now being consistent. We’re investing in the brand and it’s showing signs of recovery as the rum category leader. For the first time in seven years, Bacardi Superior, Gold, Black and flavors are actually growing. We’ve focused on fewer, better flavors, and on line-pricing the brand. Over the last 10 years we competed mainly against vodka, and didn’t spend the money that we needed to. Going forward, you’ll see us compete with a mixability message, but also with a premiumization message. We’re emphasizing the core, but we also see huge opportunity for Bacardi Gran Reserva Ocho Años and Maestro ($25 a 750-ml.). Ocho and our high-end rums such as Facundo can go up against any whisk(e)y in the market. We plan to launch more variants in the next few years to compete against whisk(e)y. We’re also tying in the brand with verticals like music, art, fashion and food, including our collaborations with Major Lazer and Swizz Beatz. The goals are to embed Bacardi into the culture, own high-energy occasions and drive premiumization in rum.

SND: How is Grey Goose faring? How is pricing holding up in the upscale vodka market?

Carr: Vodka continues to be competitive across the board. Everybody has been driving price, and driving value out of the system. We’ll keep Grey Goose above the fray and play to our super-premium image. We won’t compromise our price, our value, our ingredients. You’ll see new TV campaigns this summer that are a little more fun and playful with a Riviera-type feel.

SND: How do you plan to keep up the momentum of Bombay Sapphire?

Carr: We’re going to run the same play. It’s working. We’re seeing growth both on- and off-premise, so I don’t anticipate major changes. We’ll be consistent with our super-premium messaging, and continue to do initiatives like our Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series. We’re also seeing the craft gin movement bring new attention to the category overall.

SND: Besides Bacardi’s significant minority stake in Patrón, you also have Cazadores Tequila, which has been on the rise. What are your plans for that brand?

Carr: Cazadores has been known for Reposado, but we’ve also added Blanco, Añejo and Extra Añejo to the portfolio. It had been mainly a West Coast brand, but the last two years we’ve expanded it nationally. Taste profiles are changing. The millennial consumer is looking for more flavorful products, so we see a great opportunity with sipping Tequilas like Añejos and Extra Añejos as part of that trend.

Bacardi USA – Leading Distilled Spirit Brands
(thousands of nine-liter cases)
Brand Type 2013 2014 2015 2016 Percent
Change1
2015-2016
Bacardi2 Rum 7,679 7,259 7,061 6,961 -1.4%
Grey Goose2 Vodka 2,819 2,773 2,652 2,708 2.1
Dewar’s3 Scotch 1,293 1,140 1,196 1,198 0.1
Bombay4 Gin 1,027 1,061 1,023 1,182 15.6
Cazadores Tequila 252 239 273 298 9.1
St-Germain Liqueur 91 99 113 116 2.6
d’Usse Cognac 18 55 58 86 47.5
B&B Liqueur 57 53 55 53 -3.6
Total Leading Brands 13,237 12,679 12,431 12,601 1.4
Other Spirits 2,237 2,106 2,184 2,182 -0.1
Total Bacardi USA – Spirits 15,474 14,785 14,615 14,783 1.1%
1 Based on unrounded data
2 Includes flavors
3 Includes Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Aultmore and Royal Brackla
4 Includes Sapphire and Original
5 Addition of columns may not agree due to roundingSource: IMPACT DATABANK
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