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Impact Seminar Snapshot: Stephen Rust On Prospects For Diageo’s New Catalyst Division

March 28, 2012

Last September, Shanken News Daily reported exclusively that Diageo North America had formed a new unit, Catalyst, devoted to handling 28 niche brands from a variety of spirits categories, totaling around 2 million cases. Stephen Rust, who leads Catalyst, laid out to the Impact Marketing Seminar audience last week why Diageo believes it can double the unit’s volume and sales within four years.

Rust said Catalyst will work much like Diageo’s successful previous effort on its Reserve Brands. “In 2007, we created a small, nimble set of resources, within Diageo and our distributors, focused on luxury sales and marketing,” he said. “We set out the goal of doubling our Reserve Brands’ base in four years, and ended up increasing it by more than 2.6 times.” A similar approach will be key to Catalyst’s fortunes, Rust added. “We’ll function as an agile, boutique company with a dedicated sales force but use the leverage of Diageo’s central marketing expertise when it makes sense,” he said.

Rust argued that the Catalyst portfolio is well-positioned in hot categories like single malt Scotch—with Oban, Talisker and others—and American whiskies with George Dickel. Catalyst also offers mixology-friendly brands like Pimms and Myers’s rum, and a shot brand portfolio that does a million cases across the Rumple Minz, Black Haus and Goldschläger labels, among others. “We plan to laser-target these brands to the right accounts,” Rust said. “Diageo, with its analytical resources, has the ability to identify sweet spots for activation and deliver against account-specific opportunities for each of them.”

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