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Diageo To Rejig Johnnie Walker Lineup

April 6, 2012

Top global Scotch brand Johnnie Walker is planning to shake up its range in global markets, including the U.S. The Diageo-owned label will add two new variants and subtract two existing ones from its lineup over the next year. The existing Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18-year-old and Johnnie Walker Green Label will begin to be phased out in the U.S. market during the summer of next year (the phase-outs will begin this summer in most other global markets). In their place, Diageo will introduce two new labels that have tested successfully in Asia—Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (selling for around $63 a 750-ml.) and Johnnie Walker Platinum 18-year-old (around $110).

Diageo’s head of whisky outreach Nick Morgan told Shanken News Daily the revamp was meant to spread out the Johnnie Walker portfolio’s pricing in order to better motivate consumers to move up the brand ladder. “As we reviewed the brand offering, we found that the range wasn’t meeting consumer needs and providing the best consumer journey through the range as far as taste profiles and price points,” Morgan said. “Another reason for this change is to try and have, as far as is possible, a consistent range of prices and options for consumers wherever they go in the world—which, to be honest, we haven’t had heretofore.”

The new Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is based on the same Clynelish single malt as Gold Label 18-year-old, but it has a less peaty profile and will sell for around $20 less. Removing the age statement from the Gold offering also enables Diageo greater flexibility in crafting the blend. Platinum 18-year-old, meanwhile, has a more intense, peaty Speyside character. The two new variants will sit between Black Label (around $40) and Blue Label (around $210) in the portfolio. “You can see how the ladder then stretches out,” Morgan said.

The departing Green Label, which sells for around $65, is a blended malt, which Morgan described as the odd man out within the line. Except in Taiwan, which has shown a special affinity for blended malts, it will be discontinued. Still, both it and Gold 18-year-old have pockets of very enthusiastic consumers in the U.S.

“We want to be careful not to disappoint people and help them through the change process, so we’re giving an additional 12-month period in the U.S. before phasing those expressions out to help ease the transition,” Morgan said.

While its global progress has been well documented, Johnnie Walker has also been thriving in the U.S., where its Red and Black labels alone account for over 1.5 million cases. In the six months through December, Johnnie Walker’s volume rose 11% in North America, as organic net sales surged 19%.

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