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Brown-Forman Signals Interest In Scotch, Irish Whisk(e)y Categories, Eyes Premium Vodka

December 15, 2014

Brown-Forman Chairman and CEO Paul Varga revealed in recent days that the Kentucky-based company could potentially seek to invest from the ground up in a new Scotch or Irish whisk(e)y distillery looking ahead. Speaking to investors December 10, Varga said that because the most attractive assets in those categories are not available for acquisition, the potential building of a distillery in either country “fits pretty nicely, quite honestly, with Brown-Forman, who is going to have a longer horizon (for its return, being family-owned). Anything we would do would need to be something that would be meaningful (to the business) with the passage of time, not just a toy.”

In the same presentation, the company’s executive vice president and president for North and South America, Jill Jones, hinted that Brown-Forman could be interested in making a play for another premium vodka, citing Tito’s as an example of the type of brand they would be seeking. “Tito’s is resonating with consumers. The handcrafted message is bucking the trends of the rest of vodka,” Jones said. “A brand that is resonating, that is premium-priced, if we think it could do well in our hands, we would look at it.”

Despite a well-publicized class-action suit taking aim at its “handcrafted” message, Tito’s continues to surge. In the 52 weeks ending November 30, it was up 94% to 272,000 cases in IRI channels, including an 82% increase in the most recent four weeks. The brand was also up 80% to 323,000 cases in control states in the 12 months through October.

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