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Amid Its Dominant Position In Irish Whiskey, Pernod Focuses On Premiumization

October 29, 2015

Few marketers hold as much sway over a major spirits category as Pernod Ricard USA does with Irish whiskey. While its Jameson brand accounts for around 80% of U.S. category volume, Pernod has four of the market’s top seven Irish whiskey labels in total, with Paddy, Powers and Redbreast complementing the flagship brand. Given its dominant position and impressive growth trends—the four brands collectively grew 7.5% last year—Pernod is now focusing more on premiumization across its Irish whiskey portfolio.

Jameson, whose core offering retails at around $25 a 750-ml., has been extended with a number of higher-end offshoots, and they’re gaining notable traction. “Innovation continues to be a core part of the strategy, and consumers get excited when we bring something new to market. We’re seeing trade-up, and we’re also seeing consumers come to us from across other categories,” says Sona Bajaria, brand director for Jameson & Paddy Irish whiskies, Pernod Ricard USA. Bajaria cites the recent success of Jameson’s Black Barrel entry, which retails above the core expression at $34.99 and has had success attracting Bourbon consumers, due in part to its versatility in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

More recently, Jameson added to its stable with its late summer launch of Caskmates, an Irish whiskey finished in craft beer barrels sourced from Ireland’s Franciscan Well micro-brewery. Caskmates is in national distribution, retailing at $29.99.

Meanwhile, Pernod’s Redbreast single pot still Irish whiskey ($45-$250) is also climbing, rising 11.8% in 2014. Though the brand remains relatively small, at 19,000 cases, the single pot style appears to be gradually catching on with consumers, and Redbreast is nearly twice as large as it was five years ago.

Earlier this year, Pernod Ricard USA made a move to further premiumize its Irish whiskey portfolio with the U.S. launch of the group’s Yellow Spot brand. Rolled out stateside in February, Yellow Spot is a single pot still offering that previously was available only in select European markets. The whiskey—which is made with a mash of malted and unmalted barley, triple distilled and then matured in Bourbon, Sherry and Spanish Malaga casks—retails at around $100. Along with Redbreast and Yellow Spot, Pernod USA’s upscale Irish whiskey portfolio also includes the Green Spot brand, which unveiled a Château Léoville Barton edition—matured in Bordeaux wine casks and retailing at $65 a bottle—this past summer.


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