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Interview, Part One: Pernod Ricard Chairman and CEO Alex Ricard

October 12, 2016

Alex Ricard has gotten off to a strong start at the helm of Pernod Ricard. He recently completed his first full fiscal year as Pernod Ricard’s chairman and CEO, a period in which the French drinks giant enjoyed solid sales growth—particularly in the U.S. market. Ricard recently sat down with SND managing editor Peter Zwiebach to discuss progress.

SND: Pernod Ricard saw solid sales growth (+4%) in the U.S. in its recently ended fiscal year. What were the key factors behind these encouraging results?

Ricard: The U.S. market is healthy overall, and we’ve done particularly well there. First, we’re seeing the continuation of premiumization. Of our key brands, Jameson is performing very well, as is The Glenlivet and our two Tequilas—Avión and Altos. Malibu is also growing—at low single-digits—which, given its size, is pretty good. The one real challenge we have is Absolut.

SND: Does Absolut resonate with consumers in their 20s and 30s?

Ricard: We need to revive the brand in the U.S. so that it resonates with Millennial consumers, who probably don’t know it well or engage with it regularly.

SND: How are you going about that?

Ricard: It takes time, because it’s a big ship to turn around. It takes money, and we’ve stepped up on investment behind the brand. And it takes creativity. We’re doing a lot on Absolut. We’ve rationalized the flavor range, because too many flavors tend to dilute the core brand. We’ve come up with two innovations—(ultra-premium) Absolut Elyx and Absolut Oak, which we’re testing now. And we have our Absolut Nights campaign, which has been airing since spring. As that campaign evolves, you’ll see more creativity and disruption focusing on the Millennial consumer.

SND: Jameson continues to record double-digit growth in the U.S. What’s driving its success?

Ricard: First of all, I’d say Jameson is not our brand. It’s the consumer’s brand. They consider Jameson as being their own, and I think that’s important. Also, it’s both very high quality and simple. There’s so much authenticity to it. The taste is very accessible. It’s extremely versatile—you can mix it or drink it neat as a shot or on the rocks, as a cocktail base. And it’s a brand that has a great story—and history—behind it.

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