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Brown-Forman Sales Rise 4% In U.S., Boosted By Super-Premium Whiskies

March 6, 2019

Brown-Forman has posted net sales up 5% to $2.6 billion on an underlying basis for the nine months through January, as operating income grew 4% to $916 million. In the U.S., sales rose 4% during the period, accelerating to a rate of 5% in the company’s third quarter.

Brown-Forman said Bourbon brands Woodford Reserve and Old Forester have shown strong double-digit growth in its fiscal year-to-date, benefiting from surging consumer interest in American whiskies. Old Forester, which recently opened a new $45 million distillery in Louisville, was up 18% to 223,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank. Woodford Reserve continues to outperform the super-premium Bourbon tier overall, rising by 22% to 651,000 cases last year. “We’ve sustained growth on the core Woodford label while also introducing new expressions,” marketing director Erin Schlader recently told SND.

Brown-Forman’s flagship Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey franchise has also seen U.S. growth accelerate in recent quarters, the company says. According to Impact Databank, Jack Daniel’s core Tennessee whiskey inched up 0.3% to around 5.25 million cases in the U.S. last year. Among the franchise’s other offerings, Gentleman Jack increased 4.4% to 406,000 cases, Single Barrel advanced by 8.7% to 50,000 cases, and Tennessee Rye leapt 41% to 45,000 cases. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Honey and Fire flavored whiskies combined form more than 1.1 million cases.

Brown-Forman also continues to see solid growth in Tequila, where the Herradura and El Jimador brands are making inroads in the category. El Jimador rose 8.4% to 620,000 cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank, while Herradura increased 7.3% to 192,000 cases.

While U.S. growth is ongoing, Brown-Forman noted that the trade tensions between the U.S. and key global partners are already cutting into sales. Company president and CEO Lawson Whiting noted, “Cost discipline helped offset some of the large burden we are absorbing due to the retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey.” But Brown-Forman estimates that “underlying net sales growth in the third quarter was negatively impacted by one percentage point due to lower net prices to distributors in certain markets to offset the incremental cost of tariffs.”—Daniel Marsteller

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