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Interview, Part 2: James Slack, SVP, Wine, Champagne, And Prestige At Pernod Ricard USA

October 16, 2020

In the second part of our interview, Pernod Ricard USA’s James Slack discusses upcoming plans for fast-growing Spanish import Campo Viejo, as well as efforts to accelerate the performance of Jacob’s Creek and the company’s Sonoma winery, Kenwood Vineyards.

SND: Campo Viejo, an Impact “Hot Brand,” has been a very strong performer lately, even amid tariffs on Spanish wines. What’s driving those gains, and what’s in store for the brand over the coming months?

Slack: Campo is a brand that is front and foremost in people’s minds now. In the last 26 weeks, pretty much the entire Covid period, Campo has been growing at plus 50%, versus total table wine at 19%. It’s in the top 15 absolute dollar value growth contributors to the total wine category. The Cava is going from strength to strength. We had a very strong Cava business for brunch across the country in the on-premise, and now that part has been hit. But the net impact remains that the brand is very much in health. We’ve just launched a Campo red blend, and the early data shows it’s going very well.

SND: Brancott plays in the thriving New Zealand category. What’s the key to setting it apart in the increasingly crowded competitive set?

Slack: Brancott has been one of those brands that we’ve been working hard on in the background. We felt that we needed to freshen and contemporize the brand. We’re just now rolling out new Brancott Estate packaging, which is really bold and fresh, and certainly not an iteration of the old packaging, but a real revolution. That’s something that we’re going to anchor into. We were the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough, which isn’t something we’ve made a lot of. We have some exciting things lined up for next year, as the new packaging gets through and onto the shelf.

SND: Where do you see opportunities to bolster the Jacob’s Creek and Kenwood brands in the U.S.?

Slack: The Australian category is very, very tough. It would be remiss of me to say it isn’t. Our focus within that area is on Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel, finished in Irish whiskey casks. It plays in that whiskey barrel-finished category that’s seeing strong growth. With Kenwood, we began rolling out new packaging on the Discovery Series in July, and we’re very pleased with how that’s looking. Kenwood Six Ridges, which sits in the dynamic $15-$20 category, is seeing some very positive results, particularly the red wines.

SND: Have your California wineries been impacted by the latest wildfires?

Slack: Most importantly, all our people are safe. And fortunately, all of Mumm Napa’s harvest was complete and fermentation was done as well, so there’s no potential smoke damage there. At Kenwood about 50% of the harvest was complete. Our teams are working to understand the impact on the rest of the harvest, but as of now there are no issues to report.

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