It was a banner year for our Canadian whiskies, winning prestigious awards at the World Whiskies Awards, the Canadian Whisky Awards and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The World Whiskies Awards, which took place in London, England, on March 17, 2016, are the culmination of three rounds of blind judging conducted by an international panel of experts. Collectively, Corby’s whiskies took home the following honours:
Gooderham & Worts – revered for its bold, balanced layers of flavour – took home one of the World Whiskies Awards’ biggest honours as the World’s Best Canadian Blended Whisky. Made true to the tradition that William Gooderham and James Worts started in Toronto’s Distillery District in 1832, this distinctive whisky is a premium blend of rye, wheat, barley and corn, and is part of Corby’s innovation portfolio.
Lot No. 40, recognized for its world-renowned rye character at the World Whiskies Awards, was also selected as Canadian Whisky of the Year at the 2016 Canadian Whisky Awards and Best Canadian Rye Whisky, Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It also earned a 97 Points rating given by Wine Enthusiast.
J.P. Wiser’s was honoured for several of its specialty batches, including Hopped, Legacy and 18 Years Old.
The success of our family of Canadian whiskies is both a testament to our passion and dedication to developing quality whisky, and to our history founded on the tradition of grain-to-glass craftsmanship. At the same time, we are showing our ability to be flexible and innovative in the face of change. Recognition from our peers motivates us to continue experimenting with new flavours and cutting-edge processes that elevate the whiskies coming out of Canada.
J.P. Wiser’s new “Tastes Like Whisky” campaign makes the point that drinking great whisky doesn’t have to be complicated. Aimed at recruiting younger (25- to 34-year-old), discerning consumers into the J.P. Wiser’s franchise, Tastes Like Whisky replaces the highly successful Wiserhood campaign that launched in 2008, while retaining its wit and accessibility.
Backed by consumer research indicating a desire for quality in whisky, without any of the pretension that sometimes goes with it, Tastes Like Whisky alludes to heritage and craftsmanship, but focuses on the fact that the only thing you really need to enjoy whisky is good whisky.
The campaign is one of a number of steps we’re taking to capitalize on consumer interest in brown spirits and strengthen the J.P. Wiser’s brand. New products like J.P. Wiser’s Hopped, J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels and J.P. Wiser’s Double Still Rye are another key part of our strategy, driving growth and cementing our reputation as innovators and artisans. With its robust taste derived from a blend of two ryes, J.P. Wiser’s Double Still Rye is a bold yet smooth whisky. The product was launched in the summer of 2015 to critical acclaim.
Canadians’ love for Jameson Irish whiskey and The Glenlivet single malt Scotch whisky continued unabated in the past year.
Shipment volumes of Jameson grew 19% in 2016, following a 24% increase in 2015. Results were bolstered by the introduction of Jameson Caskmates, a modern whiskey aged in stout-seasoned oak barrels for a truly original finish. As the Canadian appetite for Irish whiskies grows, we see continued potential for Jameson and the new brands we’ve added to our portfolio, including Redbreast, Green Spot and Yellow Spot.
While total shipment volumes of The Glenlivet declined by 5% in 2016, The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve continued to bring new and younger consumers into the single malt Scotch whisky fold. The brand was heavily supported through digital and social media, a strong brand ambassador program, and collaboration with liquor boards on staff training and retail tastings.
The world’s number one premium vodka brand, Absolut vodka enjoyed another phenomenal year, gaining market share and growing shipment volumes by 4% to 573,000 cases. Importantly for Corby, not only did we benefit from higher commission rates on sales of Absolut, but the brand also continued to open doors for us with on-premise accounts.
We continued to build on Absolut’s reputation as a creative and socially progressive brand, with a heavy emphasis on digital tools; social media; and support for artists, designers, makers and the LGBTQ community. Our collaboration with makers across Canada took us to cutting-edge “technology in nightlife” events in Toronto and Montréal in 2016, and across the country to visit makerspaces as part of a three-part video series with VICE. We also sponsored MakeFashion 2016, a unique event that combines high fashion and wearable technology.
Polar Ice vodka is among the top-selling vodka brands in Canada. In the highly competitive economy segment of the vodka market, where others were slashing prices, we chose to manage Polar Ice for profitability rather than market-share gains. Nevertheless, sales performance was solid, led by Polar Ice 90° North, a product extension that is quadruple-distilled and chill-filtered in small batches to improve its purity and smoothness.
The cool factor of Polar Ice 90° North comes from a cold-activated label that turns icy blue after 20 minutes in the freezer and an app that sends a text once the bottle is “polarized”. Strong off-trade programming (tastings, value-add promotions and loyalty rewards programs) and digital media support helped drive awareness and trial of this relatively new product.
We’re planning next to engage millennial consumers through social causes. Polar Ice Limited Edition bottles will raise awareness of polar bear endangerment with a neck tag campaign, supported by public relations and digital communications. To hammer home the point, Limited Edition bottles will have the iconic Polar Ice polar bears removed from the package.
Jacob’s Creek wines have continued their strong run, almost singlehandedly keeping the Australian wine category afloat in Canada. Shipments reached 480,000 cases in 2016, led once again by Jacob’s Creek Moscato. We added Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato Rosé as a seasonal listing in April and, due to the fantastic response, converted it into a general listing within two months.
The launch of Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz was extremely successful, winning the LCBO 2016 Elsie Award for Best New Product Launch in the wine category and being picked up by key on-premise national accounts. The product pushes the boundaries of wine innovation as a premium-quality Barossa Shiraz finished in aged whisky barrels.
Benefiting from a strong integrated marketing campaign, Stoneleigh wines broke through the 100,000 over-the-counter sales milestone, with 102,000 cases sold. It was our second year of a partnership with celebrity chef Mark McEwan, which generated considerable publicity as Mark hosted dinners paired with Stoneleigh wines and visited the Stoneleigh vineyard in New Zealand. Consumer engagement included a contest to win a Mark McEwan 15-piece Ultimate Cookware set.
Campo Viejo wines, which offer rich tradition with a modern twist, are being embraced by Canadians. Shipments rose by 16% in 2016, led by sales of Tempranillo and Reserva.
The “Live Uncorked” campaign invited people to live a life of expression, passion and colour. As part of the campaign, we ran a contest through our new Campo Viejo Canadian social channels where consumers submitted photos of themselves “living uncorked”. The winning photo was turned into a Limited Edition bottle wrap.
On August 31, 2016, we announced that we had entered into an agreement to acquire the spirits assets of Domaines Pinnacle Inc., a Québec-based spirits and cider producer. The transaction, expected to close on September 30, includes Domaines Pinnacle’s spirits portfolio of distinctly Canadian brands, such as Ungava® Premium Canadian gin, Chic Choc® Spiced rum and a range of maple-based liqueurs like Coureur des Bois® and Cabot Trail®, as well as related production assets and inventory.
Founded in 2000 by Charles Crawford and Susan Reid, Domaines Pinnacle was established as a cider business and later expanded into distillation and production of artisanal spirits (the cider business assets were sold by Domaines Pinnacle to a third party). Today, its products are available across Canada and in more than 50 countries worldwide. The company was awarded nearly 50 national and international medals in 2015 for its high-quality products, including being named Canadian Distillery of the Year at the New York International Spirits Competition.
The flagship of the portfolio, Ungava® Premium Canadian gin, is a unique gin with a distinctive yellow colour derived from a recipe of botanicals gathered from the tundra region of northern Québec. In a relatively short period of time, Ungava has grown to become the number two brand by sales volume in the dynamic, deluxe gin category in Canada.
The acquired brands are highly complementary to Corby’s existing Canadian portfolio and we look forward to taking them to the next level.