Everyone wants to work for a company that motivates, encourages and supports them. We also know that the most successful businesses are the ones that prioritize building a positive workplace. That’s why recognition like being named one of the 50 Best Workplaces in Canada for the fifth consecutive year is so important to us. We were also recognized as one of Greater Toronto’s Top 100 Employers for the second year in a row. Both awards are confirmation that we’re doing the right things.
Results from the Great Place to Work anonymous employee survey pointed to four highlight areas: rewards and recognition, physical environment and resources, management competence and integrity, and fun and co-operation.
Over the course of fiscal 2016, we took steps to improve the gender balance of our teams, recognizing the value of diversity for understanding consumer needs and behaviours, providing different points of view, and fostering creativity and innovation. Through promotions and hiring, we improved the percentage of women at the director level from 28% to 35%. We also established metrics for recruiting, succession planning and other key human resources processes. Our next area of focus will be on inclusive leadership to ensure that our leaders are making people feel comfortable enough to express themselves and contribute to their fullest.
Corby’s brand ambassadors are knowledgeable, convivial and approachable individuals who care a lot about our brands and the people they serve. Getting to know bartenders, meeting their needs and generally making bartenders’ lives easier is a big part of the brand ambassador role.
By educating bartenders on a product’s history, production and key attributes, and how it can be used to make exquisite cocktails, brand ambassadors establish personal connections to our brands – which in turn makes it easier for bartenders to create great experiences for their guests. By pitching in on drink menus and events – and then posting photos and talking about them on social media – they also help bartenders promote their business.
Bartenders tell us that they appreciate Corby brand ambassadors’ availability and willingness to answer questions and get products when they’re running short or having trouble sourcing a specific item.
Our brand ambassadors are a key part of how Corby creates memorable experiences. We couldn’t be prouder of what they do, day in and day out, to live our values and support the bartender community.
We have made fantastic strides with on-premise national accounts in the past couple of years by deepening our understanding of their needs, bringing them relevant and unique promotional ideas, and partnering with them on initiatives to support their growth.
Our efforts were recognized by Service Inspired Restaurants (SIR Corp), who named Corby its Supplier of the Year in 2015. SIR Corp is recognized across Canada for concept restaurants like Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill®, Alice Fazooli’s®, Canyon Creek® and SCADDABUSH Italian Kitchen & Bar®, as well as various signature restaurants in downtown Toronto. We consider it a great honour to receive this prestigious award, presented to SIR Corp’s top supplier/partner across all categories.
We have started training our people on how to harness their creative potential to solve problems, ideate bold concepts and overcome barriers. In 2016, some 50 people from our marketing team and other parts of the organization participated in creativity training workshops where they learned about the science of creativity, their own thinking styles, and new techniques for creative and critical problem solving. They also spent time applying their new skills to typical projects such as writing a marketing brief.
Following the first two-day workshop, many participants went on to further training on creativity tools and techniques. Since then, 12 Corby employees have been trained as experts in problem solving and ideation facilitation so that they can teach the rest of our organization. Our goal is for the whole Corby organization to participate in creativity training by the end of fiscal 2017.
Crowned as Best Innovation at the 2015 Canadian Whisky Awards and Best Canadian Flavoured Whisky 2016 by the World Whiskies Awards, J.P. Wiser’s Hopped may very well be a game changer for Canadian spirits.
Conceived by Master Blender Don Livermore, who saw an opportunity to use hops in a novel way, J.P. Wiser’s Hopped is a blend of five- to nine-year-old Canadian whiskies aged in three types of barrels – previous Canadian whisky fills, once-used American bourbon casks and brand new virgin oak casks – and “dry hopped” at the end of its aging process in the same fashion as India Pale Ale beers. The result is a rich, chocolatey whisky with a stout finish that taps into consumer thirst for craft offerings and bold, new flavours.
Innovation didn’t stop at the whisky. The team also created a specially tinted brown bottle to protect the quality of the hops-based product when exposed to light for prolonged periods.
McGuinness is Canada’s largest mixable liqueur family, produced with quality ingredients to enhance the cocktail experience at home or in a bar. Products are made at the Hiram Walker & Sons Limited (HWSL) plant in Windsor, Ontario, which is managed by Corby on behalf of Pernod Ricard.
The emphasis is on ensuring that the McGuinness flavour offering is aligned with consumer trends – and there’s no denying the return of cocktail culture and the interest in bringing a piece of it home.
More and more people are making their favourite cocktails at home and experimenting with increasingly ambitious recipes. Home bartenders are investing in high-quality spirits and bartending tools, and seeking out advanced bartending techniques.
To match the trend, our dedicated research, development and innovation team at the HWSL Innovation Centre developed two new products: McGuinness Simple Syrup and McGuinness Apple Whisky.
McGuinness Simple Syrup has a sweet sugar cane flavour and an alcohol base that won’t water down a cocktail. We see it becoming the new home bartending essential for classic and innovative cocktails. The apple flavour profile of McGuinness Apple Whisky is another on-trend addition that holds timeless appeal and is highly popular in beverage alcohol.
Newfoundland and Labrador is Lamb’s Nation. Lamb’s Palm Breeze is the number-one-selling spirit across the province, outselling the closest competitor five to one. In fact, Lamb’s has been the best-selling spirit brand in the province for over 30 years.
We’re doing a lot to recruit the next generation of Lamb’s drinkers in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as grow the brand in other provinces. In 2016, we redesigned the packaging, refreshed Lamb’s Spiced, a smooth vanilla-spiced rum and amped up our digital presence. In spring 2016, we also strengthened our support for the George Street Festival in St. John’s with massive retail displays of a contest to win tickets to the festival and an invitation to Lamb’s Nation fans to write and record a new Lamb’s national anthem. The winner, as determined through online voting, took home $15,000 and performed at the festival.
Lamb’s Spiced Cherry, to be launched in fall 2016, will be the first flavoured spiced rum in the dynamic Canadian spiced-rum category. Bursting with delicious cherry–almond flavours, Lamb’s Spiced Cherry is full of sweetness and smooth rum tones – ideal for creating the ultimate cherry cola.
When the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) challenged the industry to come up with an exclusive Canadian whisky for Father’s Day 2016, our research and development team had just the answer. Master Blender Don Livermore remembered a unique whisky last distilled at the HWSL plant in 2001 that would be accessible to a wide audience but also appeal to whisky connoisseurs – just what the LCBO was looking for.
We promptly invited the LCBO category team to the HWSL facility for a tasting and they agreed – it was indeed a stellar whisky. So good, in fact, that they were prepared to purchase all 2,000 cases produced from the limited 132-barrel run. From there, Corby sales and marketing teams worked with the LCBO to come up with a suitable name, packaging and launch strategy. Our field representatives collaborated with LCBO retail staff, sharing samples of the product and their expertise, to help communicate the unique story of this Canadian whisky.
J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels launched in time for Father’s Day and was hailed as one of the most interesting whiskies to come along in ages. Last Barrels is truly the last of its kind – the production equipment was retired long ago. Employing a sour mash technique, the grain mix mirrors the first recorded grain mix in J.P. Wiser’s archives from 1869. Having matured in oak barrels for 14 years, Last Barrels is a complex, smooth and highly aged whisky.
J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels was a great start to a partnership that will see us launch a series of annual limited releases.
“The project has been a huge success. Sales have exceeded our expectations, but, more importantly, this partnership has helped shine a light on the quality and craftsmanship of Canadian whisky. Our customers are interested, more than ever, in locally produced products, but they don’t want to compromise on taste or quality. With a product like Last Barrels, they don’t have to.”
– Marijke McLean, Category Manager, Brown Spirits & Duty Free, LCBO
A premium-quality rum with a smooth, clean, distinctive taste, Lamb’s has a storied history that dates back to 1849, when it was created by the house of Alfred Lamb in London, England.
Corby owns Lamb’s and we have been bottling it in Canada for North American markets since 1952. We have historically used a UK-based distributor and bottler for markets outside North America. In an effort to revitalize the brand in the UK, we changed up the arrangement: we signed a five-year agreement with Pernod Ricard UK Ltd., giving it the exclusive right to represent Lamb’s rum in Great Britain effective July 1, 2016. Our Pernod Ricard partners know the brand well and will leverage their extensive national distribution network to drive growth. We are also finalizing an agreement with a new manufacturer for production for international markets.
With almost three years of our re-launch under our belt in the dynamic US market, we’re learning what works best for our business as we seek new revenue sources outside Canada.
Craft products like Lot No. 40 and Pike Creek offer the greatest opportunities to break into new markets and we have refocused our export strategy around them. These brands are being marketed in a small number of US markets, where a tight, dedicated team is planting seeds in the bartender community and making connections with the right partners. It’s an incubation approach that limits upfront advertising and promotional costs and we believe will set up the business for the long term.
We’ve adopted this approach in both the US and Australia, where we recently launched our whiskies. In his role as global brand ambassador for J.P Wiser’s, Lot No. 40, Pike Creek and Gooderham & Worts, Dave Mitton spent a month travelling across Australia to introduce the bartender community to Lot No. 40. Dave spoke at the Australia Drinks Festival in Melbourne, conducted tastings, hosted whisky dinners featuring Lot No. 40 cocktails, trained and educated bartenders, and posted his comings and goings on social media.
We’ll use the same strategy for the launch of Lot No. 40 and Pike Creek in France and Germany in fiscal 2017.
Challenging convention and the traditional rules about how wine is to be packaged or enjoyed, we introduced Big House wines in a can in 2016. Our products flew off store shelves when launched in April.
The Birdman Pinot Grigio is a full-figured white wine with ripe, citrus fruit, while the Cardinal Zin Zinfandel is a red, packed with blackberry and plum.
The fun and familiar format brings wine into new consumption occasions like camping or weekends at the cottage. Easy to transport and simple to serve, the 250 millilitre aluminum can is impenetrable to light and oxygen. What’s more, it’s quick to chill and stays cold.
To celebrate Pride 2016 in Toronto, we re-invented our Absolut unicorns with the help of psychedelic wunderkind Diana Lynn VanderMeulen and fierce muralist Sarah Cannon. Pride participants were invited to saddle up and show their pride at photo booth events throughout the city. These immersive experiences included live performances and artistry by comic and zine illustrators Mary and Kat Verhoeven.
We also released a Limited Edition Absolut Mix bottle to celebrate our 30-plus years supporting the LGBTQ community.