Scanlon’s business philosophy ties in with the company’s global values: “To empower my staff, and to lead from the front.” The fact that it’s a family concern means that there has always been a strong legacy of entrepreneurship within Pernod Ricard, and little by way of stifling bureaucracy.
“In Europe, corporate offices are typically hierarchical. The newest, least-experienced person in the office would never dream of knocking on the MD’s door.” Scanlon says. “I enjoy the fact that the most junior member of staff is not afraid to come in and present an idea to me.” In terms of sales, the company’s biggest success story in South Africa to date is Jameson — it’s the single most profitable spirit brand in the country, selling at a big premium, Scanlon says.
An obvious challenge the company faces is the economic downturn, which has seen a slowdown in the sales of super-premium and premium brands. “Last Christmas, R450 was the normal spend for a whiskey. This year, we are already seeing a trend of trading down to less expensive brands,” Scanlon says. “It’s typical of a recession, but as things improve consumers will come back to brands that are aspirational.”
In the meantime, Pernod Ricard is investing in certain brands that are taking off in South Africa, particularly in the affluent, see-and-be-seen Johannesburg market. “There is enormous long-term growth potential in Mumm and cognac, despite these premium drinks making up only five percent of current spend,” Scanlon says.
So, what can the public expect from Pernod Ricard in the future? “We are launching Absolut Lime in South Africa. Seems obvious, but it’s never been done before. It’s been a huge success in the US,” Scanlon says.
The company is also launching an artisanal German gin, Monkey 47 Gin, to keep up with the seemingly insatiable demand for craft gins among South Africans.