Whisky boost

Diageo celebrates surge in premium sales

Johnnie-Walker-Princes Street
Diageo has seen a surge in sales (pic: Terry Murden)

Johnnie Walker whisky and Guinness group Diageo said full-year sales were up by more than a fifth (21.4%) as bars reopened and consumers moved towards premium brands.

High-end products contributed 57% of £15.5 billion in net sales in the year to 30 June while group pre-tax profit rose 18.4% to £4.4bn.

Sales of Johnnie Walker whisky, calculated on a like-for-like net basis, were up 34%, while sales in the “super-premium-plus” category, which includes the Johnnie Walker Blue Label, rose 31%.

“Consumers are being very discerning and willing to spend a little extra for that very special occasion,” said Lavanya Chandrashekar, chief financial officer.

Ivan Menezes, chief executive, added: “The attractive thing about premium spirits is that it is not the high net worth, top one per cent or 5 per cent of the population that is buying it.

“In the US, a huge amount of what we call super-premium-plus is [being bought] at household incomes of $80,000, $90,000 a year . . . It’s for a special occasion and it cuts across demographics.”

But Mr Menezes warned that he expected the operating environment to be “challenging” in the coming year thanks to the persistent effects of the pandemic, cost inflation and “a potential weakening of consumer spending power.”

Following the 2008 financial crisis, consumers traded down to cheaper drinks “a little bit, for a few quarters, but then it came roaring back,” Menezes said.

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