Operators advised to use tastings and food pairings to attract customers
IT’S not just about culture and history – Burns Night presents operators with a lucrative opportunity to boost sales this month.
That’s the message from some of the country’s leading whisky firms, who say the date should be an essential addition to licensees’ calendars after the busy new year celebrations.
They claim it offers a chance to grow profits through Scotland’s vast range of whiskies.
“A Burns supper isn’t a Burns supper without a good dram or two,” said Cara Laing, director of independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co.
“Plus the fact it’s our national drink, it’s a great way to raise awareness and increase sales of Scotch whisky in the run-up to Burns Night itself.”
And the occasion is ideally timed to capitalise on the high profile of whisky over the festive period.
“Following the busy Christmas and new year period, Burns Night represents a further opportunity to showcase Scotland’s national drink,” said Katy Macanna, UK sales and marketing co-ordinator at Ian Macleod Distillers.
“Whisky is at the top of minds during this time of the year and Burns Night helps maintain that position.
“In addition, there is evidently a link with food during this particular celebration and on-premise outlets which can capture this connection should be in a great position to promote Scotch whisky.”
The Bard’s birthday (January 25) falls on a Sunday this year, which offers more chance to arrange daytime events and capitalise further on trade.
This, say drinks firms, is a chance to offer tastings and engage the customer further in Burns Night.
“As Burns Night falls on a Sunday this year, it is key to offer daytime events to ensure they secure the highest amount of engagement possible,” said Frazer McGlinchey, brand adviser at Balblair Whisky.
“It is also important for venues to host interesting and engaging Burns Night tastings so the tradition of the iconic day is upheld.
“To engage with newer audiences, bars and pubs can put a contemporary spin on the traditional Burns Night supper by offering whisky flights, as well as food and whisky pairings.”
With whisky a key part of the celebrations, Burns Night is a great opportunity to attract new drinkers to the category.
Jim Grierson, on-trade sales director at Maxxium UK, whose portfolio includes The Famous Grouse, The Macallan and Laphroaig, said: “In order to encourage customers to try whisky for the first time, brands must be clearly visible on the back-bar.
“This will draw visitors’ attention to the bottling and prompt them to find out more about the liquid.
“Staff should also actively encourage customers to try new and different expressions with their meal.
“Providing drinks menus will also encourage customers to try whisky for the first time as the range of choice open to them will be more apparent.”
Traditional drams of blended and malt whiskies, said Grierson, usually sell well during January.
But he also highlighted the potential of whisky cocktails, which he said are “proving to be increasingly popular”.
Maxxium is promoting a number of whisky-based cocktails for its brands, including The Amber Glow (for The Macallan), the Orcadian Sour (for Highland Park), Smoked Orchard (for The Black Grouse) and the Laphroaig Smoked Peat Sour.
And the occasion is a prime opportunity to encourage existing whisky drinkers to trade up, according to David McGowan, head of trade relations, Scotland, at Diageo.
“To drive whisky sales, licensees should always give whisky brands prominent space on their back-bar, and include a variety of premium and non-premium offerings, ensuring consumers can easily see what is on offer and be given the opportunity to trade-up,” he said. “Retailers should stock a variety of whiskies covering blended and malts, from entry level brands through to super deluxe.”