One of Scotland’s most famous whisky businesses is upbeat about the on-trade whisky market as the company invests in its own brands.
Whyte & Mackay currently has marketing initiatives underway for brands including Fettercairn, Jura and The Woodsman as well as the eponymous blend.
Speaking to SLTN, UK channel marketing controller, Louise Easton, said that, overall, ‘it’s a really positive time for whisky’.
“Malt whisky is back into growth, with more outlets stocking a malt whisky across the UK than ever before, with distribution growing and increased demand from operators,” said Easton.
“Consumers are looking to premium and to treat themselves and malt whisky is a premium category and plays really well into that trend.
“Over the last year occasions have become more casual and lower-tempo, with relaxed quiet drinks becoming the biggest occasion. So malt whisky plays really well into that low-tempo occasion.”
The company has reason to be upbeat, with its own brands currently performing strongly in pubs and bars.
Quoting CGA figures, Easton said Whyte & Mackay has grown volume sales by more than 22% in the past year and is now the second-biggest blend in the Scottish on-trade, with Jura having grown its own presence within the single malt segment.
The island whisky is now the second biggest malt in Scottish pubs and bars, having grown volume sales by 19% in the past year.
Overall, Easton reported on-trade malt whisky sales had increased 7.6% in volume and 12.9% in value in the course of the past year.
Blended whisky remains the biggest section of the market but has been largely flat in volume and value terms.
Those strong performances haven’t happened by accident.
Marketing activity for the company’s whisky brands this year has included a Fettercairn partnership with Glasgow venue The Corinthian, which has seen the brand take over the venue’s rooftop terrace.
Visitors to the space can choose from a number of Fettercairn cocktail serves, which are each designed to showcase the single malt’s tropical flavour profile.
Launched earlier in the year, the partnership has been so successful for both parties that it is being extended throughout the autumn and winter months, with Whyte & Mackay targeting consumers via a paid social media campaign.
The investment gets even bigger with some of the other brands.
Easton said: “Jura, Whyte & Mackay and The Woodsman have all got strong consumer investment plans this year, reaching more consumers than ever before.
“The Woodsman was on TV earlier this year with the Well Earned campaign, which ran April to June, and there’s a strong digital plan for the rest of the year.
“I think we’re reaching 28 million consumers with that campaign in 2023.
“Whyte & Mackay is back on TV just now for six weeks and Jura will be back on TV from the 4th of October. So we’re investing behind the brands to make sure that they are front of mind and growing awareness of the brand.”
Key to driving sales has been reaching out to new customers, and that includes consumers that are not traditional whisky drinkers.
With Fettercairn, Jura and The Woodsman that has involved promoting the brands for use in cocktails and other long drinks.
Jura’s Jura Sunset serve, for example, mixes the malt with Aperol and tonic to create a different take on the Aperol Spritz.
The Woodsman, meanwhile, is promoted for mixing with cola.
Launched in 2018, the brand is part of a growing ‘contemporary whisky’ sub-category that Easton said is recruiting younger consumers from bourbon and American whiskey.
“When it comes to drinking whisky in the on-trade it does depend on the category, the outlet type and the occasion, but we know with our brands that we’re attracting a mix of female and male consumers,” she said.
“And with brands like The Woodsman we’re attracting younger consumers into the category.”