Diageo recently announced that it has acquired Mr Black, the Australian premium cold brew coffee liqueur. Mr Black was launched in 2013, by designer Tom Baker and award-winning distiller, Philip Moore, with the vision of bringing the global coffee culture to the world of spirits and cocktails. Mr Black has grown to become the leading premium-priced coffee liqueur in the United States, applying modern coffee brewing techniques and quality sourcing to reinvigorate coffee cocktail culture and consumers’ desire for premium coffee cocktails, such as the espresso martini and coffee old fashioned.
Over the last five years, Mr Black has been the fastest growing brand in the global coffee liqueur category. Now available in 22 countries, the brand appeals to craft cocktail lovers and consumers seeking delicious tasting cocktails in bars and restaurants, and for indulgent, at-home occasions. Mr Black sources and roasts coffee to its own bespoke specification, creating the premium liqueur with a delicious and rich coffee taste.
In 2015, Diageo acquired a minority stake in Mr Black through Distill Ventures, the Diageo-backed accelerator programme. Distill Ventures receives funding from Diageo and works with the company to support entrepreneurs as they launch and grow innovative drinks brands.
Co-founder, Tom Baker, will remain actively involved with the brand, working with the Diageo team to build on Mr Black’s success.
Claudia Schubert, President, U.S. Spirits and Canada, Diageo said, “With its award-winning liquid, eye-catching design and packaging, and ability to thrive in culture, we believe Mr Black is just getting started in the dynamic coffee liqueur segment. This acquisition is in line with our strategy to acquire high growth brands in exciting categories, and we are delighted to welcome Mr Black into our portfolio.”
Tom Baker, Co-founder of Mr Black said, “Coffee is more than just a drink – it’s a culture, ritual, obsession, aesthetic, experience, tradition and a community.
In line with its initiative Society 2030: Spirit of Progress and its 10-year ESG action plan, Diageo India will be initiating a phased removal of mono cartons from its popular Scotch brands in India VAT 69, Black & White and Black Dog. Although there isn’t a clear timeline on when this removal is expected to commence, it includes Diageo’s global effort to be zero-waste to landfill from its own operations and offices by 2030.
The move comes following the announcement in May this year for the removal of mono cartons from its scotch portfolio brands globally, which included brands like Johnnie Walker Black Label, Johnnie Walker Red Label, Buchanan’s Blended Scotch Whisky and Bell’s Original Blended Scotch Whisky.
Although there isn’t a timeline on when the phased removal in India will commence, in May Diageo had stated that the removal of these mono cartons will allow the company to assess the response from the consumer, which if successful will be expanded to other brands as well in 2023.
What will the customer response be to this announcement in India remains to be seen, especially since standing out in a shelf space in a country like India is important, due to its stringent marketing policies. It will also be interesting to see if this move will prompt other manufacturers to follow a similar path.
Currently there isn’t any update yet if there will be any changes made to the packaging (we will update the article periodically), considering mono cartons play an important role in branding and packaging of the product. Also whether the removal of mono cartons is expected to affect the product pricing, also remains to be seen. Since manufacturers spend a considerable cost towards packaging their products, the cost is often passed onto the consumer.
Diageo believes that the phased removal will engage consumers to participate, contribute and promote a progressive move to a sustainable future and will result in saving 10,000 tonnes of paper and reducing 7,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Diageo recently announced it has acquired Vivanda, owner of the technology behind Diageo’s digital ‘What’s Your Whisky’ platform and the Journey of Flavour experience at Johnnie Walker Princes Street.
This acquisition will enable Diageo to expand FlavorPrint technology to other categories. And it will support the continued development of their advanced analytics and digital marketing capabilities, providing a deeper understanding of consumer taste preferences and helping to unlock further opportunities in innovation and personalised consumer experiences.
Powered by artificial intelligence, FlavorPrint technology, through a series of simple questions, analyses and maps consumers’ flavour preferences against a large proprietary sensory database of foods and aromas, to generate a digital representation of their unique ‘Flavor Print’. It then recommends brands and variants whose flavour profiles consumers are most likely to enjoy. The technology breaks down traditional barriers to category exploration, supporting broader consumer engagement through more personalised recommendations and helping to ensure Diageo brands stand out at every point along consumers’ paths to purchase.
Launched in 2019, ‘What’s Your Whisky’ has been rolled out across 21 markets and is available in 16 languages. It has been integrated into the physical stores and e-commerce platforms of a number of our key customers in Europe and North America, as well as across their direct-to-consumer channels such as malts.com to enable purchase recommendations.
The technology also underpins the immersive Journey of Flavour experience at Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh, tailoring the drinks that visitors enjoy during their 90-minute tour to their palates. There are more than 800 flavour combinations available in their innovative dispense systems, meaning a consumer could visit every day for more than two years and not have the same experience twice.
Vivanda’s team will join Diageo and its founders, CEO, Oli Fuchs, and CTO, Matt Corish, will provide ongoing consultancy services to continue building on the success of the FlavorPrint technology.
Cristina Diezhandino, Chief Marketing Officer at Diageo, commented, “We know consumers are looking for more personalised, interactive experiences and that they are increasingly engaging with our brands digitally as well as in person. We’re delighted to welcome Vivanda to Diageo and we are looking forward to working together to connect with consumers in more innovative ways that help shape the future of how we socialise in person and virtually.”
Oli Fuchs, Co-founder and CEO, Vivanda, said, “We are very excited to join Diageo. Vivanda set out to create innovative technology which connects consumers with products through sensory insight. We are proud of the excellent engagement we have received from consumers and are looking forward to connecting millions more people with their new favourite beverage and creating the digital standard for taste.”
In the unaudited third quarter, Diageo India has registered an increase in net sales of 15.9%, reflecting a strong quarter driven by resilient consumer demand in the off-trade channel, continued premiumisation and recovery of the on-trade channel. Underlying net sales increased 14.3%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch.
Diageo India said that the Prestige & Above segment net sales grew 20.0%, with strong double-digit growth in our scotch portfolio. However, Popular segment net sales declined 1.7%, while priority states were flat. The Gross margin was 44.1%, down 49bps on a reported basis, driven by input cost inflation, partially offset by favourable product mix and productivity savings. Adjusting the one-off sale of bulk scotch, underlying gross margin was 44.3%, down 31bps.
Ms Hina Nagarajan, CEO, commenting on the quarter and nine months ended 31 Dec. 2021 said, “We have delivered a strong quarter, continuing the growth momentum amidst rising inflation. The broad-based growth in the Prestige & Above segment demonstrates the strength of our portfolio, and the continued agility and resilience of the team. We launched the second limited edition of Epitome Reserve Craft Whiskey, a Peated Indian Single Malt. We continued to expand distribution of the renovated Black Dog Scotch, Signature Whiskey and our innovation offering of Royal Challenge American Pride Whiskey.
We also launched ‘In.thebar.com’ this quarter, our digital platform to drive focussed consumer engagement and celebrations.
Healthy operating cash flow has enabled us to reach debt free status as on Dec.31st 2021. CRISIL upgraded its rating on United Spirits Limited’s long-term bank facilities to ‘AAA / Stable’ while reaffirming its ‘A1+’ rating on the short-term bank facilities.
External operating environment in the near-term will remain challenging, including potential impact from Covid-19 and rising cost inflation. We continue to work with agility and remain focussed on strengthening our portfolio while driving productivity across the value chain. We remain confident in the market potential and continue to stay focussed on our strategic priorities to drive long-term value creation for all our stakeholders.”
The Reported EBITDA was Rs. 491 Crores, up 27.9% and the reported EBITDA margin was 17.0%, up 159 bps, primarily driven by operating leverage on fixed costs. It said that Interest includes a one-off non-debt related charge. Underlying interest was Rs. 16 Crores, down 56.8% driven by reduced debt and lower interest rates.
The profit after tax was Rs. 291 Crores, up 26.7% and PAT margin was 10.1%.
Nine month’s performance highlights:
The reported net sales increased 22.6%, lapping soft prior year comparators. Growth was underpinned by strong consumer demand in the off-trade, premiumisation trend and continued momentum in at-home consumption occasions. Underlying net sales increased 21.9%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch.
The Prestige & Above segment net sales increased 26.9%, lapping soft comparators and favourable product mix. The popular segment net sales increased 11.0%, while the priority states increased 10%. The Gross margin was 44.3%, up 113bps, primarily driven by favourable product mix, productivity savings from everyday cost efficiencies and lapping a one-off inventory provision. It said marketing investment was up 24.9% as the company lapped a reduction in promotional activity during the same period last year due to Covid-19. Marketing reinvestment rate was 8.0% of reported net sales.
The reported EBITDA was Rs. 1,084 Crores, up 88.2% and the reported EBITDA margin was 15.6%, up 544 bps primarily due to recovery in gross margin, operating leverage and lapping one-off costs in the prior year. Excluding the one-off items, underlying EBITDA was up 430 bps.
The reported interest cost was Rs. 52 Crores, down 62.3% driven by debt, interest rate reduction and a net reversal benefit of non-debt related interest charge. Exceptional items include a one-off provision towards an additional demand in relation to a historical customer dispute and tax includes a one-off reversal of 19.2 Crores.
The profit after tax was Rs. 634 Crores, up 343.2% and PAT margin was 9.1%.
United Spirits Ltd reports 27% PAT for third quarter
United Spirits Ltd (USL) has reported a 27 % year-on-year surge in profit after tax (PAT) for the third quarter of financial year 2021-22, which came in at Rs. 291 Crore, up from a Rs. 230 crore during the same period last year.
The PAT margin in Q3 FY22 was 10.1%, the company said. In a press release attached with the quarterly results, USL said it reached “debt-free status” by December 31, 2021, due to its “healthy operating cash flow”. The reported net sales in the three-month period ending December 2021 increased to Rs. 2,885 Crore, marking a 15.9% YoY jump.
The surge was driven by resilient consumer demand in the off trade channel, continued premiumisation and recovery of the on-trade channel, USL said. Underlying net sales increased by 14.3%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch, it added.
“Prestige & Above segment net sales grew 20%, with strong double-digit growth in our scotch portfolio,” the company said. Popular segment net sales, however, declined by 1.7%.
The earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA) came in at Rs. 491 Crore, which was 27.9% higher as compared to the year-ago period. The EBITDA margin came in at 17%, up 159 bps, primarily driven by operating leverage on fixed costs.
“We upweighted our investment in marketing to support strategic priorities and on-going demand growth initiatives,” USL said.
Gross profit came in at Rs. 1,273 Crore, as compared to Rs. 1,082 Crore in the second quarter. Gross profit margin was 44.1%, down 49 bps on a reported basis, driven by input cost inflation, and “partially offset by favourable product mix and productivity savings”, USL said.
Diageo India chief executive officer Hina Nagarajan, while commenting on USL’s Q3 performance, said “external operating environment in the near-term will remain challenging, including potential impact from Covid-19 and rising cost inflation”.
“We continue to work with agility and remain focussed on strengthening our portfolio while driving productivity across the value chain. We remain confident in the market potential and continue to stay focussed on our strategic priorities to drive long-term value creation for all our stakeholders,” the CEO added.
The operations remained broadly normal for the quarter with sentiment gradually inching up seen in improved mobility and strong festive period helped demand. While input cost pressures continue, the global supply chains remain disrupted with port congestion and container availability issues. However, efforts, it said, are on to ramp up of innovation and renovation agenda, premiumisation trends continue, launched digital platform In.thebar.com during the quarter. It said it aligned itself with the new policies in Delhi and West Bengal, and tax rationalisation on BIO spirits in Maharashtra and West Bengal.
On the outlook, it said it was aiming to retain current demand momentum despite challenging near-term environment, expanding on new productivity initiatives, renovated portfolio well placed to benefit from ongoing premiumisation, and final stages of strategic review of popular brands.
Encouraging return to growth, good cash generation and increased dividend
Diageo posted its Interim Results, half year ended on the 31st December 2020 showing encouraging results, both in India and Globally which has prompted a rationalization of their portfolio and paring of debt. The Interim Results stated that the net sales (£6.9 billion) were down by 4.5%, as the organic growth of 1% was more than offset by unfavourable exchange. The operating profit (£2.2 billion) also declined by 8.3% due to the unfavourable exchange and a decline in organic operating profit.
However the organic net sales were up by 1%, despite a significant impact from Travel Retail and on-trade restrictions. The net sales in North America were also up by 12.3%, offsetting declines in other regions, except for Africa which was broadly flat. The growth in North America was driven by resilient consumer demand, share growth of total beverage alcohol, positive category mix and the replenishment of stock levels by distributors and retailers.
The report also stated that the organic operating profit was down by 3.4%, driven by the channel and category mix. The productivity benefits from everyday cost efficiencies largely offset cost of goods sold inflation. The Net Cash from the operating activities was up by £0.7 billion to £2 billion, and free cash flow was also up from £0.8 billion to £1.8 billion.
This primarily reflected a lower tax payment and working capital benefit driven by reduced creditor balances at the end of fiscal 2020, as a result of reduced sales demand and cost control measures triggered in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Creditor balances also recovered to more normalised levels.
The Basic eps of 67.6 pence decreased 14.6%. Pre-exceptional eps declined 12.8% to 69.9 pence, driven primarily by unfavourable exchange and lower operating profit. However the interim dividend increased 2% to 27.96 pence per share.
The improvement comes from the strong sequential performance in all regions compared to the second half of fiscal 2020. However, the manufacturer expects continued impact in the second half of fiscal 21 from on-trade restrictions and disruption to Travel Retail.
Speaking about the results Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive, Diageo said, “We delivered a strong performance in a challenging operating environment, returning to top line organic sales growth during the half. North America, our largest market, performed particularly strongly and ahead of our expectations. Consumer demand has been resilient and the spirits category continues to gain share of total beverage alcohol. Across other regions we delivered strong sequential improvement compared to the second half of fiscal 20. This reflects improved market share performance through excellent execution in the off-trade channel, and the partial re-opening of the on-trade channel in certain markets.”
Menezes expects the ongoing volatility and disruption in the second half of the year, particularly in the on-trade channel, which will make performance more challenging. However the medium and long-term growth drivers and opportunities for the business remain intact and he is confident in the strategy, the resilience of the business and Diageo’s ability to emerge stronger. The organic operating margin improved compared to the second half of fiscal 2020 increased driven by the operating leverage and tight control of discretionary expenditure. The decline compared to the first half of fiscal 2020 reflected an adverse channel and portfolio mix. Menezes expects the margins to improve as the on-trade and Travel Retail recover and with the continued benefit of everyday efficiency.
Diageo India Results
In India, United Spirits reported strong numbers for the third quarter of 2020-21, even though the recovery was not as strong as expected. Despite the current operational challenges, the company was able to report Quarter-On-Quarter (QOQ) volume and revenue growth of 7% and 16% respectively and bring its third quarter revenues close to that of the same period last year. Though more than 85% of trade channels like bars, pubs, and clubs are now operational, they are operating at a low capacity which has impacted the results. Due to Covid protocols and muted celebrations, small gatherings are replacing large events. On the other hand, off trade channels like home consumption are in the upswing and home delivery is also gathering pace.
The third quarter Net Profit also zoomed 79% QOQ, mostly because of the reduction in debt and fall in interest rates. There was a QOQ increase in margin and once volume recovers fully, margin is expected to improve further due to stable input costs and expected price hikes. Price hikes are muted currently due to tough market environments. There was a demand impact in Bengal, where United Spirits was forced to increase prices for its popular brands due to increase in excise rates by the state government.
Despite small improvement in the Covid situation, large celebrations and full capacity in trade channels are still a few quarters away and that explains why liquor companies have not been able to participate in the recent market rally. However, analysts say that these are short to medium term challenges and the long term story on liquor consumption in India is still intact. To increase its market share during these difficult times, United Spirits is focusing on off-trade channels. Home delivery is already showing good traction in states like Bengal and Maharashtra and similar trend is expected from other key states as well.
Diageo strategic Review of Selected Popular Brands
United Spirits Ltd. (“USL”) is also initiating a strategic review of selected Popular brands, continuing the strategy towards long-term profitable growth through premiumising the company’s portfolio. USL’s Popular portfolio comprises around 30 brands and the strategic review will focus on approximately half of this portfolio by volume. This review will not include the McDowell’s or Director’s Special trademarks.
The strategic review is expected to be completed by the end of the 2021 calendar year. Anand Kripalu, Managing Director & CEO, United Spirits Ltd commented, “This review reinforces USL’s and Diageo’s commitment to deliver sustainable long-term growth and improved profitability, through a sharpened focus on core Popular, Prestige and above brands, including international brands.
United Spirits management is also taking steps to reduce its debt further by selling non-core assets and by improving its working capital cycle. United Spirits is a company with strong free cash flows which will contribute towards its plans to become a debt-free company by 2022-23 he added.