Nick Temperley, head of Diageo Reserve department, called it the “most exciting product to cross my desk in 10 years at Diageo”.
He told OLN: “If ever a Scotch was going to shake up the category it’s Haig Club.
“The category has a tailwind at the moment: after many years of being stagnant, whisky is now in growth in the UK. It’s the ultimate craft product and this is a brand that comes from the House of Haig, Scotland’s oldest distilling family.
“You have the partnership with David Beckham and Simon Fuller, and a TV ad directed by Guy Ritchie. It’s a premium product and we believe it will bring new life into the whisky category.”
Diageo believes 90% of consumers will be hit by the £4 million Beckham-fronted ad campaign and expects widespread distribution in supermarkets, convenience stores and independents.
It said it is trying to move away from chasing volumes and aims to bring value to the spirits category. The Diageo Reserve portfolio, which includes Tanqueray gin, Zapaca rum and the premium Johnnie Walker labels, is a particular focus.
Premium spirits – defined as having a price point of 10% above the market leader or higher – are up 23% in the UK off-trade (Nielsen, year to October 2014).
Temperley said: “It’s part of the spirits industry that’s in growth and we have a group of brands that are in good shape. We are about 12%-13% of the Diageo business and we have an ambition to take that to 20% over time.”
Diageo has also recruited 40 extra field sales staff and plans to double its fleet of mini-vans in a bid to reach more stores.
John Collins, field sales manager, said: “We have ambitious plans and the field sales team is going to play a much more prominent role. We are putting more feet on the streets.
“They can sell products, deliver stock, take cash collections, carry out quality checks, train staff.”
The supplier is gearing up for the Christmas trading period and urged retailers to give spirits the space they deserve. Category development manager James Cragg said: “Last Christmas spirits grew £77 million over the 12 weeks [Nielsen, to January 4, 2014], more than three times the growth of beer or sparkling wine.”
* Smirnoff’s packaging is being overhauled across the range to make it “simpler, more contemporary and drive visibility on-shelf”. The redesign on the core vodka goes live next april, while smirnoff ice’s redesign will appear in January. Smirnoff also has two new premixed can variants – smirnoff cosmopolitan and smirnoff moscow mule – and the new design is live on them immediately.
* A £3.5 million ad campaign for Baileys kicks off on november 26. Diageo will give out samples of the popular cream liqueur to 1 million consumers in the run up to christmas.