Mixability: Changing partners

Related tags Mixed drinks Malibu

While there are are innovative licensees and managers all over the UK, as well as pub companies that have seen the light when it comes to investing...

While there are are innovative licensees and managers all over the UK, as well as pub companies that have seen the light when it comes to investing in mixed drinks, there still needs to be more input from brand owners themselves. Here we profile two major players in the spirits world that are ploughing millions into teaching licensees about better mixed drinks.

Pernod Ricard

Pernod Ricard UK (PRUK) has spent more than £3m in the past three years on its 'perfect serve' initiative, aimed at improving the quality of mixed drinks in pubs. Certain brands have received major attention throughout this programme with £1.6m being spent on Malibu alone.

The company has also set up a Bar Excellence programme which helps with category management as well as sampling and poster campaigns, press, advertorials, on-trade point-of-sale and experiential activities.

Jo Spencer, head of marketing at PRUK, says it is vital licensees buy into the idea of improving their mixed drink offer. "A correctly served long drink encourages repeat purchase and higher levels of customer satisfaction, which can translate into increased profit margins," she says.

"Careful presentation of long mixed drinks adds visual appeal and enhances the flavour."

However, she stresses that offering a range of mixed drinks is not just about throwing together something obvious and well-tested - a good mix has to show originality.

"It is all about premiumisation and innovation," she says.

"A quality mixed drink is an indication of a premium offering and we have seen that consumers are increasingly seeking premium experiences.

"So we are aiming to give them a more 'innovative' mixer option, such as Jameson and ginger, which will prompt trial and encourage talkability.

In Jameson's case it allows the brand to 'own' that mix suggestion."

A good example of this has been PRUK's perfect serve campaign with Malibu. Consumers usually drink it with cola - an odd mix when you think about it as you are essentially mixing a sweet taste with an even sweeter taste. So PRUK decided to team Malibu up with cranberry and serve it over ice with a slice of lime. "It is not only a more innovative and premium way to enjoy Malibu," says Jo, "but consumers find it more refreshing.

"New consumers are twice as likely to come back to the brand if they sample it with cranberry." MaxxiumMaxxium, which markets and distributes brands such as The Famous Grouse and Absolut, last month announced plans to invest a whopping £3.5m over three years to help improve the quality of mixed drinks - specifically by training barstaff in bars and pubs.

The whole programme is called Mixxit and it is clearly something that Maxxium sees as fundamental to its whole strategy.

"This is driven by our passion for the on-trade," says Jim Grierson, on-trade sales director at Maxxium. "Training is fundamental to our whole approach. The key is training bartenders to use good practice consistently." Maxxium intends to roll the training programme out to more than 25,000 UK bartenders over the next three years.

The first step in this strategy has already been taken with the training of its entire sales division - ranging from the luxury team - which deals with style bars - to the classic team - which works with mainstream pubs. "They have all been trained how to make better long drinks," says Jim.

Part of the training has been to come up with ideas for better mixed drinks - according to Jim these include Plymouth Gin and tonic with a twist of elderflower and Famous Grouse with Appletiser.As part of the initiative the company has also built a state-of-the-art training room for licensees and barstaff which will be used for large chunks of training run by the company's in-house mixologists Wayne Collins and Andy Gemmell.

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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