At the company’s sleek UK head office on the 27th floor of the Shard in London, managing director for Gruppo Campri’s UK, Nordics and Eastern EU business, Pietro Mattioni, is revelling in the fact that his brands are aligned with the rise of better quality drinks.
Although the trend for premium is big, and much of Campari’s portfolio is aligned with it, Mattioni is not resting on his laurels and concedes a lot of hard work has gone into developing the Italian company’s successful position in the market since he launched the UK operations here in 2014.
Though it’s only just over three years since Gruppo Campari gave the go ahead for a permanent presence in the UK, turnover has doubled. “We have made significant progress in the UK and the company you see here today has come far from where we started,” he says. “Since 2014, all indicators are on the green side, sales are growing and this is pleasing me a lot because our hard work is paying off.”
This UK presence really only grew following Gruppo Campari’s acquisition of rum brand Appleton Estate in 2012, as the brand had an office and sales team based in London. Before then, Campari’s products were distributed in the UK by Matthew Clarke and other companies.
Success has been driven by Mattioni’s ethos of turning Brits on to the company’s brands through adapting them to UK culture, which he admits was not an easy thing to do for Italians and took some convincing of his superiors at global headquarters in Milan.
“One of the biggest mistakes international companies can often make when they are exporting their brands into new markets is to talk the language of the exporting country,” he explains. “But each market is different and has different habits and ways of drinking.”
Campari UK brands
- Cinzano 1757
- Skyy Vodka
- Skyy Infusions
- Wild Turkey Bourbon
- Espolon Tequila
- Appleton Estate rum
- Bulldog London Dry Gin
- Wild Turkey American Honey liqueur
- Gran Marnier
- Irish Mist
- Ouzo 12
“Our UK team is a replica of what you find in Britain,” he believes. “We have 47 staff of around 20 different nationalities and from different backgrounds, which creates a mini melting pot that tries to replicate what the UK is.”
The construction of his team, recognising that the makeup of UK consumers come from of many different nationalities and cultures, enables Campari UK to better adapt its products to the market here, he claims.
When Mattioni joined the company in 1998, Campari was the only brand available in the UK, but that has since expanded to around 40 brands, which are predominantly premium. He agrees it is fortuitous the way the portfolio has evolved and as such it is able to better tap into the rise of less but better drinking than some of its competitors.
“It is true that we are surfing the waves that 10 years ago weren’t here,” explains Mattioni. “There are some macro trends helping us, such as South European and Mediterranean styles that are helping with the success of the Aperol Spritz and the Negroni.”
Brits’ drinking habits, too, are working well for the company. According to recent Kantar Worldpanel research 80.4% of the population drink alcohol, compared with France (79.5%), Germany (77.2%), Spain (76.1%) and Italy (68.3%). There are plenty of customers to go around and Mattioni cites recent CGA data that shows the most popular time for Brits to drink is after work. “It’s from 5pm to 9pm where 45% of the consumption occasions in the UK take place, which is a chunky amount,” he adds.
This chunk of consumption between work and evening meals allows Campari to flex its apperitivo offerings – the Aperol Spritz and the Negroni, among others. “I think the word aperitivo in Britain is new, but on a consumption habit we can see from CGA’s data that the occasion is there.”
The aperitivo moment in Italy is one drink after work with small plates of food, while the UK’s apperitivo moment does not traditionally involve food, Mattioni chuckles at the fact crisps can be bought in every pub. “When we arrived here we had our mind switched onto the Italian aperitivo, but we had to switch it to the British one. Brits don’t say let’s go for an aperitivo after work, but will say let’s go for an Aperol Spritz.”
There is no denying Campari brought the Aperol Spritz to the UK and has grown it in major cities over the past few years, but what’s next for the company? “Without revealing or secrets, we listen to a lot of consumers and have an attentive look at trends and evolutions and we are working on what we think is going to be big next,” he says. He refuses to divulge little else, however.
One area where Mattioni does see growth is in classic cocktails, which like many others in the sector he believes will remain strong and even grow further. The pub, he says, is vital to the business’s future here in the UK and he stresses that having products marketed properly and serves prepared correctly in pubs is pivotal to growing brands.
“One of our classics is the Negroni and I’m so pleased to walk around and see so many being consumed, but sometimes there are exaggerations, where the Negroni is an umbrella and there are 20 variants under one style and three quarters don’t actually have Campari in them.” This is one of his bugbears as “there is no Negroni without Campari”.
That said, Campari is set to pump a significant amount of investment into the pub trade. “The pub trade has become more important,” he starts. “Globally, in the [spirits] market, grocers take the highest volume, but where you really make the brand is in the on-trade, so getting it present in pubs is a must.
“We’re dedicating an over proportional amount of resources into bars and pubs versus the other segments we operate in to make sure our brands are known and that our cocktails and drinks are being served properly by the bartenders.”
Guppo Campari’s UK presence has grown fast, even over the past year, with the Aperol Spritz and the Negroni leading the way. But, those who are interested will have to wait and see what the next big trend Mattioni and his team will pull out of the box to surf the waves of premium drinking.