Thursday 26 February 2009

The decline of Paddy and Powers

It's an uncomfortable fact that I don't report much on those big Irish whiskey brands, Powers and Paddy. The truth is I never hear anything about them. Their stablemate in the Pernod Ricard portfolio, Jameson, gets all the attention.

While Pernod has done a wonderful job selling Jameson to the world and raising the profile of Irish whiskey at home and abroad, Powers and Paddy have languished in the home market.

The three brands were once made by three different companies that merged in the 1960s to form Irish Distillers (IDL). Under the IDL banner they retained their distinctiveness and the allegiances they had built up among whiskey drinkers.

Pernod Ricard took over IDL in 1988 and since then have put their marketing and distribution muscle exclusively behind Jameson. This inevitably had its effect, even in Ireland, where Jameson replaced Powers as the most popular Irish whiskey a few years ago.

I haven't been able to put numbers on this up till now because Powers and Paddy are completely ignored in the Pernod financial reports. But we now have those figures, courtesy of an article in today's Irish Times:
Ten years ago, 225,000 cases of Powers were sold annually in Ireland.

Since then, according to data compiled by International Wine and Spirit Record, Powers sales have declined by almost 40 per cent. ...

The result is that, while in 1998 Powers outsold Jameson in Ireland by 75,000 cases, by 2007 Jameson was outselling Powers by 120,000 cases.

In the same period, Paddy sales declined by 40,000 cases.
The final line echoes the worries we have all had regarding Pernod's stewardship of these heritage brands:
... you have to wonder whether Irish Distillers is adopting the correct strategy with three mass market brands of basically the same product in such a small market.
I'm sure that's how it looks in Paris but an Irish whiskey drinker will tell you that Paddy, Powers and Jameson are very different products, despite being made in the same plant in Midleton. While all three are blends, Powers is the spicy one, with a higher pure pot still content than Jameson. Paddy is the lightest, and contains malt whiskey alongside the grain and pure pot still. All are excellent everyday whiskeys and it would be a tragedy to lose any of them.

The good news reported in the same article is that Irish Distillers is beginning a €500,000 ad campaign in Ireland to boost the profile of Powers. Perhaps Irish drinkers could help the effort to preserve these historic brands by replacing the Jameson in their glasses by Paddy or Powers.