The booming market for brown spirits has attracted numerous new consumers. A full 25% of whiskey purchases are now made by new entrants to the category, according to global drinks company Diageo.
This does create potential problems, though, when it comes to their purchases.
People may want to try whiskey, but are not sure where to begin. Or they have have drank and enjoyed the spirit, but are unsure what exactly about it they liked. Complicating matters is that the category is so diverse and complex. There’s a lot to learn.
So how do you buy a bottle of whiskey without that critical knowledge?
Diageo believes it has created a solution for retailers. The maker of Johnnie Walker and Bulleit Bourbon, among other popular whiskey brands, recently launched its Whiskey 5 program.
“The idea is that we want to do more than just put up a display case. We want to help educate consumers,” explains Steve Wallet, Diageo’s VP of Category Development & Shopper Marketing.
Whiskey 5 includes endcaps, stackable wooden crates and display cases labeled with five taste profiles that describe different whiskeys. These are: sweet, spicy, bold, smoky, and smooth. Retailers can stock products appropriately within these parameters.
Crown Royal fits the “smooth” profile, for instance, while Bulleit Rye is a at home in “spicy.” Without this helpful information, Wallet explains, uninformed customers will likely judge the qualities of a whiskey on its price. This can cause issues, of course. If someone does not like smoky whisky but purchases a pricey Islay Scotch, they will be unhappy.
“We want to help build shoppers’ knowledge and confidence,” Wallet says.
The program rolled out in September and October, with a goal of entering the top 5,000 accounts. It can also help the customer who is not buying a bottle for themself. “Someone might be out shopping for their significant other, or for guests at their party,” Wallet says.
The off-premise program also includes free booklets that help customers determine what flavor profiles they prefer. If someone enjoys Mexican food, for example, then they will also probably like spicy whiskeys.
Moreover, a corresponding website, whiskey5.com, questions users about preferred flavors. It then plus answers into an algorithm that determines what whiskeys users would enjoy. “It really is pretty accurate,” Wallet says. “People spend on average over three minutes per visit. They have interest in exploring.”
Of those 25% of whiskey buyers who are new customers, 60% are women and 50% are Millennials, according to Diageo. “We have a whole new group of clientele who don’t have enough experience yet and who want to learn more,” Wallet says. “Millennials in particular want to learn. To them that’s a social currency.”
“For me, that was a big ‘a-ha’ moment. It’s now about more than just having a drink,” he continues. “It’s about showing up at a party with a whiskey and having the knowledge to show it off and be the ‘mayor’ of the party. Whiskey 5 gives people the knowledge and confidence to do that.”
Diageo is executing Whiskey 5 across all channels: grocery, independent, control, mass, drug, liquor, chain and club.