Tennent Caledonian, the UK division of C&C Group, has revealed plans to launch a whisky-flavoured beer this summer, when the first liquid will be shipped to India. Markets in the Far East, including Singapore, will also be targeted.
C&C said the new beer will form part of its campaign to revive sales of Tennent's overseas – it was one of the UK's biggest beer exporters in the 19th century –and to capitalise on the surging demand for whisky products around the world.
The beer will be made at the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow using whisky-flavoured woodchips. The "high-end product" will have 6.2% alcohol by volume and ultimately be sold in the domestic market once it has a foothold overseas.
Tennent Caledonian hopes the launch will help open up the whisky beer category internationally following the impact made by Innis & Gunn, which exports to North America, Scandinavia and other countries. C&C insists the product is not designed to go head to head with Innis & Gunn and aimed at exploiting the potential of Tennent's abroad.
That potential was underlined as C&C delivered its full-year results yesterday, which revealed a 2.7% rise in pre-tax profits to €109 million (£91.2m) for the year to February 28. Net revenue fell 5.5% to €476.9m as factors including poor weather saw revenue slump by 15.9% to €195.8m in the company's cider division.
Alongside Magners, Hornsby's and Woodchuck, the latter acquired by C&C with its purchase of Vermont Hard Cider Company in December, Tennent's contributed to a 52% rise in international revenue to €48.5m.
Stephen Glancey, CEO of C&C Group, said: "We are growing Tennent's in Ireland, north and south, and internationally. The international markets like Canada, Australia and Ireland are very attractive to Tennent's and Scotland, and we will develop that further."
It came as Tennent Caledonian delivered what Mr Glancey said has been a "robust performance in a challenging environment" in the UK. Operating profit rose by 34.7% to €30.3m, up from €22.5m, with revenue up 2.6% to €229.3m.
The volume of Tennent's Lager sold in the independent free trade and local multiple groups in the Scottish on-trade rose by 3.3%, boosting market share, while Caledonia Best become the number two selling ale in pubs and bars in Scotland.
Mr Glancey said the decision to acquire Tennent Caledonian from AB InBev in 2009 was proving to be a "very good deal". Under C&C, Tennent Caledonian has presented itself as a "friend of the on-trade in Scotland". It has extended its loan book to pub operators by more than £20m, pegged the price of Tennent's Lager for the past two years, and invested £5m in the Tennent's Training Academy and opening a bottling line at Wellpark.
Mr Glancey said: "The business itself we have grown through gaining the development of Tennent's Lager and getting distribution in the independent free trade [pubs] in Scotland.
"We have also extended the footprint from Tennent's into Caledonia Best, which in 25 years in the industry has been the most extraordinary launch I have seen. We have also, in terms of the business, pushed with Magners and Blackthorn cider, so we are offering our customers a portfolio of products, which has clearly then driven our earnings."
Meanwhile, the prospects for C&C's UK cider division appear more challenging. Amid what the company said was the first volume fall experienced by the GB cider category in the past decade, cider revenues fell 15.9% to €195.8m. Poor summer weather and a lack of impact from the Olympics and football's European Championships were cited as the volume of Magners sold slid by 13.9%.
Although trading stabilised in the second half of the year, C&C anticipates "another challenging year".
Last year the company established a new cider division, the Shepton Mallet Cider Mill, which it said would provide a platform for selling regional, craft and specialist brands including Addlestones, Blackthorn and Old English.