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Will it all be different this time around for the whisky industry?

Scotch whisky distiller Edrington has unveiled an investment of more than £100 million aimed in large measure at increasing production of The Macallan single malt.

The investment by the Glasgow-based independent comes at a time when the industry as a whole is making very big moves indeed to ramp up capacity to meet global demand.

This is an industry prone in decades past to at-times-painful cycles, with investment in production followed by problems of over-capacity. So will it all be different this time?

Usually, it is well worth being extremely wary of claims from any company, industry, or politician that the world has changed and the troubles of the past will never again rear their ugly heads.

We have seen the wisdom of such wariness over the decades, in the pattern of economic boom and bust in the UK and elsewhere.

In the UK, we have also seen plenty of housing market cycles. Ahead of the onset of the global financial crisis six years ago, people who should have known a lot better were arguing the UK housing market had very solid support from supply and demand fundamentals, failing to a sometimes staggering degree to take into account the fact home-buyers had to meet their monthly mortgage payments.

And the sub-prime mortgage bond boom and bust which triggered the global financial crisis bears remarkable similarities to developments in financial markets back in the 1980s, albeit things were on a much larger and more damaging scale in the most recent manifestation.

So it is always vital, when planning for the future, to look back.

The leaders of Scotch distillers are well aware of the industry's history.

And they tend to be much more conservative than the bonus-fuelled high-fliers in financial markets.

So you can bet they will have been asking themselves whether the latest wave of investment in production capacity for Scotch could end in tears.

The wave is high and wide.

Diageo last year announced plans to ramp up capacity by investing £1 billion in its Scotch whisky business. Pernod Ricard, owner of Chivas Regal and Ballantine's, is also investing heavily to enable it to increase production.

Edrington, which has grown into a major global player under the ownership of a charitable trust, announced yesterday that it was building a new distillery for The Macallan, which would have "significantly" more capacity than the existing one. The Macallan, like other upmarket single malts, has enjoyed huge success in recent years, turning in a stellar performance in the US and doing well in other markets. Edrington highlighted "growing demand from existing and new international markets" for the single malt.

Sir Ian Good, who stepped down as chairman of Edrington on July 31 after more than four decades with the company, has signalled a belief that the Scotch whisky industry is not as vulnerable as in the past to over-capacity problems arising from fluctuations in demand. He believes it will be cushioned by its spread of overseas markets. There are few, if any, better placed to offer a view.

In recent months, there has been a sharp focus on how luxury goods producers are performing in China, amid the Communist country's "anti-extravagance" programme.

Pernod Ricard has encountered less buoyant sales of Scotch whisky in China recently. Edrington yesterday made it plain it had seen no slowdown in China in terms of The Macallan.

However, it is important not to focus only on China. The Scotch Whisky Association said in September that the value of the industry's exports came in at £1.987bn in the first half, up 11% from £1.787bn in the opening six months of 2012 as a further leap in sales to the US overshadowed weakness in some Asian markets including China. It is worth noting that the US proved an incredibly resilient market for Scotch even in the depths of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

The world is changing fast. After all, who would, during the Cold War, have envisaged the recent talk of a "space race" between India and China?

We should not under-estimate the appetite in countries with a fast-growing middle class for expensive, luxury brands. India is a market with big potential for Scotch, as shown by Diageo's acquisition of a big stake in Vijay Mallya's United Spirits.

Then there is the potential in South America, in countries such as Brazil.

Africa too is looking increasingly attractive to Scotch whisky producers.

So maybe it will be different this time. There are undoubtedly very exciting newer territories for Scotch, and some mature markets, notably the US, have provided the industry with just as much of an adrenalin kick.

The success of the Scotch whisky industry in recent years has proved a real tonic, especially given the grim times many other parts of the Scottish economy have endured.

While the world is moving fast, premium Scotch whisky, by its very nature, takes many years to produce. While distillers should keep asking themselves whether things still look different this time, it is probably more important they do not miss out on the opportunities out there.

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