FRENCH spirits group Pernod Ricard has said it anticipates growth in 2024 despite a “soft start” to the year, pointing to revenue declines in the first quarter in the United States and China, both critical markets for the company.

The owner of Scotch whisky brands The Glenlivet and Ballantine’s, Absolut vodka, Beefeater gin and Martell cognac reported sales in the three months to the end of September in excess of €3 billion, an organic decline of 2% year on year.

However, the company said the outlook remained positive for China where an economic slowdown dampened demand. In the US, inventory adjustments and normalising sales after a post-Covid surge resurgence had led to a sales decline.

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Pernod noted that this weaker performance was “partially offset” by a “very dynamic performance in the rest of Asia, modest growth in India, resilience in Europe and stability in travel retail, illustrating the group’s broad and diversified geographic footprint”.

Alexandre Ricard, chairman and chief executive, said: “As expected, we experienced a soft start to the year, yet I am encouraged we have largely offset declines in US and China this quarter, thanks to our good performance in other markets.

“Our strategy over many years has been to build a diversified portfolio and broad geographic footprint across mature and emerging markets. This strategy provides us with the resilience to weather challenging times enabling a consistently solid performance.

“In the months to come I look forward to sharing exciting brand activations and innovations across our full portfolio, and I am confident that we can deliver broad-based and diversified organic sales growth in the full year 2024.”

Pernod, owner of Chivas Brothers, the world’s second-biggest producer of Scotch after Diageo, noted that its “strategic international brands” declined by 3%, mainly driven by Martell in China, Jameson and Absolut in the US, and Chivas Regal in Latin America.

This was partly offset by a strong performance from Ricard and Perrier-Jouët, and growth from Ballantine’s, The Glenlivet, Malibu and Royal Salute.

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However, there was growth of 5% in its “strategic local brands” division – the only division to grow – with “good momentum” from the Seagram whiskies portfolio, Olmeca, and Kahlua.

Pernod’s “specialty brands division was down 6% during the quarter but good performances from Altos tequila and Jefferson’s bourbon “more than offset” decline of Lillet apéritif and Monkey 47 gin, notably in Europe.