Part 4: Embracing New Purchase Channels

It is no secret – and no surprise – that the Scotch Whisky industry is looking to reimage itself.  While the industry aims to maintain its status as the epitome of quality, purity, and premium in the whisky world, it also needs to appeal to a new generation of drinkers, and that means shedding its associations with tartan-clad Scots, the old boys’ club, and your grandfather’s stuffy drinks cabinet.  With Bourbon, Irish, and Japanese whiskies all on a tear, Scotch can ill afford to fall behind, especially as these other whiskies gain favor among younger consumers.

We have already looked at how the industry is introducing bold flavors to reach appeal to Millennial taste profiles, new Scotch packaging designs to better stand out and tell stories on-shelf, and how Scotch brands are repositioning themselves with messages relevant to a new generation of consumers .  The last element to be investigated is the new purchase channels and routes to market being embraced by the Scotch industry, and the spirits industry at large.

Purchase

Despite tight regulations on the sale of alcohol brands are getting creative in how they leverage new technologies to get more product into the hands of consumers and the Scotch industry is no different.

The first is the general rise of online purchase options.  From simple eCommerce and on-demand ordering to a smattering of whisky of the month clubs, to companies that will curate or offer selections of miniature bottles for sampling before buying, there is more access than ever to a wider range of malts.

As well as being easy to get hold of, there are also brands springing up to make Scotch easier to drink.  Akin to the Blue Apron model, Carry-on cocktails sells miniature packages with all the ingredients needed to mix up a cocktail, partnering with The Glenlivet to offer an on-the-go Hot Toddy and with Highland Park for a “smoky old-fashioned.”  Whilst they don’t come with the Scotch itself, they open up a new conversation around Scotch and encourage safe exploration and trial.

Perhaps the most novel approach to getting Scotch in the hands of younger drinkers is a new whisky vending machine at London’s Napoleon Hotel, which itself exudes Millennial vibes.  The machine houses a wide range of super premium Single Malts repackaged into 1.5oz re-sealable soft shelled container.  Sold for £7.95, these single serves present an inviting and low-risk way to explore a diverse range of malts and styles and to help guide consumers’ choice, each pack features tasting note icons that are both aesthetically and linguistically befitting of the emoji generation.

From our examination across the 4 P’s of product, packaging, positioning and purchase channels, it is clear that the Scotch category is looking to modernize. It will prove an ongoing balancing act to maintain its premium image and its storied heritage while adopting the language and design of a new consumer target that, while enamored by heritage, is critical of the past and prefers to define its own brand relationships on its own terms.

BY ENGINEER Charlie Rodman

charlie.rodman@thevalueengineers.com