Allied Blenders to repackage Officer’s Choice whisky brand

Allied Blenders also plans to introduce new premium spirits brands in the next financial year and expand its export footprint


First-time users go for white drinks, then beer and then as they mature they go into whisky, say experts. Photo: Mint
First-time users go for white drinks, then beer and then as they mature they go into whisky, say experts. Photo: Mint

Bengaluru: Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd (ABD) will repackage its Officer’s Choice Black semi-premium whisky, launch new premium whisky brands and export to more countries in the next financial year, company’s executives said.

The Officer’s Choice portfolio of whiskies—Officer’s Choice in the regular price segment, Officer’s Choice Black in the semi-premium category and Officer’s Choice Blue in the premium category—earns more than 90% of ABD’s total revenue. The company also makes Jolly Roger rum and Gorbatschow vodka.

ABD repackaged its Officer’s Choice whisky in 2008-09. In mid-2016, it again repackaged Officer’s Choice and Officer’s Choice Blue. It now plans to do the same for Officer’s Choice Black in the next financial year to align it more closely with the other two whiskys in the portfolio.

“As a brand, we believe that we need to continuously refresh ourselves to stay relevant to consumers. We last went for a brand renovation in 2008-09 and the time was ripe to incorporate changing consumer preferences,” said ABD’s marketing head, Ahmed Rahimtoola.

“Secondly, when we launched OCBlue, we had kept the identity very distinctive from Officer’s Choice to allow OCBlue to establish itself while retaining some assets from the Officer’s Choice visual identity. We have now decided to harmonise visual identity for the Officer’s Choice franchise.”

“Rejuvenation of the brand is essential in this category (liquor) especially to target first-time drinkers who have reached drinking age. If you don’t do rejuvenate then you run the risk of being known as a mature brand or an old-age brand,” said Ankur Bisen, senior vice-president of retail and consumer products at Technopak Advisors.

ABD also plans to introduce new premium spirits brands in the next financial year and expand its export footprint, its executive director Jeetu Hemdev said.

“It’s not as if first-time users go (straight) to Officer’s Choice. In the liquor segment, there is a gradual transition from one type of liquor to another—so, first-time users go for white drinks, then beer and then as they mature they go into whisky. So, whenever that transition is happening, it is important for the brand to be at the top of the mind of the consumers,” Bisen of Technopak added.

The company’s reinvention of its Officer’s Choice whisky brand from 2008 made it to a case study at Harvard Business School and highlighted the key role played by marketing in the process.

In calendar year 2008, ABD was selling 6.6 million cases per year of its Officer’s Choice whisky in the regular segment, which rose to 26 million cases in FY16. Its market share in the regular whisky category has grown from 26% in FY13 to 40% in FY16, according to data from its filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC).

The company’s top export destination for its Officer’s Choice whiskies is currently the UAE. It also has a presence in some parts of Africa, Singapore and Hong Kong and the plan is to take it to Kenya next.

“We will be intensely concentrating on exports for our OCBlue segment. As of now Officer’s Choice is doing well in Middle East and Africa. We are also exploring other markets like the USA and South America for our exports business,” Hemdev said.

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