Bar & Restaurant discussed where the the 191-year-old Irish brand that is Tullamore D.E.W. is heading with U.S. brand manager, Conor Neville. William Grant & Sons is celebrating 10 years since they added Tullamore D.E.W. to their portfolio and even during this pandemic, there seems to be little signs of slowing down. In addition to retail sales being on the rise, the team has also been able to reopen its impressive distillery, visitor center, and restaurant.
Bar & Restaurant: As the US brand manager for Tully, what shifts in consumer behavior have you seen as regards to consumption habits and preferences? How did COVID accelerate or change trends you were noticing leading up into March?
Neville: Despite the many business challenges posed by COVID-19 there are still some reasons for optimism. For example, we are seeing significant shifts in consumer purchase behavior. The Irish category has sustained average retail growth of >36% week over week since mid-March. We’re also seeing a big shift towards e-commerce with food and beverage being the fastest growing e-commerce category in the US. We expect this growth to sustain in the long run and as the channel grows, so too will our focus.
Bar & Restaurant: Based on e-commerce growing so fast, how can on-premise can take advantage of this trend in regards to helping them maintain or grow sales during this pandemic?
Neville: It has been an incredibly difficult year so far with the hospitality industry being one of the hardest hit. With ongoing disruption and uncertainty we’ve seen many bars & restaurants adapt their model to shift to online sales or carry out where possible, however in many cases this is not a sustainable model for the longer term. Getting to the point where we have the on premise reopen state by state is a big milestone and thankfully we are starting to see signs of recovery.
As expected consumer confidence in venue hygiene and social distancing precautions is having a huge influence on those choosing to return to the on premise. We’re working closely with our trade partners and the bartending community at wide to help support in the roll out of new initiatives that cater for a safe socializing environment.
Bar & Restaurant: Tullamore D.E.W. released “Beauty of Blend” well before the protest and renewed call for diversity and equality that sprung up this spring. In which ways is Tully focusing on this important initiative and how can operators come together to support this cause?
We first launched our global “Beauty of Blend” campaign back in 2017. The two things we’ve always aimed to champion through this work are the benefits of cultural diversity and social inclusiveness.
The idea of "blend" that the brand platform is built around brings together both ideas with facts about how the product is made (with a blend of three types of Irish whiskey), the history of the brand, and the traditions of Irish whiskey drinking.
That message has taken on more significant meaning over the last number of months. We at Tullamore DEW stand with our parent company William Grant & Sons in committing to use this moment as a powerful catalyst for change.
Bar & Restaurant: How has the reopening of your visitor center and restaurant gone so far?
Neville: It has been fantastic to welcome our team and the wider community back into the visitor center in recent weeks. The team have ensured the space is safe and compliant with all government regulations and along with recommencing tours, the restaurant and gift shop also re-opened
We’re lucky that our space boasts an ample outdoor seating area along the banks of the Grand Canal, allowing guests to enjoy a catch-up with friends in an airy atmosphere. Now all we need is the Irish sun to make a rare summer appearance!
[Editor's Note: The visitor centre has since reclosed but plans to reopen again on August 22nd.]
Bar & Restaurant: In less than 10 years, Tullamore will turn 200. How has the brand survived so long and why do you believe it will continue to last long after COVID-19?
Neville: People like the taste of Irish whiskey, people love the taste of Tullamore D.E.W. Our liquid quality and expertise is the engine that powers this brand and is why we are enjoyed the world over. Triple distilled and triple blended, Tullamore D.E.W. was the first and remains one of the few Irish whiskeys to pioneer this blend of three, which results in a smoother Irish whiskey with an added complexity. I think people also appreciate the authenticity, the heritage and everything that comes with close to two centuries of Irish whiskey making.
As a family owned and operated company, we have always employed a much longer term outlook which puts us in a more favourable position to navigate our way through the current storm.
There is still much uncertainty, but the brand is in good health as the largest Irish whiskey in many markets around the world. Our teams have worked incredibly hard to put in place a range of scenario models to ensure we rebound as and when the market conditions prevail.