Tom Day, President of Diageo Beer Company USA, attributes growth to consumers’ quest for great, innovative beers. Throw in authenticity and 257 years of brewing history and you have a platform for success.
Established brands – even those with a pristine pedigree like Guinness, have had a tough row to hoe in the wake of the American craft beer phenomenon. But consumers are once again taking cues from well-known, premium brands known for the quality of their flavorful beers.
The numbers show that Guinness’s strategy of innovation, supported by TV and digital marketing, is resonating with beer drinkers. Heady Times caught up with Tom Day who explains why this venerable brand is now more relevant than ever before.
Tom Day has been at the helm of Diageo Beer Company USA – formerly known as Diageo-Guinness USA, for just a year and a half. But in these past 18 months, his company’s portfolio, and most notably Guinness Stout, has posted some impressive wins. Guinness sales trends, as tracked by Nielsen sales analytics, are outpacing overall category growth in both volume and dollar sales. And Guinness’s performance has helped Diageo Beer Company USA gain share for 23 out of the last 27 periods in Nielsen.
“That Guinness is in growth is a sign that our beers, our brands and our storytelling are resonating with beer drinkers. In the past, some consumers may have been hesitant to order a Guinness. Many of them are now trying it and we hear very positive feedback,” Day said.
With the spotlight on craft and new beers, Diageo is attracting a new cadre of drinkers who are on the hunt for interesting products. By introducing beers perfected at their experimental brewery called the Open Gate Brewery – located in Dublin at St. James’s Gate, the company has generated a great deal of buzz with its release of Guinness Nitro IPA, Antwerpen Stout and Guinness Rye Pale Ale. (Another new beer, Guinness Blonde American Lager, has also been well-received, but it isn’t made in Dublin.) This endeavor to release new beers and some from the brewery’s archives is called The Brewers’ Project. Consumers can sample two of the new beers, Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter, in The Brewers’ Collection variety pack.
Before St. Patrick’s Day, the Open Gate Brewery will release a new seasonal, Guinness Irish Wheat. It’s a full-bodied beer made with Irish wheat, perfectly balanced with notes of citrus zest and subtle clove. This beer is unique because it is made with Guinness’s proprietary top fermenting yeast which amplifies the beer’s distinctive hefeweizen characteristics.
The exceptional brewers at the Open Gate Brewery are making beers that complement their iconic stout and these offerings have created more excitement and interest in Guinness Stout. With so many taste profiles, there is a Guinness for everyone that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Day commented, “I am pleased that our brewers are experimenting with lighter and darker beers to interpret what Guinness can be. But I am also delighted that they are finding ways to stay true to Guinness.”
Great beer is certainly in Guinness’s DNA, but the message has to reach the consumer at retail. To get the word out, Day and company created the Guinness Beer Study. Taught by Diageo on-premise specialists, it’s an hour-long Guinness and beer training program for bar staff that covers beer and brewing knowledge, the history of Guinness, how to store and serve Guinness for best results and a full tutored tasting of their beers. “We’ve executed it in hundreds of accounts nationwide and we’re getting incredible feedback.”
To wrap things up, we asked Day to share his thoughts about what’s in store for Diageo Beer Company. “For me, there’s something magical when everything lines up: great communications, great advertising, fantastic new beers, eyecatching POS and a world of information about our beers for people to discover. I am very optimistic about our future. Consumers continue to trade up, and the high-end is winning. We are a premium business and our entire portfolio sits in the high-end. I’d say that’s a great place to be.”