We are committed to growing and investing in Nigeria, says Glenmorangie’s CEO
Glenmorangie is one of the finest and most awarded single malt scotch whiskies with years of innovation and craftmanship with a wide range of delicious highland single malt scotch whiskies from the core expressions, limited expressions and prestige expressions. Thomas Moradpour, the President and CEO of the Glenmorangie company during his visit to Lagos, Nigeria spoke with Kelechi Ewuzie on the business growth and sustainability plans for Glenmorangie.
You joined LVMH in 2014 as Chief Marketing Officer for Hennessy and now president and CEO of the Glenmorangie Company, how has the transition been so far?
Well, the transition to the role of president and CEO of Glenmorangie Company happened four years ago. I have always been a brand person throughout my career. So, the position of president is not different.
I would say the magic that the company does lies in the combination of the heritage of the brands, the truth of whisky making, the vibrancy and the quality of the brands which the market is excited about and enjoys. This heritage is very much rooted in over 200 years of history and decades of whisky making by a very talented team.
What makes Glenmorangie different from the other Glens?
Glenmorangie is a single scotch whisky. There is a lot in common between single malt scotch whiskies. They are all made following the same rule book with the same heritage of centuries of whisky-making in Scotland which is probably the best whisky-making region in the world.
Over the years, I have learned to appreciate the way the Scots do whisky and have been doing it for centuries. Also, the quality of the ingredients, the stringency of the rules, and the passion of the whisky maker. There are the distillation teams and the warehouse teams who care for liquids with very strict rules for decades.
Glenmorangie follows these rules. So, what makes the Glenmorangie brand special, is the style of the brand which is a unique taste profile that comes from the way it is made and the shape of our styles.
It is difficult not to like the flavor and taste profile of Glenmorangie. The style is unique. Our quest for excellence is unique, we make absolutely no compromise on quality.
What sets us apart is also our creativity which stems from the leadership of our director of whisky distilling, Creation, and stocks – Dr Bill Lumsden. He has been with the company for 25 years, he has been recognised as a master distiller of the year, five times in the last six years. He is the absolute best in the game, and he makes us the most delicious whiskies in the world.
From a brand standpoint, what also sets us apart is that we are obsessed with making it perfect with very strict rules. All we want is for the Nigerian consumer to know that Glenmorangie is well-made and delicious. It can be enjoyed any way they like.
We have had the pleasure of enjoying the Glenmorangie Whisky in Nigeria since 2018, how has the growth been and what would you consider as huge opportunity areas for the brand?
The huge opportunity areas of the Glenmorangie brand in Nigeria are massive. There is absolutely no doubt that the brand has seen and enjoyed an amazing level of growth in the last 12 months.
We have quite doubled the size of the business in the last 12 months, which is extraordinary. This is a business that has been multiplied by five in the last five years. So, if you compare that with the normal pace of growth of a single malt scotch. Brands that have ambition in our category doubles every 10 years in volume.
Nigeria is a market where there is a desire and appetite for quality, well-made spirits and experiences and I believe that we are capable of delivering on that and Glenmorangie is the best you can find in single malt scotch. So, we are poised for great growth in Nigeria.
How have you been able to navigate the impact of the pandemic while growing the Glenmorangie brand?
Glenmorangie came out from the pandemic stronger than we have ever been. 2022, for instance, was the strongest year on record. Contrary to many brands, or many categories, we did not have a dip during the pandemic at all.
The thing about our category and about our brands is that it is extremely resilient. People want to enjoy good quality even if they are stuck at home. So, we noticed a lot of changes in consumers’ behaviour when it comes to drinking. Typically, what people did during the pandemic was that they treated themselves at home to drinks and got very creative with their drinking experiences.
So, that’s where I would say we benefited because many consumers experienced Glenmorangie and discovered that they liked it and it has since remained that way with them.
Truth is, once you have tasted the good stuff, you don’t want to go back. So, it’s been positive for us. We also had to learn to adapt, learn to be agile in any situation, to seize opportunities when they come, to evolve in our focus with regards our activities, advertising, promotions, and whatever innovation we need to be successful.
There has been a recent pack upgrade on the Glenmorangie core range. What is the rationale behind the upgrade and how has the acceptance been so far?
The change in packaging is the most visible manifestation of our desire to be an inviting brand, to be a brand that reaches beyond the existing core traditional consumers of single malt.
It is a brand which is about recruitment, new consumers, both old and young, as much as it is a brand that is about the utmost quality and tradition. So, we wanted our packaging to be an invitation letter to new consumers to experience us. Our new whisky packaging is vibrant, playful, and very colourful.
Glenmorangie is far more prominent than it was before now due to the new upgrade. With this new package, it is much easier to know and identify what type of whisky you are buying, the type of cast, type of flavour profile a consumer wants because it is now much more visible on the box. We want to educate our consumers; we want them to know what they are drinking.
So, it’s about making it easy, and approachable, not raising artificial barriers for consumers. We want to make sure that the consumers can find us and be able to buy into the brand and what it represents like enjoying the deliciousness of whiskies as well as the playfulness of our experiences.
How does the brand imbibe sustainability in its culture?
Sustainability for Glenmorangie is a key part of our DNA. The brand has been around for over 200 years in history. We are in Scotland and a part of the world which is beautiful and rural protected.
So, for us, the notion that there is a future, and we must think about it for consumers, planet, community, and specific environment is ingrained in who we are. We have been in the same place for 200 years. We will still be there in 200 years and for that to happen, it means there must be water in that location where the distillery is.
So, that has always been part of our concern and continues to be. Therefore, we do things that make sure we reduce our footprints on the environment. We make the community a better place to live in and think about the natural implication of what we do.
Specifically, we made a very significant multi-million pounds investment in what is called an anaerobic digestion plant. The AD is a process through which bacteria breaks down the by-products of whisky production, turning them into biogas which is used to generate clean green energy.
This also helps in water quality and biodiversity as it takes the organic effluence from the plant and further enhances the water quality used in Dornoch Firth where the distillery is.
We have used about 90 percent of the purified water by that plant to generate methane. We use that methane to power this distillery. This covers a little over 15 percent of energy cost, which enables us to both make the field cleaner and lower our consumption of fossil fuels.
Glenmorangie has also invested with Heriot Watt University in an initiative called Deep where we restored a reef of native oysters which has been extinct in that region for over a century.
We created a project for a year that took years to restore a reef with 1000s oysters. Oysters are natural sea filters. The oyster can filter around 400 litres of water and those oysters will clean all the rest so that everything that is not cleaned by the plant will be cleaned so that the environment is perfectly clean. This contributes to the biodiversity of the environment and makes it sustainable.
We are building lots of warehouses in the region to put all the new whisky that we are creating. We are also increasing our stock, and we make sure that those warehouses meet world-class construction standards to minimise co2 and be as sustainable as possible. We are going to reduce the use of packaging by making it lighter. The new bottle is slightly lighter than the previous one and every step we take is to reduce the glass and carton.
All of these are ingrained in our processes and way of life because as the current custodians of the Glenmorangie brand that has existed for 200 years. We must think about the next 200 years and see ourselves as the carriers of the business brand that has the ambition to give our successors a much better-shaped brand than our predecessors.
How has becoming a part of the LVMH group impacted Glenmorangie? What has changed since then?
In the last four years, Joining LVMH has further energised Glenmorangie and made it fit for today’s world and consumers. Glenmorangie has been transformed. The way Glenmorangie presents itself to the world has evolved to become more welcoming, more playful, more modern and more innovative.
We have increased quite significantly the number of new products that we have presented and offered to our consumers around the world. This has presented an opportunity for consumers to discover whisky in a new light and for our whisky maker to express their creativity with award winning new whisky.
There has been a lot of innovation. We have transformed our high-end offer. So, it is now possible to enjoy extraordinarily rare and precious whisky like Glenmorangie, which were not offered during our private sale.
The brand is successful in Nigeria because the consumer has a particular appetite for it which is great. Beyond that, we have 25-year-old whiskies. We have rare whiskies, and we now sell single cast to private clients, which is a service that did not exist in the past.
The stretching of the brand towards luxury has accelerated Glenmorangie as a luxury brand undeniably. Now, it has been firmly established in the last few years.
We have prepared with the team for future success. So, our view is that we are going to be successful to achieve that, we will need at least twice as much whisky in 10 years than we sell today.
So, for that reason, we have made over the last few years the necessary investments to increase the capacity of our distilleries, increase the capacity of our warehouses, and increase the capacity of our bottling plants to enable us achieve full success.
We are quite bullish about it because it also shows the cultural traits of this company. We believe that we are going to be successful. We are very optimistic about that.
In the same vein, we are very laser-focused about what we can do in Nigeria. We are seeing great response and that is a great cultural fit between Nigeria and Glenmorangie. We are globally quite ambitious; this has been a strong trait of the brand over the last four years.
What’s the best way to enjoy Glenmorangie whisky?
Consumers can enjoy the Glenmorangie whisky anyhow they like. We are as strict about how to make delicious whisky, but we are relaxed about how to enjoy it. There are rules in Scotch whisky, lots of rules about how to make it and how to make it right. However, there are no rules about how to drink it. There are many ways that you can enjoy the great Glenmorangie whisky. It can be savoured in the traditional way. Neat, on the rocks, you can add some water to open the flavours. You can also enjoy it with a mixer if you like an easier to drink or a sweeter experience. You can also get creative and make fantastic cocktails with Glenmorangie.
Frankly, I have not yet found one way that I enjoy Glenmorangie because it is a very robust product.
Are there any product innovation plans for Glenmorangie in Nigeria?
The plan for Nigeria is to continue to invest largely in the market. We have a strong local team who love building the brand and for us it’s about having Glenmorangie in the right place, with the right experiences and the right points of distribution to make Glenmorangie a leading whisky brand in the future.
Some of our big bets are largely focused on our core expression, The Glenmorangie original which is the flagship of the brand. We are also focused on the night life scenes, which is something very explosive and we believe Glenmorangie fits right into it. There is no better whisky to enjoy a time out with friends than Glenmorangie.
The average Nigerian consumer does not make the distinction between Cognac/Whisky/Rum, they only recognise the broad brown spirit category. How do you get consumers to look beyond all these and identify Glenmorangie?
I noticed in the last few days, Nigerians have an appreciation for quality, reputation, and status. Glenmorangie has all it takes to win with those parameters and the relevance to culture. So, for us, it is not a category game, rather our objective is to present the brand and what it has to offer such as the experience, its rich heritage and status.
The Glenmorangie brand constantly aims to bridge whatever cultural divide that may exist, so what we do is to make sure that the brand is in the right place, at the right time and at the right price, offering a choice of our versatile portfolio of fine and delicious liquids.
Still on the Nigerian consumer, the age of a Whisky seems to be one of the most important factors considered in making a choice. Is this a similar trend globally? What’s Glenmorangie’s strategy regarding this?
In our new packaging, age is more prominent now than it has ever been. This is done on purpose. We want consumers to be able to identify very easily the age of our whisky. We have many different whiskies of different ages and finishing. We don’t offer you one product; we are not a single-product company. The way our business works is we distill whisky in the distillery and ensure that we have a variety for our consumers. We understand that our consumers are curious and always want more so we constantly ensure that there are a lot of options to cater to our consumers evolving needs. At the end of the day, the aim is to make the finest and delicious whiskies irrespective of the age.
What are Glenmorangie’s short, medium, and long-term plans for Nigeria?
We are a whisky company that lives and thrives on creativity, particularly whisky creativity. So, you can expect innovation in whiskies. When, where and what to expect will be dependent on where the market goes and how successful the company continues to be, but we are committed to growing and investing in Nigeria.