Revitalising blended whisky with a millennial-focused NPD
Creative Challenge Brief set by The Grocer
(first published in The Grocer June 2018)
Presented with the challenge of revitalising blended whisky with a millennial-focused NPD, the creative team at Biles Hendry first considered the reasons behind the sector’s flagging sales.
“Blended Scotch whisky is struggling to capitalise on the increased interest in spirit drinking in the UK,” says Biles Hendry founder Anthony Biles. “We believe there are two fundamental factors at play here: image and flavour.”
The team discovered many spirit drinkers view blended whisky as low-energy and old-fashioned. “This perception is further exacerbated by the visual language of the category,” says Biles. “Everything from the gold foiling and script typefaces to the heritage dates and founder’s stories is off-putting to younger consumers.”
The focus on heritage across whisky is missing the mark with millennials.“Younger drinkers are less interested in how long a whisky has been aged for than their parents,” says Biles. “It’s all about the experience for this group, and they’re not finding that in blended whisky at the moment.”
Flavour profile is another challenge for the sector. “It can take years to develop an appreciation of the subtleties of flavours in blended scotch, which the new generation of drinkers don’t have time for,” he explains.
To overcome these issues and attract younger consumers, the team took inspiration from gin, which managed to shed its reputation as “the preserve of maiden aunts” and capitalise on the craft craze. “Whilst millennials are drinking less than the generations before them, we learnt from the gin trend that they are more interested in exploring new experiences, and are happy to pay more for quality and exclusivity,” says Biles.
With that in mind, the Biles Hendry team created 15 Grams, a four-strong range of blended whiskys designed to attract a younger customer base into the sector. A key focus for the team was to create a range with an attractive story behind it. “Two per cent of whisky evaporates from the barrel, it’s a critical part of the ageing process,” says Biles. “The reason behind the name 15 Grams is that for every bottle we produce, we say an angel takes 15g.”
On the back of each bottle is an explanation of this process. “We want millennial consumers to understand what our angels ‘give back’ in return for their share – the ageing process imbues the liquid with smoky, spicy, floral and fruit flavours from the barrel,” he explains.
After barrel ageing, the brand’s master blender then combines the whiskies with botanicals such as lemon, lapsang, vanilla and cinnamon to create four flavours: floral, smoky, spiced and citrus. “We wanted to give consumers a choice and focus on the distinct flavour of the product rather than the age,” says Biles. “Each variant has a signature serve and brings something different to a cocktail. The range has simple flavour descriptors which deliberately downplay that they are blended scotch to create an easy entry point to the category.”
Positioned as a premium spirit, 15 Grams bottles are priced above standard blended whiskies at £25/75cl. “The unique flavours and bottle design adds value and provides perception of being worth paying more for.”
The new line will target millennial drinkers through online and social media marketing, including an augmented reality app aimed at “demystifying whisky, bringing to life each flavour profile and providing cocktail recipes”.
Free scratch and sniff cards are available in bar stockists and in store, with whisky wine gums in each flavour available as tasters prior to purchasing. “It’s not easy to convince a consumer to take a chance and spend money on something completely new,” says Biles. “Having free sweets as tasters and interactive elements like the scratch and sniff cards go a long way in encouraging consumers to give 15 Grams a try.”