Wines and spirits maker Brown-Forman (B-F) is likely the guest of honor at many a holiday party. The company's portfolio of mid-priced to super-premium brands includes such well-known spirits as Jack Daniel's, Canadian Mist, Finlandia, Southern Comfort, and Woodford Reserve. Its wine labels include Sonoma-Cutrer and Korbel champagnes. Jack Daniel's is the company's signature brand and is the largest-selling American whiskey in the world (by volume). Offering some 30 brands, the company's beverages are sold in more than 160 countries throughout the world; sales outside the US account for about 60% of revenue.
The US is B-F's largest market, accounting for about 40% of sales. The company's largest foreign markets include Europe (the UK, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, and Poland) with about a third of sales, and Australia contributing just more than 10%. Other important markets include Mexico, Japan, and Canada.
Sales and Marketing
In the US, the company sells to distributors or state governments (for states that control alcohol sales); it also relies on distributors in Russia, Japan, Spain, Italy, and South Africa. B-F owns distribution companies in about a dozen markets, including Australia, Mexico, Poland, and Turkey. In the UK, it partners with competitor Bacardi to sell a combined portfolio of both companies' products.
The alcoholic beverage company reported fiscal 2014 (ended April) net sales of $3.9 billion (prior to excise taxes, which explains the difference in revenue reporting), a 4% increase compared with the prior year. Net income increased by 11% over the same period.The results were powered by the Jack Daniel's family of brands, with sales up 8% year-over-year. Geographically, the US, Europe, and emerging markets all contributed growth; only Australia saw a substantial decline, based primarily on the weakness of the Australian dollar.
B-F has found global success by introducing Jack Daniel's and other labels into new markets overseas. The company's principal export markets are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and the UK. Since 2002 international sales have more than double from around 25% to nearly 60% in fiscal 2014.
Jack Daniel's is B-F's signature and most important brand. The extended brand family includes Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, and Jack Daniel's RTD [ready-to-drink] products, including Jack Daniel's & Cola, Jack Daniel's & Ginger, and Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails.) Other brands poised for growth include Finlandia vodka and Herradura tequila. The company is focusing its Finlandia marketing efforts on Poland, Russia, Eastern Europe, and US, while looking to Mexico and the US to grow Herradura.
As part of an ongoing review of its offerings, B-F sold its Fetzer Vineyards to Chilean wine producer Vina Concha y Toro SA for $238 million in 2011. The sale included the Fetzer, Bonterra, Five Rivers, Jekel, Sanctuary, and Little Black Dress brands and related assets in California. (B-F's premium Sonoma-Cutrer and Korbel California Champagne brands were not included in the sale.) Also in 2011 it sold its Hopland-based wine brands. Previously, the company sold the Italian wine brands Bolla and Fontana to Gruppo Italiano Vini. The sales have shortened the company's wine list considerably.