Absolut variant launch starts innovation wave

Pernod Ricard is launching a coffee-and-almond variant of its vodka brand Absolut, as part of a wider innovation drive across the company.

Absolut: part of an innovation programme at Pernod Ricard
Absolut: part of an innovation programme at Pernod Ricard

Unveiled last week in Paris, Absolut Watkins has been devised in partnership with Swedish illustrator and artist Liselotte Watkins. The blend will roll out exclusively to duty-free outlets this month.

Absolut will also be introducing a Wild Tea variant, initially only in Chicago, before launching it internationally.

In addition, Absolut will be making a second attempt to conquer the super-premium vodka market with the launch of Absolut Elyx.

Absolut already offers a high-end vodka named Level, which makes minimal reference to the Absolut brand. Thierry Billot, managing director of brands at Pernod Ricard, confirmed that this would now be 'phased out' as Absolut Elyx entered its 'test phase'.

The launch of Absolut Elyx follows Pernod Ricard's roll-out of Chivas Regal 25 Year Old, a premium whisky costing $300 (£188) a bottle. It has also introduced Beefeater 24, a premium gin offering, and L'Or de Jean Martell, a high-end Cognac.

Other innovations planned by Pernod Ricard in 2011 include a fresh look for its flagship anis brand Ricard (see Marketing moment, below). In addition, global advertising and marketing initiatives are being rolled out for Havana Club and Kahlua.

The group is undertaking a drive to reinforce the premium positioning of its brands despite the downturn. Pernod Ricard has also reaffirmed a continued commitment to 'creative collaboration' across its products, packaging and marketing communications.

At the start of the downturn two years ago, the group decided to respond by investing in its brands, Billot explained. 'We asked ourselves whether we should cut the price when it has taken so long to build our brands, but we decided to protect the equity of our brands and continue to invest in innovation,' he said.

Product development is also scheduled for Pernod Ricard's Absolut, Malibu, Jameson and Jacob's Creek brands over for the next 12 months.