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Campari gets more aggressive with Appleton

Published:Thursday | November 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
On Sunday, February 28, 2016, J. Wray & Nephew Limited unveiled new package change for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum during dinner at the Boone Hall Oasis in St Andrew. The package change is the first step in a global premium re-positioning of the brand that will leverage Appleton’s history, which dates back to 1749.

Jean-Jacques Dubau, Gruppo Campari's managing director for the North America region, is touting Jamaica as a vital part of the spirit that company's global push, saying the group's various businesses are now required to incorporate the Appleton brand in their plans.

Jamaica sits among the Italian firm's top six markets, Dubau said during a stop in Kingston last week, while indicating that it had a lot more potential to grow. ranks Campari's Jamaica rum portfolio at number two in the company's line-up with annual sales of US$119 million, just ahead of Frangelico and Carolans with US$116.5 million. Wild Turkey whiskey holds the top spot with US$167.7 million.

Since Campari's acquisition of J. Wray & Nephew Limited (JWN) four years ago, the company has positioned Jamaica as the focal point of its regional operations.

"The operations here cover Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean since this represents a hub," said Dubau in an interview with Gleaner Business at JWN's New Kingston headquarters.

Campari wasted no time in leveraging Appleton's access to the premium segment of the American, Canadian and United Kingdom, which is why Jamaica is proving pivotal to Campari's growth, he said.

"Jamaica is a point of excellence for us, but the gross potential of the domestic market is limited. Jamaica is our hub for the rest of the Caribbean and we have more potential to grow the business," said Dubau, who at one time served as chairman of JWN.

"To that end, we have completely revamped our export team between last year and the beginning of this year so that we have a more organised aggressive approach to marketing," he said.

Dubau refused to say just how much money Campari has pumped into the promotion of the Jamaica rum portfolio over the years, but part of the spend included a makeover of the packaging for the dark rums.

Campari "now knows more about rums and premium rums than when Appleton was acquired", he said, while noting that all segments of Gruppo Campari must include Appleton in their plans.

"It's a focus for each and every market where we operate. In the five-year plans that our subsidiaries provide, they have to cover Appleton and they have to show development plans," Dubau said.

Turning to recent problems at the Appleton Estate factory in St Elizabeth, Dubau acknowledged the impact on sugar output but discounted talk that rum production was negatively affected.


JWN has been sued by Algix over effluent the factory releases into the Black River, which the fish farm alleges has damaged its operation. Appleton Estate's operations were suspended as the lawsuit wound its way through the courts, and at last reports, were expected to resume in January.

Dubau, while not commenting on the case, said certain changes to meet environmental regulatory requirements programmed for 2017 were advanced.

"There were some technical effects on sugar production, but we have wide inventories of aged rums along with inventories of molasses, so we have managed to continue rum production this year, so it has not affected our short- or long-term plans," he said.

In a positive spin on the developments, Dubau said despite the loss of sugar production, the company got a chance to show commitment to employees and the surrounding community.

The acquisition of JWN and the Appleton brands in 2012 - the Italian company paid more than US$400 million for the spirits conglomerate then known as Lascelles deMercado - continues to pay off for Campari beyond just profit, he noted.

The acquisition was part of the Campari strategy executed over the past two decades for global growth both organically and through asset purchases, and since 1995, Campari has made 25 acquisitions, he said. JWN was reported to be the third-largest deal for Campari over its history, which dates back to 1860.

"Jamaica was a very good acquisition for us and a big source of talent. We have more employees in here than we have anywhere else in the world. When we need people around the world, we think of Jamaicans we can send, and we have done that already," Dubau said.