Corby gets a Q4 hangover following a full-year buzz

The spirits and wines company will continue to focus on building brand equity following a quarter of mixed results.
Corby Bottle Lineup 2021

Corby Spirit and Wine Limited announced Q4 net earnings of 5.7 million, 20% lower than the same period last year, saying however that demand remained “resilient” on a full year basis.

For the full 2021 fiscal year, Corby, the manufacturer, marketer and distributor of spirits and imported wines, delivered solid earnings of $30.6 million, up 15% compared to fiscal 2020.

Corby, which counts among its local brands Polar Ice, which recently revamped its look to celebrate a Toronto Blue Jays partnership, and Ungava gin, reported full year 31% growth in its international market performance.

It also announced that it renewed the representation agreement for Pernod Ricard, which owns just under half of Corby capital, and whose portfolio includes Absolut Vodka, The Glenlivet, and Beefeater Gin.

“Corby has shown resilience throughout the pandemic, evolving ways of working and inspiring our consumers to choose from our portfolio of brands,” said Nicolas Krantz, Corby’s President and CEO.

Corby says that despite the positive impact of the on-premise channel reopening, and the company quickly increasing “brand building investments significantly,” Q4 saw a softening in retail domestic purchases, with domestic performance up only 1%.

In its conference call yesterday, Krantz reported that when it comes to categories, liqueurs were very strong thanks to increased at home occasions, with mixable liqueurs growing 6% in volume and 8% in value as more consumers experimented with at-home cocktail mixing.

“That’s why our brand like Cabot Trail, but also the Canadian whiskies, with a cocktail innovation that we’ve launched were very successful,” Krantz said.

Corby’s flagship brand J.P. Wiser’s Canadian whiskey enjoyed “category beating results,” the company reported. J.P. Wiser’s grew 4% in terms of shipment volume and 7% in value, it said, outperforming the Canadian whiskey category. Ungava gin, meanwhile, grew 6% in volume 7% value.

Overall, however, Krantz conceded that Corby “had contrasted or mixed results across the portfolio,” with, for example, Canadian vodka brand Polar Ice doing 5% less volume. But, he said, it did manage to gain share on some key brands and against key competitors, giving him confidence going forward.

Corby will continue to focus on building its brand equity, something it’s been doing very much through a communication platform that looks at marketing through an occasion lens.

“I believe consumers don’t go for a particular type of spirits, but they go for the occasion,” Krantz said.

As marketing expenses accelerated in Q4 as the country emerged from lockdown, Krantz said ecommerce and digital marketing remains a key feature of its COVID strategy into the next few years.

When it comes to ecomm, Krantz said it wants to “play and lead in that space” and that Corby has created a new team fully focused on such channels.

Online volume remains small in Canada, with 70% of sales coming from LCBO and SAQ.

Finally, the company reiterated its sustainability commitment, saying that for the first time, Corby has  eliminated all single-use plastic from all its promotional material.