Staff visit bars in the name of research

  • Called to the bar: (L to R) Bacardi staff Erica Easton, Vernon Pemberton, Michelle Hajek, Mahesh Madhavan, KC Kavanagh and Alex Dickinson mix it up at the Pickled Onion in Hamilton as part of the firm’s Back to the Bar night (Photograph supplied)

More than 60 staff from drinks giant Bacardi hit the streets as part of a drive to keep up on trends in the licensed trade and among customers.

The Bacardi team toured bars and restaurants in Hamilton in the firm’s worldwide “Back to the Bar” campaign to get a taste of what businesses want to see from drinks producers in the future.

Mahesh Madhavan, the Bacardi CEO, said: “What we like about it is that most of the people who have desk jobs never really understand what happens, understanding what the customers want or speak to bar tenders or customers.”

He added the annual event was inspired by the early days of the family-owned firm, when it was routine to check out bars and restaurants wherever members of staff travelled.

KC Kavanagh, Bacardi’s chief communications officer, said: “Speaking to some of the bar tenders, there are trends particular to Bermuda — in many parts of the world bitter drinks are popular, but they are not working here because the palate is very sweet.

But she added: “Women are drinking whisky, which we have seen in Europe and the United States, which is new to the trade.”

The two were speaking at the Pickled Onion on Front Street in Hamilton last Thursday as the research tour ended.

About 7,500 Bacardi staff in 100 cities from London to Sydney, Australia, joined the effort to spot trends in the industry and help keep the company at the cutting edge of innovation.

Ms Kavanagh said: “We are seeing a lot of innovation in the ready-to-drink space.”

Mr Madhavan added: “People are much healthier — they are looking for drinks that are zero in calories and zero in carbohydrates.”

He said: “People are also moving to more premium brands. They are essentially choosing to enjoy their drinks, drinking less and being more mindful — people are drinking less than before, but better.”

Ms Kavanagh added that drinks with a high concentration of botanicals, such as gin, had also increased in popularity.

Mr Madhavan said: “Consumers are gravitating towards gin and, of course, tequila is on fire.”

He added: “We are clearly seeing a shift towards dark, aged rums.”

Ms Kavanagh said: “We have a whole bunch of things up our sleeves for launch in the spring, summer and fall.”

Mr Madhavan added that the decision by Britain, where Bacardi produces several brands, including Aberfeldy single malt whisky, Dewar’s blended whisky and Bombay Sapphire gin, to quit the European Union would be unlikely to affect Bacardi — despite the need for the UK to negotiate new trade deals.

Scotch Whisky Association figures for 2018 showed the US was the biggest market for Scotch by value, with France in second place and both Germany and Spain in the top five.

France is the biggest market by volume, followed by America.

But Mr Madhavan said a one-year grace period would allow the UK to negotiate new trade deals.

He added: “There was a lot of uncertainty over Brexit, but as I look forward, it’s about the UK having bilateral trade arrangements with other countries. I don’t see business being impacted.

“This one year will be used to sort out trade arrangements and trade barriers.”