Pernod Ricard recorded a 9.5% fall in sales for the fiscal year 2020. Clamoring for profits, the alcohol giant deploys four strategies: expanding their push into data tracking every move of consumers; aggressively exploiting specific groups that are already more vulnerable to alcohol harms; using Big Tobacco’s playbook in asking for partnership while lobbying and litigating against any policy that is a threat to their private profit maximization; and tarketing alcohol promotions to youth and under-age.

Pernod Ricard’s sales fell 9.5% for the fiscal year 2020. Their whisky brand Chivas fell 17% in the second half of the fiscal year 2020 (which ended in June 2020). Affected by this heavy hit to their profits, Chivas Brothers CEO Jean Christophe Coutures has revealed in a recent interview the aggressive and unethical strategies of the alcohol giant clamoring for profits.

The pandemic affected both travel retail sales and alcohol on-trade sales such as in pubs, bars and restaurants. As Movendi International reported early on in the pandemic, the alcohol industry was quick to adapt to the change and to exploit the pandemic to protect their profit interest. CEO Coutures’s statements further confirm that Big Alcohol is pursuing relentless tactics to keep people consuming alcohol despite the harm caused by alcohol to people and society, especially during the ongoing public health crisis.

Pushing alcohol on people with the help of data tracking

Accordingly Chivas Brothers unleashed a drive to push alcohol strongly through the off-trade and through e-commerce to “compensate” for the loss in travel retail and the on-trade sector.

Data tracking of consumers allowed the alcohol giant to observe people and detect trends, such as a consumer focus on established brands in the off-trade. Big Alcohol is exploiting these insights to market those brands heavily and drive higher sales.

For Chivas and Pernod Ricard this is about profits. For society it is however about health harm: Scientific research has found that brand specific alcohol marketing is related to brand specific alcohol consumption among underage youth. Coutures says that larger brands benefitted during the pandemic because of brand specific buying, likely exposing children and youth to an avalanche of alcohol promotions.

Products and promotions to exploit specific vulnerable groups

Pernod Ricard is also not stopping at targeting vulnerbale populations in their push to make more people consume more alcohol. Chivas Brothers is readying the launch of a new product called “Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve” which specifically targets Hispanic people in the USA.

This is despite the fact that minority groups such as Hispanic people in the United States face greater alcohol harm.

Fundamental conflict of interest exposed

Big Alcohol CEO Coutoures also claims whisky as economically important to Scotland while asking the Scottish Government to “back us up”. This must be without taking into consideration the harm caused by alcohol to Scottish people which has been growing since the pandemic began.

Over years Big Alcohol has opposed Scotland’s minimum alcohol pricing policy, lobbying against the democratically adopted law, and litigating against the Scottish Government.

Already in 2010, journalists and scientists reported “an all-out assault on the attempt to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland” at the time led by beer giant SABMiller – today merged into an even bigger beer giant AB InBev.

In 2012, the late Dr Evelyn Gillan wrote about the Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) action in Europe and the UK against the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing (MUP) legislation, including a complaint to the European Commission and legal action through the Scottish courts.

In response, Dr Gillan said:

Big alcohol’s claims that they are committed to working in partnership with Government and others to reduce alcohol-related harm must be seriously questioned by this move. This shows that, when effective policies that will reduce harm and save lives are introduced, the big producers simply close ranks and pool resources to prevent their implementation. 

Minimum pricing will bring significant health benefits so to contest this makes it clear that some sections of the alcohol industry are motivated by profit not public interest. Quite simply, this is big business putting profit before the health and well-being of the people of Scotland.”

Dr Evelyn Gillan (1959-2015)

CEO Coutoures statement of wanting to “sit down with the Scottish Government and to discuss with them that it’s not one or the other, it’s both at the same time. Health and safety is not incompatible with business continuity.” is disproven and debunked by a decade of evidence of Big Alcohol doing everything they can to undermine health and safety while pushing for their private profit interests.

Chivas is a member of SWA, funding and supporting their decade-spanning campaign against alcohol policy improvements.

Obviously, there is a fundamental, irreconcilable conflict of interest. Increased alcohol consumption leads to increased negative health and development impacts, but also to increased sales and profits for Big Alcohol, placing public health and development interests in an inherent and direct conflict with corporate interests. Four key examples from around the world illustrate this fundamental conflict of interest.

For example, alcohol’s negative effects on public health, increased risk for infection and added burden on healthcare are some of the reasons why the World Health Organization recommended reducing alcohol availability during the pandemic.

Pernod Ricard targeting Gen Z – the least alcohol consuming generation in history

Big Alcohol is exploiting the pandemic to expand their push into data tracking every move of consumers to hook more people on their products. Big Alcohol is also pushing aggressively to exploit specific groups that are already more vulnerable to alcohol harms. And Big Alcohol is deploying Big Tobacco’s playbook in asking for partnership while lobbying and litigating against any policy that is a threat to their private profit maximization interest.

Pernod Ricard’s conduct in recent months illustrates these strategies clearly.

In addition, Big Alcohol is also targeting youth and minors. And Pernod Ricard provides the latest example:

Their Absolut vodka brand launched their largest global campaign “it’s in our spirits” in November, targeting none other than the generation reported to be consuming the least levels of alcohol in history – Generation Z. This is another strategy which attempts to maximize profits during the pandemic focusing on the generation who are least interested in alcohol. To achieve that Pernod Ricard invests heavily into a push through Gen Z’s most used platforms in the social and digital media.

Generation Z, or Gen Z for short, are the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Researchers and popular media use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years – meaning Pernod Ricard is targeting minors with their latest marketing push.

According to Wikipedia Generation Z:

  • Consumes alcohol and other drugs less often than other generations;
  • Delays initiation of alcohol use;
  • Believes their peers disapprove of binge alcohol use;
  • Is more likely to maintain abstinence from alcohol into young adulthood;
  • In 2013, 66% of teenagers in the USA had tried alcohol compared to 82% in 1991 (Late Generation X).
  • A comparison of teenagers from 2008 and 2014 found a 38% reduction in alcohol and other drug use disorders.

As Movendi International has previously reported, the trend of going alcohol-free – visible also in Millennials – is even stronger in Generation Z. This tendency for Generation Z to reduce alcohol use has continued even during the pandemic.

Big Alcohol has been very aware of this trend and is using strategies to try and attract the younger generations such as through influencer marketing.

Gen Zers are digital natives and social media use has become a part of their daily lives. Therefore, the alcohol industry uses digital marketing campaigns and social media influencers to try and attract this generation.

With the pandemic social media use has further grown and part of Absolut’s campaign is their “New Year’s Eve Live Stream Party”. The live stream is hosted in collaboration with Beatport electronic music store and plans are to stream live performances of 15 world famous DJs, each in a different time zone, for 20 hours.

The targeting of Gen Z for alcohol marketing and alcohol products when they clearly are much more health and well-being focused and do not want alcohol is unethical. It becomes perverse considering that a proportion of this cohort is actually still underage.


Just-Drinks: “”Health and safety is not compatible with business continuity” – just-drinks speaks to Chivas Brothers CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures

Just-Drinks: “Absolut readies worldwide online New Year’s Even Party

Wikipedia: “Generation Z