Cider may conjure up the most benign of associations – English summers and country pubs – but the industry that produces the stuff is cut-throat. Few have proved more adept at coping with the competition than John Dunsmore, the chief executive of Ireland's C&C.
C&C's board practically begged Mr Dunsmore to come and run their company in November 2008, after it lost 70 per cent of its value over the previous year. He was available having stepped down six months earlier from Scottish & Newcastle, where he had masterminded the sale of Britain's biggest brewer to Heineken and Carlsberg for £10bn. One reason for that hefty price tag had been the extent to which S&N's HP Bulmer cider business – behind brands such as Strongbow, Bulmer's and Scrumpy Jack – had been pulverising C&C.
With HP Bulmer today under Heineken's control, Mr Dunsmore's job now is to restore C&C to former glories, which to some extent means doing down his former charges.
So far, so good. Sales figures revealed yesterday suggest he has arrested the decline in C&C's cider sales, while the acquisition of Scotland's Tennent's has given the company some diversification benefits.
One smart move was to respond to the March Budget hike in cider duty by announcing that C&C would take the hit, rather than passing on the 10 per cent tax increase to customers or retailers.
The company appears also to be benefiting from a new advertising campaign stressing the traditional Irish heritage of Magners, its best-known brand.
There's more work to be done – profits at C&C are falling – but Heineken would be wise to start looking over its shoulder.Reuse content