Alfred Cointreau, the 30-year-old scion of the Cointreau empire, is part of a wave of youthful head honchos charged with engaging a new generation of tipplers who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tastes.
A lfred Cointreau is the sixth generation to work for t he f amed t riple s ec drink of the same name - charged with expressing and building on the long heritage of the family-run brand that is more than 160 years old.
Being the sixth-generation Cointreau must be challenging?
When I joined the company five years ago, a lot of people wondered if the pressure of being a Cointreau would be too much, but I’ve come to know the business from the ground up, including working on the bottling line. Of course, it’s still my name on those bottles, so there’s an incentive to not do anything stupid. That said, every generation wants to represent itself differently. In fact, the Cointreau bottle shape was radical for its time and that was designed by Edouard Cointreau, the second generation, when he was still young too.
How does your generation view your product?
A drink like Cointreau is much more than the drink now - it’s the history, the presentation, the chat with the bartender. Generally, people want to know what they’re buying.
“The Cointreau bottle shape was radical for its time.”
The drinks industry is more focused on the small scale now. Is that a problem for a global brand?
We’re part of an industry that is seeing a boom in micro brewers and craft distillers, that celebrates the local and the special rather than just the big international brands, so we have to keep that in mind. We launched Cointreau Noir on that basis. It’s from a 1903 recipe and is more a connoisseur’s drink, appealing to those who enjoy a rum or whisky neat with ice.
You’re always on the move, telling the Cointreau story. What have you learned?
When you travel as much as I do, you realise just how different the attitudes to drink are between cultures and countries. The French, for example, still educate their children from a young age to drink with a meal. In the US, it’s more about cocktails. So it’s always a challenge to make Cointreau relevant to different ways of drinking. We’re lucky in that it’s so versatile. You can use Cointreau in your cooking, have an aperitif while you cook, a digestif after and then a cocktail later.
Inevitably you must drink a lot. How do you cope?
When you have Cointreau in your blood you develop a resistance to alcohol. I get offered a lot of drinks so I tend just to sip and not finish many of them. When I started with the company I quickly learned to drink a lot of water - one glass for every glass of anything with alcohol in it. It works. I only have one or two hangovers a year. A good cocktail helps me get over those.
Cointreau is one of those drinks that has claimed to be the product of a secret recipe. How often are you asked to reveal it?
For me, looking after the heritage of the brand is based on an idea that came from my grandfather. When
“I get offered a lot of drinks so I tend just to sip and not finish many of them.”
I was 11 he decided it was time I knew the recipe for Cointreau. I was very excited at being let into this big secret. So, he told me all the ingredients and there was nothing unusual. He turned to me and said: ‘What did you expect - that we put flour in it or something?!’ I was a bit disappointed. But the lesson there was that it’s not about the ingredients. It’s about the art of distilling. That’s what’s important to maintain through the generations.
ENGAGING A YOUNGER AUDIENCE
The Victoria’s Secret catwalk show is perhaps not the most obvious place to celebrate a drinks brand - unless you’re targeting younger people. That’s the thinking at vodka company Ciroc ( www. ciroc.com), which launched its On Arrival campaign with a special- edition Victoria’s Secret bottle.
But Ciroc is not alone in seeking to tap a younger demographic. Martell ( www. martell. com), for instance, created Martell NCF ( Non Chill Filtered), specifically for millennials. It’s filtered at room temperature to create a cognac that is ideal as a mixer, notably smooth and, as the company puts it, “deliciously easy”.
Indeed, while the spirits industry is waking up to the idea that contemporary packaging and image matters to younger drinkers - Martell teamed up with DJS and hiphop artists for its Singapore launch last November - it is also recognising that the drink itself sometimes has to appeal to, as it were, a lessdeveloped palate.
Not that younger drinkers are necessarily unsophisticated.
A Mintel report concludes that millennials are driving demand for craft beer.
The same group is said to be behind the boom in craft bourbons, which are predicted to be the fastest growing spirits worldwide over the next five years.
Certainly some brands are going all in to make sure they chime with this progressive consumer segment.
Last January, Bacardi ( www. bacardilimited. com) appointed a global millennials manager, tasked not only with targeting these consumers, but - crucial to future success, it argues - also getting more of them to work for it.
Martell, for instance, created Martell NCF ( Non Chill Filtered), specifically for millennials.