Guinness owner Diageo beat first-half sales forecasts on Thursday as it raised prices and more people drank premium spirits.
The London-based company, which also makes Tanqueray gin, Captain Morgan rum and Ketel One vodka, said organic net sales rose 9.4 per cent in the six months to December 31st, beating analyst forecasts for a 7.9 per cent rise.
The growth reflected organic volume growth of 1.8 per cent, indicating 7.6 percentage points of higher price growth. Organic operating profit grew 10 per cent.
The spirits market has been resilient amid a global cost-of-living crisis that has otherwise hit volumes at other consumer goods companies, with people continuing to buy what they consider occasional treats for themselves even as they trade down to cheaper food brands.
Diageo’s “premium-plus” brands – which are more expensive than brands such as Smirnoff vodka but under about £50 (€56.82), drove 65 per cent of its organic net sales growth, the company said.
Since the pandemic, Diageo has benefited from people buying more expensive types of alcohol while staying home under lockdown. The company and its rivals invested heavily in marketing and improving their products to capitalise on newfound demand, focusing on premium brands such as Bulleit Bourbon whiskey and Don Julio tequila.
“We believe we are well-positioned to deliver our medium-term guidance of consistent organic net sales growth in the range of 5 per cent to 7 per cent, and sustainable organic operating profit growth in the range of 6 per cent to 9 per cent for fiscal ‘23 to fiscal ‘25,” chief executive Ivan Menezes said in a statement.
The company, which said people mainly drank more tequila, scotch and Guinness, added it would return up to £500 million to shareholders – in addition to its existing buyback commitment – this financial year. It raised its interim dividend by 5 per cent to 30.83 pence per share.
Diageo also said it was “confident” Chinese consumers would “return” as Covid-19 infections fall in that country.