Campari puts the Spritz into first-half profits

Kasmira Jefford
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The Italian group’s bright orange aperitif has become hugely popular in the UK in the past five years

TAKE three parts Prosecco, a dash of soda and two parts Aperol. Pour that into a wine glass with a few chunks of ice and a slice of orange and there you have it: one of Italy’s most popular cocktails otherwise known as a Spritz.

Created in the northern city of Padua in 1919, Aperol Spritz has long been the Italian happy-hour drink of choice, its bitter-sweet taste and low alcohol content making it a refreshing alternative to beer.

But now, the bright orange concoction is fast becoming a summer staple in the UK after being introduced five years ago by its Italian owner Gruppo Campari.

The world’s sixth largest premium spirits-maker has been working with bars and restaurants to introduce its flagship cocktail into new regions such as Britain and Spain. It has also ramped up its marketing of the drink after striking a multi-season sponsorship last year with Manchester United Football Club.

The result has been an orange takeover of London’s fashionable bars, with supermarkets such as Waitrose also reporting a huge jump in sales of the drink.

“Aperol Spritz is sunshine in a glass,” chief executive Bob Kunze-Concewitz told City A.M.. “It has one huge benefit in that it’s the only cocktail that I know of that is low in alcohol content and that is also refreshing and thirst quenching.

“We started from scratch in the UK by introducing it directly into a few bars as it’s about getting bartenders to serve the right mix. If you don’t get the quantities right and pour the ingredients in the right order, it doesn’t taste that good. So it takes a lot of effort from our part to invest in training.”

Kunze-Concewitz added that a revival of old-school cocktails such as the Negroni has helped to boost demand for its signature aperitif alcohol Campari, which is a redder and slightly more bitter version of Aperol.

“Classic cocktails such as negroni are doing phenomenally well in the UK. The users are younger, hipper and are a perfect target… The younger generation is rediscovering cocktails drunk by their parents,” he said.

His comments came as the Wild Turkey whisky and Skyy vodka-maker reported a rise in sales and profits for the first six months of the year, following strong numbers in the first quarter.

Earnings before interest and tax (Ebit), excluding one-off items, rose to €139m (£89m) from €124.3m a year ago, with a margin on sales improving to 18.3 per cent from 18.1 per cent in the same period last year.

Sales rose by 10.5 per cent to €758m in the first half, helped in part by a positive impact from a strong dollar.

Kunze-Concewitz said growth was driven by the company’s five so-called global priorities, which grew sales by 5.8 per cent. These include Campari, Aperol, Skyy, Wild Turkey and the Jamaican rums.

Sales of Aperol, which account for 11 per cent of group sales, rose by 5.7 per cent, thanks to good results in France, Spain and “high potential markets”, including the UK and the US.

“Looking forward, we are on track to achieve a positive full-year performance,” Kunze-Concewitz said.