Spirits high at SSG after vodka boost

STOCK Spirits Group (SSG) has turned in a record profit – fuelled by sales of the fastest growing vodka brand in the world.

The company’s annual revenue soared by 17 per cent to €262m (£216m) in 2009 compared with the previous year.

Earnings – before tax interest, taxes and amortisation – were up 46 per cent to €69.2m. Polish vodka Czysta de Luxe boosted the figures after 5.4m nine-litre cases were offloaded.

SSG, the largest producer of branded spirits in central Europe, is the market leader for vodka in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Overall production volumes for vodka doubled in 2009 to 97m litres.

Meanwhile one of the UK’s big five supermarket chains is preparing to trial some of the company’s spirits.

SSG chief executive Chris Heath said: “We have gone into markets a lot of the big drinks companies have avoided because they were worried about working practices and various other issues.

“We have gone in and used our experience to take this businesses forward. Some of the machinery in the factories we took over was more than 40 years old, so we replaced it and it is some of the most modern available.

“In central europe customers want quality and that’s what we are offering and word of mouth is helping our success.”

SSG was set up after a merger of two regional businesses, Stock and Polmos Lublin, in 2007, backed by Oaktree Capital.

● The company’s annual revenues shot up by 17 per cent to £216m

● Earnings were up by 46 per cent to £56.8m

● Production figures for vodka doubled to 97m litres in 2009

Chris Heath joined Stock Spirits Group in 2007.

In October 2009, he was appointed chief executive following a successful period as chief financial officer.

He was previously group CFO and commercial director of Gondola Holdings, owner of Pizza Express, Ask and Zizzi restaurants.

From 1988 to 2005, he held a number of senior positions in Allied Domecq. He started as chief accountant of Ind Coope in 1988 before being promoted to finance director of Ind Coope Retail in 1990 and then finance, property & leasing director of the same company in 1993.

In 1995 the executive moved into the spirits division of Allied Domecq as finance director of the european region.

He held the positions of managing director, UK and then managing director, Spain respectively from 1999 to 2003. He then became global finance director of Allied Domecq until 2005.

He told City A.M. that he had become a connoisseur of vodka in his new role and would be able to identify all SSG products in a taste test.