Asda is working with new category adviser First Drinks to overhaul its "massively undertrading" malt whisky fixture, The Grocer can reveal.

The new layout is now being introduced across 180 Asda stores to boost sales in the "massively undertrading" malt whisky category and make the fixture more accessible for shoppers. The overhaul is among a number of new merchandising solutions First Drinks presented to all the multiples last year. Asda was the first retailer to adopt the plan, First Drinks said, although it has begun working with Sainsbury's and Morrisons on merchandising.

Among the new features is a black headboard running behind the shelving unit, intended to provide a more premium appearance to Asda's existing green colour scheme. A panel running down the side of the fixture will feature a whisky flavour scale ranging from "light & floral" to "peaty & smokey". The whiskies are arranged according to flavour on shelf. Traditionally, retailers have merchandised malt whisky by region or brand.

First Drinks sales director John Hyman said shoppers needed simpler and more consistent PoS information to indicate the differences between each malt.

With malt whisky sales up 3% in value to £136m and volumes down 4% [Nielsen 52w/e 20 March 2010], Hyman said malt whiskies had "massively undertraded" in the market because shoppers were confused by the fixture. First Drinks had trialled a similar merchandising solution based on flavour profile in selected Asda stores last spring, he said, and the trial resulted in a 17% year-on-year sales value uplift.

"There has been great emphasis on wine in retailers and we can't let spirits be forgotten, so we tried to find ways to better educate people about malts," said Hyman. "Malt whisky deserves a standout appearance."

First Drinks last month became a category captain for Tesco in malt whisky, cognac, brandy, non-cream liquers and gold rum. "We are working on Tesco's range review, giving impartial insight," said Hyman. "We are now a big hitter with the big customers."