Whitley Neill

Ditching underperforming brands to focus on premium and craft booze saw operating profit almost double at Halewood Wine & Spirits - as the company continued its turnaround with a year of solid growth.

Operating profit at the Merseyside owner of Whitley Neill and Lambrini grew from £2.6m to £4.8m for the year ending 1 July 2017, with revenue up £2.03m to 216m, according to results filed with Companies House this week. EBITDA hit £10.7m, up from £7.5m.

The company’s strategy of “developing a premium range of artisanal craft spirits and beers alongside continued investment in brand marketing, route to market distribution and vertical integration” was to thank for the return to growth, said director Judy Halewood. This time two years ago, the business had just posted an operating loss of £8.2m, but returned to the black 12 months later.

Key acquisitions such as Hawkshead Brewery, Sadler’s Ales and City of London Distillery had “added strength to the portfolio”, while the delisting of non-profitable lines and rationalisation of product ranges had helped move Halewood Wine & Spirits “from a volume focus to a margin-driven business”.

The company planned to acquire further brands and ramp up “internal investment in its distilling and brewing capability”, including the completion of a new distillery in North Wales and a John Crabbies distillery in Edinburgh.

Halewood had ”delivered a second year of profit as the impact of the successful restructuring and change in corporate strategy delivers sustainable margin growth”, said group chief executive Stewart Hainsworth, highlighting its premium gin brand Whitley Neill as having been particularly successful.

It has spent the past six months bolstering its front-running brands with NPD. In November, it launched a trio of spirits for Sadler’s Ales’ Peaky Blinder brand, inspired by the hit BBC show and the brand’s Black Country provenance. It also launched two ginger beer and craft beer blends using Sadler’s Ales under its Crabbie’s brand.