Rosie Davenport
Diageo is expanding Smirnoff Ice and Smirnoff Ice Black into cans in a direct attack on its brewing rivals.
The ready-to-drink (RTD) brand will be launched in a 300ml format in June to complement the current bottled range. Aimed at male drinkers, it will be backed by an above-the-line campaign.
The move, which is exclusive to the off-trade, could spark an aggressive stand-off between brewers and Diageo, which is keen to steal shelf space and sales by encouraging retailers to merchandise the cans in the beer fixture.
Priced at £4.69 for a four-can pack ­ in comparison to £5.29 for four 275ml bottles ­ the cans are being pitched as a value proposition, and it is hoped that the additional mechanic of a 12-can multipack will stimulate sales for drinking occasions like watching sport, which beer has traditionally dominated. Paul Flanagan, commercial PR manager at Diageo, said: "We are directly targeting beer and focusing on males ­ that's why we are in discussions about positioning the cans in the beer aisles. Retailers should look at what they have got there, and decide what's making them money."
Although buyers backed the move into cans, which have so far only made small inroads in the category, they expressed doubts about Diageo's wider goals.
One said: "Both Diageo and Bacardi-Martini, with its range of Breezer minis, want presence in the beer fixture.
"If these products are sold in the RTD area, there is a risk that people will trade out of the bottled products.
"But we haven't any space in the beer aisles and I doubt they could match the margins brewers will give us."