Brown-Foreman

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Brown-Forman

Company Overview

  • Brown-Forman is one of the top 10 spirits distributors worldwide, and one of the largest American-owned wine and spirits companies. The company vision is to "enrich the experience of life, in our own way, by responsibly building beverage alcohol brands that thrive and endure for generations." Their values are "integrity, respect, trust, teamwork, and excellence."
  • Brown-Forman was founded in 1870 by George Garvin Brown with only one brand, Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. It was America's first bottled Bourbon. The company is still in the Brown family as a publicly traded, privately controlled company, now headed by 5th generation family member Geo. Garvin Brown IV as Chairman of the Board.
  • The company distributes its brands in over 170 countries worldwide. They are headquartered in Louisville, KY but has additional offices in the US (Baltimore, Maryland; Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and Newport Beach, California) and globally (Hong Kong, China; Prague, Czech Republic; Athens, Greece; Helsinki, Finland; Milan, Italy; Moscow, Russia; and Barcelona, Spain). The company makes 53% of their net sales outside of the United States. Europe accounts for 26% and Australia for 5%.
  • The company employs more than 4,600 worldwide, with about 1,300 located in Louisville, KY.
  • The company's whiskey brands are Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Early Times, Collingwood, Canadian Mist, Coopers’ Craft, and Slane Irish Whiskey. Their Scotch brands are BenRiach, GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh. Their Tequila brands are Herradura, el Jimador, and Pepe Lopez. They also produce Vodka brand Finlandia, Chambord Liqueur, and Fords Gin. For wines, they produce Korbel California champagnes and Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
  • Brown-Forman is committed to diversity in their employees, brands, partners and communities. Leading this initiative is Ralph de Chabert as Chief Diversity Officer. He states: "At Brown-Forman, diversity and inclusion management is a core competency. It is central to how we function as a company and the key to our long-term sustainability. Additionally, we are aware that as an international company, we need to exhibit a diversity competence to work effectively across global markets with multicultural workforces."
  • Overall, investors are pleased with the performance of the company in 2019, although some investors consider the stock to be routinely over-valued.

Financial Figures

  • In 2017, Brown-Forman had sales of $3,857 million with a net income of $669 million and an operating margin of 33.8%.
  • In 2018, Brown-Forman had sales of $4,201 million with a net income of $717 million and an operating margin of 32.3%.
  • In 2019, Brown-Forman had sales of $4,276 million with a net income of $835 million and an operating margin of $34.4%.

Major Events/Media

  • In November 2019, Brown-Forman announced that Energy BBDO was taking over as Global Creative Agency of Record for the majority of the Brown-Forman brands.
  • In July 2019, Brown-Forman announced the ending of their UK partnership with Bacardi. Brown-Forman stated that they "plan to establish its own distribution company in the UK to further the growth of the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey family of brands and drive the development of its broader super premium brand portfolio, including Woodford Reserve bourbon, Herradura and el Jimador tequilas, Finlandia vodka and Slane Irish Whiskey."
  • In June 2019, Brown-Forman announced the acquisition of Fords Gin. On the acquisition, Brown-Forman CEO Lawson Whiting stated Fords Gin is a unique brand with terrific momentum in one of the fastest growing categories in spirits."
  • November 2018 saw another key change to the Brown-Forman c-suite team as Lawson Whiting was named CEO and elected to the Board of Directors. It was announced that outgoing CEO Paul Varga would leave the Board on July 25, 2019.
  • May 2018 saw some major shakeups to key leadership at Brown-Forman. Specifically, John Hayes was promoted to Senior Vice President, President of USA & Canada. Thomas Hinrichs left his role as President of Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands region to become Senior Vice President, President of the International Division. Mark McCallum became Executive Vice President, Chief Brands Officer. Jill Jones stepped away from the company, leaving her role as Executive Vice President and President of the North America Region. Lastly, the Global Corporate Affairs organization was created to bring together Corporate Social Responsibility, Government Affairs, Family Shareholder Relations, Corporate Communications, Global Community Relations, and Corporate Services under one management role, that of Mike Keyes as Senior Vice President, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer.

Senior Management in Louisville

Direct contact details for most c-suite members could not be found, therefore, we have utilized an email database to determine their most likely emails.

John Hayes

  • John Hayes is the President USA & Canada at Brown-Forman. He is located in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • His email address may be john_hayes@brown-forman.com or john_hayes@b-f.com.
  • His Twitter is @jackhawk07 and he can be contacted via LinkedIn.

Ralph De Chabert

  • Ralph De Chabert is the Chief Diversity Officer at Brown-Forman, based in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • His email address may be ralph_dechabert@brown-forman.com or ralph_dechabert@b-f.com.
  • He also has a Facebook account and a LinkedIn account.

Jane Morreau

  • Jane Morreau is the EVP Chief Financial Officer for Brown-Forman. She is based in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Her email may be jane_morreau@brown-forman.com or jane_morreau@b-f.com.
  • She has a Facebook account and a LinkedIn.

Matthew Hamel

Kirsten Hawley

  • Kirsten Hawley is the Chief HR & Corporate Communications Officer at Brown-Forman based in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Her email may be Kirsten_Hawley@b-f.com.

Lawson E. Whiting

  • Lawson E. Whiting is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Brown-Forman Corporation. He resides in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • His email may be Lawson_Whiting@b-f.com.

Alex Alvarez

  • Alex Alvarez is the Senior VP, Chief Production Officer at Brown-Forman. He resides n the Louisville, Kentucky area.
  • His email address may be Alex_Alvarez@b-f.com.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths

  • The Jack-Daniels brand is the strongest brand for Brown-Forman and accounts for most of the company's net sales. In 2019, the Jack-Daniels brand sold 18 million 9L cases, and the Jack Daniels Ready-to-Drink bottles, launched in 2017, saw large growth, selling 9 million flat cases in 2019.
  • Brown-Forman reported strong financials in 2019, with industry-leading operating margins of 34% and a 22% return on average invested capital.
  • Brown-Forman has a strong history of acquisitions (for example, the BenRiach Distillery Company Limited in June 2016), and that continued in 2019 with the acquisition of Fords Gin. This acquisition capitalizes on the growing popularity of gin and the premiumization trend, along with being a gin popular for mixing in cocktails, leaving room for later expansion in this sector.

Weaknesses/Challenges

  • Brown-Forman's brand portfolio is heavily dependent on the Jack Daniels brand, opening the company to potential disaster if American whiskey declines in popularity.
  • Brown-Forman's vodka brand Finlandia has not performed well in recent years, with sales declining by 7% mostly due to lower prices and volumes of the brand sold in Poland.
  • Brown-Forman CEO Lawson E. Whiting is concerned about the large number of "big brands entering the American whiskey category" and the potential loss of market share.

Opportunities

  • Brown-Forman has been able to capitalize on the premiumization trend that transformed the alcohol industry in recent years. By following this trend, Brown-Forman was able to create double-digit net sales growth for its high-end whiskeys and tequila brands. This trend is expected to continue.
  • Brown-Forman also has an opportunity in the increasing number of female whiskey drinkers. Since the 1990s, the number of female whiskey drinkers has grown from about 15% of total whiskey drinkers to 37% today, and it is still increasing. Brown-Forman is capitalizing on this with their Jack Daniels brand by advertising targeting women, like the online campaign showing two identical Jack Daniels bottles, one labeled "his" and one labeled "hers".
  • Brown-Forman has the opportunity to market and develop their brands on the international and emerging markets. For example, in 2019, 48% of sales came from markets other than North America. Emerging markets have seen growth like that of Poland, Russia, and Brazil which grew by 10%, 17%, and 25%, respectively compared to 2018. This is due to a trend of interest in American Whiskey in emerging markets.

Threats

  • Brown-Forman was caught in the global trade war between the US and China. Their approach in 2019 was to absorb the cost of these tariffs, which helped maintain sales growth in affected markets. However, CEO Lawson E. Whiting stated: "While we have long been accustomed to delivering operating income growth ahead of sales growth, this was extremely challenging with the burden of these incremental tariffs. However, we still managed to deliver 5% (9% as reported) underlying operating income growth in these difficult conditions and look forward to when we are back on a level playing field with our competitors and delivering top‑tier operating income growth again."
  • The strong US dollar is a threat to the company. The company states that: "The more we expand our business globally, the more exchange rate fluctuations relative to the U.S. dollar influence our financial results. In many markets outside the United States, we sell our products and pay for some goods, services, and labor primarily in local currencies. Because our foreign currency revenues exceed our foreign currency expense, we have a net exposure to changes in the value of the U.S. dollar relative to those currencies. Over time, our reported financial results generally will be hurt by a stronger U.S. dollar and improved by a weaker one."
  • As an agricultural company, climate change is a significant threat to Brown-Forman, as the effects of climate change can harm their inputs, capital, and supply chain. Additionally, increased regulation to curb climate change could also harm the corporation, as they could increase operating costs.

Environmental Initiatives

Investing in Renewable Energy

  • In 2018, Brown-Forman announced a wind power project to be completed by 2020 as their largest initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The project consists of purchasing 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity annually from Solomon Forks Wind Project located in Kansas. The announcement makes Brown-Forman the "first major U.S. spirits and wine producer to commit to a power purchase agreement (PPA) in the U.S."
  • Once completed, the project will offset 90% of the Brown-Forman electricity use from their US operations and allow them to "fully achieve [their] greenhouse gas target of cutting our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2023 (from 2012 levels)." This goal was set in 2012 as part of a larger series of environmental goals.
  • Financially, the project will "purchase the wind power generated over the next 15 years and retain ownership of the resulting renewable energy credits," which it will use to offset the electricity used throughout its US operations. The actual electricity generated by the wind farm will be sold on the wholesale market.
  • On the project, Brown-Forman Vice President, Corporate Responsibility Rob Frederick stated It takes energy to distill and produce our high quality spirits and wines. This new wind project will add new renewable energy capacity to the grid and demonstrates our commitment to a lower carbon economy. We believe that renewable energy is a prime solution for a sustainable energy future."

Zero-Waste by 2020

  • Brown-Forman has set a target for "zero-waste", or less than 1% of waste being sent to a landfill, by 2020. In order to accomplish this goal, they have done two things: first, designed their systems to generate less waste overall and second, found different uses for the waste that they do generate.
  • By 2018, eight of the Brown-Forman production facilities had achieved this goal, meaning that the company had decreased their waste production by 87%.
  • Additionally, five production facilities send less than 5% of their waste to landfills, and are on-track to achieve the 1% goal by 2020.
  • For example, at the Stevenson Mill, the company reuses the bark from the logs for the whiskey barrels to make cardboard boxes for packaging, reuses the sawdust for the wood burning stoves to generate heat and power for their production plant, and chips the cuts that do not meet standards to be used in paper making.
  • At the Jack Daniel Distillery, Brown-Forman recycles 99.9% of the waste they generate.

Natural Gas

  • The Brown-Forman distillery is powered on natural gas, which reduced carbon emissions by 13,000 tons per year.
  • Additionally, by converting to natural gas the company saved on fuel delivery costs.
  • This switch to natural gas saves the company $350,000 per year.

DendriFund

  • The DendriFund is an independent organization created as a partnership between the Brown family and Brown-Forman Corp. in 2012. The fund was founded to "bring together diverse stakeholders inspired to improve the natural, social, and economic environment."
  • It focuses on three areas: wood, water, and grains, as these are the ingredients necessary to make whisky.
  • For example, the fund created the White Oak Initiative in 2017 in partnership with the American Forest Foundation and the University of Kentucky, which focuses on conservation in forests where White Oaks grow.
  • Additionally, the Salt River Collaborative was created in 2015 with 25 organizational partners to conserve land in the Salt River Watershed in Kentucky. Specifically for this project, the DendriFund provided support "to help produce a series of maps and databases relevant to conservation efforts. These maps provide the participating organizations a tool for setting shared priorities for projects and communications that inspire voluntary conservation initiatives."
  • Lastly, the fund is working to bring rye production back to Kentucky as a commercial cover-crop, or a crop that is planted on fields when the main-cash crop is not planted to improve soil and water quality and aid in carbon sequestration. Rye as a cover-crop is a smart business move as well, as the cover-crop can be harvested and then sold, unlike other cover-crops that are simply tilled back into the soil.



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