Spotlight Supplier – Paul Laconte

Q & A with Paul Laconte

Senior National Account Executive

DIAGEO North America

DIAGEO is the largest beer, wine, and spirits company on the planet, with hugely popular brands such as BV Wines, Sterling Wines, Guinness, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Johnnie Walker, and Jose Cuervo

It was our pleasure to meet with Paul recently to talk shop and gain some insight into today’s market from an industry veteran.

ITM: How did you get your start in the alcohol beverage industry and how long have you been with DIAGEO?

PL: My father worked as a production engineer at Heublein for more than 25 years. He arranged a summer job for me at the Heublein production facility in Allen Park, Michigan. I started that job the day after my college graduation and as soon as the summer ended, I interviewed for a sales position with Heublein Wines International in New York City. I was hired and have been with the company ever since! The company has had many iterations and I have had different sales positions within the ever-changing structure, which eventually evolved into DIAGEO. In September, I will celebrate my 32nd year with the company.

ITM: You’ve undoubtedly seen great fluctuations and developments in this business throughout the years. What’s currently making a splash and any ideas about upcoming hot trends?

PL: The most interesting developments concerning the industry would have to be the consolidation. At one time there were dozens of distributors in every state. Suppliers were called “brand companies” because most companies were started with one brand or a small portfolio of brands. That is in stark contrast to where we are now. Concerning brands, the top ten selling brands today will be different ten years from now. It’s funny how this has happened over the years.

Two trends stand out right now. One is the move towards more health-conscious products such as organic wines and spirits; “skinny drinks” are well-received in the trade currently. Another is that flavorings continue to expand and now it is possible to make very delicate flavors from the essence of the fruit. The new Ciroc Coconut and Red Berry flavored vodkas are a perfect example of what’s hot.

ITM: Can you offer any advice for young, up-and-coming women and men in On-Premise National Accounts?

PL: First, never say anything negative about a competitive brand; you never know when you might be selling it. Second, remember that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And third, stay close to your customers!

ITM: We’ve heard through the grapevine you’re quite an accomplished piano player. How long have you been tickling the ivories and what other activities do you enjoy during your down time?

PL: I have been known to find a piano from time to time, usually late in the evening. I call it saloon piano playing. It’s all about getting people to sing along and have a good time (no recording equipment allowed). Whenever possible, my wife Donna and I enjoy traveling and playing golf with our two sons, Paul and Matt.

ITM: Thank you, Paul, for your time and valuable perspective. We wish you and DIAGEO continued success worldwide!