Q&A with Jeff Bartfield

Jeff Bartfield of William Grant & Sons for in the Mix MagazineJeff Bartfield, a veteran national accounts personality, has been an industry presence for some time. Starting in the Seagram days, as his father did, he’s been in the national account business for 29 of his 33 years on the job. He is a board member of the charity CORE™ (Children of Restaurant Employees) and supports the ABI (American Beverage Institute). Jeff represents a strong portfolio including Glenfiddich, Stoli, Hendrick’s Gin, Milagro Tequila, and more. ITM had the chance to catch up with Jeff recently at his Florida home.

ITM: Thanks for taking some time to talk with In the Mix. Let’s talk whisky. What’s new on the innovation front? What brands and styles do you have that are in the evolving status and why do you think they will catch on?
JB – We are very excited about the brands coming down the pipeline. Each has tremendous potential. On the whisky front, we have great new introductions including Snow Phoenix Limited Edition from Glenfiddich as well as the recently launched 14 Years Old Caribbean Cask and 17 Years Old Peated Cask expressions of The Balvenie. Then there is the Hudson Whiskey range of handcrafted, micro-distilled whiskies we acquired earlier this year. Beyond whisky, in terms of innovation, we have remarkable products we’re continuing to develop including Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur from Sicily –with a unique taste profile and elegant packaging – and Reyka Vodka, a small batch vodka handcrafted in Iceland.

ITM: How is the single malt business doing? You’ve got a couple of great ones.
JB – Single Malt Scotch is doing well both globally and in the U.S. and we expect the business to be on the plus side this year. We have remarkable Single Malts – Glenfiddich, which created the category and which is the most awarded Single Malt, and The Balvenie, the most handcrafted. We recently unveiled a new global campaign for Glenfiddich, titled One Day You Will, which celebrates the pioneering spirit of the brand and William Grant himself, and which speaks to our consumers inspiring them to pursue their own passions and live their own adventures.

As you know, William Grant & Sons is a fifth-generation family owned and controlled distiller. We are very fortunate to have David Stewart, the longest serving malt master in the industry, at William Grant & Sons where he is now focused exclusively on The Balvenie, and Brian Kinsman, David’s former apprentice, who now serves as malt master overseeing the development of Glenfiddich. Our master coppersmith and cooperage have also been with the company for almost 50 years. This expertise and dedication to craft is at the heart of everything we do; it gives us great credibility and allows us to continue to bring the best products to market.

ITM: Stoli was a big acquisition for you; it rounded out your portfolio nicely. What’s it like to be in the big time vodka game?
JB – It’s made our products more significant and relevant to our buyers. Stoli is an innovator – it was the first to produce a luxury vodka with elit by Stolichnaya and the first to produce flavors, which are second to none in a category that dominates consumer’s buying potential. We’re doing very exciting things with Stoli and there’s definitely more to come.

ITM: Let’s talk about CORE™ a bit. Why do you support this charity with all there are to choose from?
JB – CORE goes directly to the restaurant workers who need help, and our ability to quickly respond to employees in need is paramount. All the money CORE receives is used to help these employees. Look for some great events with CORE in 2011. We hope all our distributor and supplier friends will participate in this great cause.

ITM: ABI is an important organization and I would hope that most our readers are aware of their efforts. Would you like to tell us why you think it is important for everyone in our business to support ABI?
JB – ABI is the only group that speaks out for on-premise responsible consumption of beverage alcohol. I have been a member since its inception in 1990. Their work is important because responsible consumption is so important; it is up to all of us to do our part to promote responsible consumption.

ITM: ITM: Go back 10 years. What are the big differences in the marketing then and now?
JB – The game has changed dramatically, becoming more edgy and instantaneous, primarily because the Internet and instant interactions at social networking sites such as Facebook, Foursquare, and YouTube. Mixology and fresh trends keep evolving . So you have to be quick or you’re lost; you have to be slick, modern and relevant, and quick to the mark. Even the best idea is worthless unless you implement it properly. We have the greatest arsenal of brand ambassadors in the industry globally. They consult to all the major chains and connect with bartenders and national account F&B’s all over the world, giving us that all-important relevant, up-to-date, and immediate information for our marketing strategies.