Why does Guinness taste better in Ireland? (Clue: It’s nothing to do with the water…)
By Elaine Watson
- Last updated on
Another speaker that wowed the audience was Steve Harris, senior VP of technical operations at the North American business at Diageo, which has a cool 30% share of the global alcohol market.
Diageo has always been innovative, but had a habit of coming up with new products that were a hit with consumers, but were cannibalizing sales of existing, higher-margin products, and ended up diluting group margins, he said.
“Today, innovation has to be margin-accretive, and this has forced us to deliver bigger, better innovations.”
Recent successful innovations include Baileys Chocolat Luxe, Captain Morgan white rum and Ciroc Amaretto, said Harris, with products first produced on flexible pilot lines ideal for short runs, and then shifted to high-speed bottling lines if they turn out to be winners.
Today, innovation has to be margin-accretive
But there has also been an incredible amount of innovation on established products to improve the customer experience, he said. Take Guinness, which everyone says tastes better in Ireland. And they’re right, he said.
“But it’s nothing to do with the water. It’s because Guinness you drink in Dublin is fresh. The kegs are filled, consumed and back in the brewery in three weeks. In North America, you could be drinking Guinness that’s 6-9 months old. “
After around 90 days, Guinness starts to degrade, giving off fruity notes, he said, And by analyzing exactly what was going on at a chemical level, bosses were able to make minor adjustments to the production process and tackle the problem, significantly increasing the shelf life.
Packaging innovation has also delivered a quality boost for consumers - in the form of the famous plastic widget in a can that contains nitrogen, he explained. When you open the can, the drop in pressure forces the nitrogen out of the ball and generates the tiny bubbles which give Guinness its famously creamy head.