Brown-Forman Corp., which makes Jack Daniel's, Old Forester and Woodford Reserve, used data analytics to help launch its Old Forester Kentucky Straight Rye Whisky earlier this month, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Tim Nall, chief information officer for the Kentucky-based spirits manufacturer, told the newspaper the company used consumer, production and sales data — combined with internal financial information — to determine the U.S. market was ready for another brand of rye.
"[W]e showed with data analytics that there’s definitely room for our product to play in these emerging categories," he said. "Even though we already have a Woodford rye and a Jack Daniel’s rye, with the size of the pie we were able to show that there was room out there. It’s been very reassuring to have a qualitative thought about trends, but you now have quantitative information to back it up."
Brown-Forman is using some up-to-date tools to help introduce its new rye, which the company said in a release is the distillery's first grain recipe in almost 150 years. The recipe was inspired by the historic recipe for Normandy Rye, a brand the company acquired in 1940, and is made from 65% rye, 20% malted barley and 15% corn.
While Brown-Forman knew there has been growing consumer demand for rye and bourbon, it wanted a solid data analysis approach behind a development and launch decision. Nall has been pulling together company-wide consumer, production and sales data in order to update technology and provide a clearer picture to help it proceed.
He told The Wall Street Journal technology is interwoven across the entire business process, and artificial intelligence and machine learning are expected to play increasing roles in assisting the company with making decisions.
"In the spirits industry, and for us as a producer, a lot of the really robust information we get is external data, like Nielsen," Nall told the newspaper. "We get shipment data from distributors that gives us a picture of what’s going where. Data from retail outlets. We have data feeds coming in from Australia, Europe and Japan. There is data from the Salesforce tools we work with. There are also unstructured sources, like Google Analytics, about how stuff is behaving online."
The company's new rye product — 100-proof Old Forester Kentucky Straight Rye Whisky — has a suggested retail price of $22.99 per bottle, which is on the lower end of similar products. It's likely to find an audience, given Old Forester's longtime presence in the market and the popularity of rye.
According to Beverage Dynamics, sales of rye whiskey are expanding due to the mixology movement, popularized through cocktails. U.S. rye sales jumped 16.2% in 2016 to 900,000 cases — a huge increase from the 100,000 cases in 2009, Beverage Dynamics reported.
More food and beverage companies are using data analytics to help them improve operations. Special software has been introduced to help beer producers track real-time data on aspects like pressure, temperature, pH and alcohol level. Boosting production efficiency is particularly important for the U.S. beer industry, where consumption has fallen and imports and low- and no-alcohol offerings are winning fans.
In the flavor arena, McCormick is partnering with IBM to help process 40 years of consumer and product data to arrive at the best ingredient combinations. The company said it plans to use artificial intelligence to debut three new recipe mix products sometime later this spring.
Other targeted uses of AI in the food industry are emerging as well — including sorting products, enhancing the supply chain, boosting food safety and reducing equipment cleaning time. The technology's ability to save time and money means more companies are likely to be using data analytics across their operations as time goes on.