Thoughts From The Proof & Company Leadership Team

By Vienna Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer

ASIA PACIFIC, 30 JANUARY – The door has swung wide open to the new year, and a palpable (and re-charged) energy infuses our collective spirit with vision and purpose. With a fresh lens, we stand on the precipice of boundless possibilities, fuelled by a determination to push boundaries and exceed expectations… the bar is high!

Vienna Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer of Asia Pacific

And as the brand guardian of Proof & Company, my personal drive is to guide our business towards a future where authenticity, creativity, innovation, and connection converge to elevate the Proof & Company brand AND take our extraordinary partner brands to new heights. 2024 holds the promise of not just growth, but the opportunity to leave a f(l)avourable mark on the hearts and palates of our customers, and we are excited to do just that!

In the spirit of collective vision, I sat down with other business leaders to find out their thoughts on the year ahead, asking just 4 simple questions; 3 words to describe how you’re entering 2024, what excites you about the year ahead, any market insights, and your strategic priorities or must wins for the year?

Damian Kaehler, General Manager of Australasia

Wiser, Galvanised, Up-Beat

Heading into 2024, I reflect on the past tumultuous four to five years with a positive outlook as the dust begins to settle. Our strategic focus shifts towards our people & talent development, seizing engaging opportunities, and flourishing in new business & brand pursuits. Despite contracting markets, we aim to elevate our position by nurturing local brands, collaborating with regional producers, and curating a portfolio featuring highly credible independent world-class brands. In 2024, Proof will continue to excel in on-trade engagements, foster the bartender community, and execute purposeful industry events.

Acknowledging the significant increase in business costs, compounded by Australian excise and consumer wallet contractions, we anticipate a moderate growth rate. However, with the Australian economy’s tax reform plan starting on July 1, supporting consumer spending and alleviating inflation, the latter half of the year holds promise. This shift is expected to see increased customer engagement, emphasis on premium spend, and a preference for quality products from brands in the right hands. To fortify our position, we emphasize a robust strategy addressing rising logistics and supply costs, focusing on premium retail and on-trade channels and building out exciting marketing programs, ensuring our brands are not only available but prominently visible.

Brandon Grusd, General Manager of Southeast Asia

Inspired, Energised, Focussed

I’m particularly motivated about a 2024 people development and training plan and also leading enhanced knowledge across the wider business through education programming. As the GM of our home market, I am proud of our on-trade connections and excited to take it even further by nurturing purposeful partnerships to elevate existing and new bar offerings and expanding our presence with key event partners like the Singapore Cocktail Festival and Formula One.

The city state’s reputation as a destination for exceptional drinking and dining experiences continues to flourish, shaping a dynamic and vibrant spirits scene. Amidst buoyant tourism, bars are now trying to differentiate themselves by embracing innovative and more specialised concepts, not limited to high-end establishments. Interestingly, at a local level, we are seeing an increasing number of consumers opting to enjoy premium spirits (and cocktails) at home, driving retail and e-commerce growth. And a new generational approach to drinking is evolving, fostering experimentation and smarter choices. Agave and dark spirits witness a notable rise in popularity.

In alignment with what I’m excited about, my strategic priorities encompass thorough education for our team through tools like WSET and the building of a dedicated Proof & Company learning hub in partnership with Allara Global. We’re committed to assisting bars in growing, evolving, and specializing, offering best-in-class brands and services. Continual review and portfolio enhancements ensure we stay at the forefront of the market, embedding exceptional bartender brands and purpose-built drinks. Our goal is to own the late-night scene, injecting new energy into our business for sustained growth and innovation.

Julia Xiang, General Manager of Greater China

Grounded, Progression, Committed

The Year of the Dragon presents a wealth of opportunity and I’m excited to charge a growing team with courageously shaking things up this year. We will be embedding new talent with extensive industry experience and networks poised to elevate our position within the market, and executing flagship campaigns with major partners to show our commitment to innovation and market expansion. Notably, The Rambler Gin, a new entrant, is set to embark on an ambitious promotional journey in 2024, featuring regional competitions, nationwide in-store activations, and an exclusive trade incentive.

While we anticipate an economic upturn in the latter half of 2024, I recognize the challenges ahead, particularly in navigating consumer spending cutbacks within the Food and Beverage (F&B) sector. Geopolitical disruptions and inflationary pressures are tempering short-term growth expectations in the premium/craft spirits segment. However, the resilient Chinese middle class remains a driving force, propelling demand for premium spirits and favouring well-established affordable luxury brands.

In steering our course, my priorities for the year include adeptly identifying trends, embracing customer-centric strategies, and effective risk mitigation. With an unwavering focus on innovation and a proactive approach to change management, we aim to not only distinguish lasting trends from mere hype but also seize emerging opportunities in the ever-evolving spirits market.

Adrian Chung, General Manager of Hong Kong

Confident, Bright-Eyed, Ready

There are many exciting prospects for 2024 with key areas of focus including ambitious growth for our local brand partner, engaging and community-led brand activity, and reinforcing our position as the premier partner in the market through exceptional service, trust, and product quality. We’ll be expanding our portfolio with new brands to better serve our clients and continue our commitment to growth and excellence in sustainability with the ecoSPIRITS technology.

Hong Kong at a local level is fast-paced and ever-changing however international travel has been and continues slowly to resume which naturally affects the busyness of our bar scene. Despite being more stable there is economic and political uncertainty ahead. Low-ABV/RTD trends are losing momentum, while Agave grows in the wave of interest globally. Drinking habits are shifting to earlier hours, weekends, and health-conscious choices, reflecting the evolving landscape in our dynamic city.

Proof & Company Hong Kong’s key strategy will be to defend our foothold after two years of gaining great market share, this is particularly important with the rebound of investment from the likes of Pernod Ricard & Diageo looking to regain their position. Our mission is to consistently upgrade and fortify our portfolio, offering the best value to cocktail bars with the most credible brands. As trailblazers, our duty is to lead change, and stay present and supportive, reaffirming our position as the best in the industry.

Bobby Carey, Acting Head for Proof Creative

Dynamic, Distinguished, Dedicated

This year is poised to be a landmark in The Proof Creative journey, particularly with the initiation of several bespoke projects in Australia such as QT Parramatta. The aspect that excites me most is the potential to integrate Australian hospitality’s unique charm and ethos into our global narrative. Australia’s vibrant culinary scene, renowned for its diverse influences and commitment to quality, aligns perfectly with our philosophy. Venturing deeper into this region, alongside new markets such as the Middle East & Europe allows us to explore new territories in taste and service, setting a stage for a cultural exchange that enriches both our brand and the Global hospitality landscape.

Our strategy for the year is centred around three key pillars: diversification, localisation, and people development. Diversification involves expanding our service offerings, not just geographically but also in the range of experiences we provide. Localisation focuses on tailoring our services to meet the unique cultural and market needs of each new region we enter. Lastly, investing in our people – their training, development, and well-being – is crucial. Our team’s growth is directly proportional to our success, making this a top priority.

For me, the defining ‘must-win’ this year is elevating Proof Creative’s global presence. Achieving recognition as a leader in the hospitality consultancy space on an international scale is paramount. This entails not just expanding our footprint but also consistently delivering exceptional, innovative services that resonate across different markets and cultures, thereby solidifying our reputation as a top-tier global player.

We hope this was an insightful read.

Stay tuned for exciting news, movements, and updates from Proof & Company, advocates of extraordinary spirits.