Hear from the Crown Royal Team on the Brand’s Latest Ready-To-Drink Innovation

Innovations are key to the success of Diageo. This creative and forward-thinking team share what it’s like to be part of the innovation process for Crown Royal. Three members of the team come together to give us an insight into how Crown Royal’s latest Ready-To-Drink launch is bringing cocktails from the bar to the consumer.

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Tell us about your role within Diageo and what’s the most exciting thing about it?

Allison: As Senior Innovation manager, I build innovation strategies that shape the future growth of our brands and drive new product development. I get excited about seeing the full life cycle of a new product, starting with the infancy of an idea to getting the product onto the shelf. Seeing an idea go from something abstract to a real-life product that you can touch, see, feel and taste really brings my job to life.

Phil: I’m a liquid innovation manager and along with my team, am responsible for developing the taste and colour of liquids that come out of Innovation Research and Development.  Every day is a challenge to push the boundaries of what we can accomplish in our new products, I get excited knowing that each day is a chance to try something that we haven’t tried before.

Chrystal: My role is GAR manager, so my team sits on the supply side of the company and works with the marketing and demand teams to understand the new product requirements to then develop the packaging and liquid. My job is to ensure the final product is delivered on-quality, is compliant for market and is efficient to produce. 

 

What has your Diageo experience been like since joining the company?

Allison: I joined Diageo as a Commercial Finance Manager and also spent time in the Innovation Finance Manager role.

Phil: From the start of my time at Diageo, every person on my team has inspired me in some way to be better at what I do.  I firmly believe that finding a group of people that you enjoy working with is just as important, if not more important, than the type of work that you decide to do.  My experience has been amazing.

Chrystal: I joined Diageo in January 2015 after graduating with my MBA from the University of Florida. I work at the North America Brand Technical Center and have spent the last 7 years on the Innovation and Brand Change team where I’ve focused on brand extensions and various categories for new product innovation.

 

Crown Royal has branched out into Ready-To-Drinks – tell us more about this innovation and explain why it came about

Allison: Crown Royal RTDs were created to bring consumers the experience of a crafted cocktail delivered with the ease and portability of a can.  Unlike most ready-to-drink hard seltzers, our whisky cocktails are better likened to a drink someone might order at their favourite bar – so we’re bringing the bar to the consumer.  

Phil: Before the pandemic hit, we saw a growing trend of consumers that wanted to branch out from the beer and malt beverages into something that was higher quality and well crafted.  Being a high-quality brand that is not afraid of innovation, Crown Royal was a perfect brand to venture into this space.  The pandemic changed many trends, but it accelerated the RTD cocktail trend, as people were looking for the classic cocktails that they would normally get at a bar to enjoy at home.

Chrystal: Crown Royal RTD’s are an important part of our convenience portfolio to offer convenient ready-to-drink cocktails for at-home and on-the-go drinking.

 

What’s the most exciting and challenging aspects of launching a new product innovation?

Allison: When we launch an innovation, we are building something from scratch while staying true to the brand. Everything is new from the concept and packaging to the liquid, the commercial and supply plans. We tackle the challenges and unknowns along the way until we see the product land on the shelf or in a bar. Then comes my favourite part – transforming from an innovation professional to a consumer and seeing the final product at my local store.

Phil: Making a product that not only achieves our key metrics, but more importantly, that we believe in, is both challenging and exciting.  There is a time before each launch where we as a team come together to be sure that we’ve thought through every action that we could have taken, and can still take, to ensure success.  The feeling that we have in those final days is an inconceivable type of excitement.

Chrystal: It is always fun to be on the front end of a new product and to see it move through various stages of development. The amount of detail that goes into every step of the liquid, artwork and packaging is incredible. 

 

Why is innovating on our iconic brands so important for our business?

Allison: Brands exist in dynamic environments. Consumer preferences and cultures constantly change. We innovate to stay in tune with consumers, remain culturally relevant, and deliver the products that consumers desire in formats that work for them. Innovation makes brands feel fresh. It energises loyal customers while also recruiting new ones.

Phil: In the fourteen years that I’ve been with Diageo, the pace of innovation in our industry has accelerated every year. In this climate, even the most iconic brands are at risk of losing relevance to newer and more exciting offerings.  Innovating our brands not only keeps them fresh in our consumers’ minds, but also helps us attract new consumers by stretching into spaces that we haven’t broken into yet, as is the case with Crown Royal RTD’s.

Chrystal: It is important to innovate against our iconic brands to keep them on the top of consumers' minds. It helps us to recruit new consumers to our brands and offer existing consumers new products to try from the brands they know and love.

 

Any career advice for someone looking to join us?   

Allison: Never stop learning.  No matter where you are in your career, there’s always something more to learn. And it doesn’t hurt to also have a little fun along the way!

Phil: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, always voice your opinion.  This team and company are filled with amazing people who are not only great at their jobs but are receptive to feedback and great at guiding others.

Chrystal: Don’t let not having all the answers stop you from moving forward. I have learned to be okay not having all the answers and instead have learned to leverage others for their strengths and expertise. By asking questions and learning as I go, I have developed a wide array of cross functional knowledge that will serve me well in a multitude of roles across the business.

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