Under New Management: Nuno Teles Takes the Reins for Guinness & Smirnoff in the USA

July 19, 2018
When it was announced in February that Nuno Teles, former Chief Marketing Officer at Heineken USA, had been tapped to be Diageo Beer Co. USA’s next president, the industry consensus was that the new hire was a homerun. With fourteen years of international experience in Portugal, the Netherlands, Brazil and America, Teles brings a unique skillset to a portfolio that has already seen net sales grow at a considerable clip. In his arsenal are two of the industry’s most trusted brands (Guinness and Smirnoff Ice), authentic stories about quality and heritage and consistent programming in both the on and off-premise.
 
Heady Times sat down with Teles for an exclusive interview to learn more about what he sees on the horizon and how he plans to build upon his brands’ momentum.
 
"I’m joining Diageo Beer Co. at an incredible time,” says Teles, who spent more than a decade working his way up Heineken’s ranks. “Over the past four years, Diageo has grown considerably, with Diageo Beer Co. USA net sales growing 4.4% in [the first half of 2018].” But with all this success, Teles maintains that to continue this growth, his team “must focus on building momentum in a sustainable way.”
 
Of course, challenges persist. Especially in today’s beer market, as we’re seeing more breweries pop up every day. Whereas other brands might see this as a threat, Teles sees opportunity. “Consumers are looking for great-tasting beer with provenance, heritage and storytelling. Guinness has stood the test of time, as they’ve been brewing great beers for 259 years.” The data supports Teles’ claim. While many on-premise accounts are in the grip of “rotation nation” fever, Guinness Draught remains one of the strongest tap handles in the business, with lasting power and consistency that other brands would, quite frankly, kill for.
 
“The way we view it is, brands don’t stick around for more than two centuries without being loved,” says Teles. “We’ve found that people like to feel connected to the beer they’re drinking. So, when they’re reaching for a pint of Guinness, they’re not just getting a beer, they’re also reminded of the roots, heritage and history that come along with it.”
 
It’s true that when people think of Guinness, most think of Guinness Draught. But what even the most ardent beer fan might not know, is that Guinness Draught, as we know it today, was not available until 1959. In the years before Guinness Draught caught fire, the brewers made their name creating many different porters and stouts. Innovative craft brewing has always been in Guinness’ DNA and Teles believes that tapping back into the company’s creative roots is one of the ways Diageo stays ahead of the game.
 
And with the upcoming August opening of the new Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House in Maryland, Diageo has the perfect opportunity to showcase beers like Guinness Blonde and experimental brews to American drinkers, who have a reputation for trying new and bold beers. “The U.S. is certainly one of the most dynamic and exciting beer markets in the world right now, and our whole operation in Maryland is geared toward innovation,” explains Teles. “Since we have three brewhouses on site in Maryland, we really have the liberty to try out some interesting stuff, especially through barrel-aged brewing.”
 
This distinction is important to Teles and Diageo, as they have no plans to brew their world-famous stouts at the Maryland location. “All the Guinness stouts that Americans have come to love will still be brewed in Dublin.” The new brewery will be home to Guinness Blonde, as well as “some pretty exciting releases that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from Guinness.” Guinness Blonde itself has been an important initiative for Teles and his team. Whereas some American drinkers might be unenthusiastic about stouts, and associate Guinness solely with those dark, roasty styles, Guinness Blonde creates a new opportunity. With Guinness Blonde, retailers can now play off the reliability of the Guinness brand name, and sell an American lager style that is much more recognizable and accessible to beer drinkers on this side of the pond.
 
Smirnoff Flavored Malt Beverages, another cornerstone of Diageo’s portfolio, are continuing to dominate a category that increasingly has a long, bright future. “Smirnoff Ice was one of the originators of the [FMB] category and is still growing volume and share, as it’s currently the #2 FMB brand,” says Teles. Diageo’s strategy with Smirnoff FMBs remains the same, bring value to consumers with quality liquids and a brand they trust. That simple yet hyper-focused game plan has won the hearts (and stomachs) of many new customers. “As we launch new products, we’ve seen our consumer base expand and become more diverse, which is exciting. We’ve evolved to a more even split between male and female drinkers, and with seltzers, we’re attracting new consumers who may be focused on being mindful of things like calories and carbs.”
 
This year Teles and his team launched a new brand: Smirnoff Ice Smash. With flavors like Lemon+Lime, Peach+Mango and Screwdriver, these 16 oz. cans are familiar flavor combos dialed up (8% ABV) to wind up for a party or wind down at the end of the day. “With such high demand for higher-ABV, single serve cans, we think Smash has fantastic potential,” says Teles. “The can format opens up a new occasion for consumers looking for convenience.”
 
With renown brands like Guinness and Smirnoff, consistent programming and authentic stories about quality and heritage, Teles is set to deliver on Diageo Beer Co.’s high ambitions. “We’re a leader,” says Teles. “For us, the secret to success is to continue to do what we’ve done since 1759, which is to make great products and share our story.”
 
What’s New for Diageo? 
With some of the most familiar and recognizable brands in the industry, Diageo continues to push the envelope with new products. Here are just a few of their new and innovative offerings.
 
 
 
“We are a leader in hard seltzer and the segment is absolutely on fire,” says Nuno Teles. On developing their new Raspberry Rosé Spiked Sparkling Seltzer, Teles says, “We know from experience that people look for flavorful drinks, so for the seltzer segment, we will continue to bring on-trend and innovative flavors.” 

 
Guinness’ beloved Gilroy cans will return this fall. This year’s 14.9 oz cans, adorned with a celebration of Guinness’ rich history, will feature ostrich artwork from the 1930s.
 
Diageo’s traditional pale lager is getting a brand-new look! The new graphics and tasting notes featured on the package are sure to engage and attract new consumers.
 

 

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