In an update to investors, the Edinburgh-based group said the Masterton Bond project was on schedule and on budget, with the site completing construction and moving to the commissioning phase. It has now commenced initial bottling operations and the plan is for phased development over the coming months.
Bosses said they anticipated that the facility would be fully operational during the first quarter of 2023, providing production, cask storage, fulfilment and distribution of the firm’s whisky and other spirit stock from a “state-of-the-art” new warehouse and supply chain facility. It is anticipated that, once fully operational, the facility will improve operating margins by about 2 per cent, with the initial benefits expected to be gained early in the new financial year.
Managing director David Ridley said: “I am delighted to report that we continue to make good progress with our new Masterton Bond supply chain facility which commenced initial production operations this week. This is an exciting milestone in ASC’s continued development which we are confident will deliver tangible operating margin upside of around 2 per cent in [financial year 2023].”
ASC owns the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which was established in 1983, and has grown to encompass thousands of members worldwide. The society provides members with exclusive access to a vast range of single cask Scotch malt whiskies and other craft spirits, sourced from more than 100 distilleries in 20 countries and “expertly curated with diligence and care”.
Last month, ASC said it had signed an inaugural franchise agreement in South Korea, Asia’s fourth largest economy. The group said it had a “long-term, sustainable, global growth opportunity”, with the new franchise helping to further expand the group’s commercial business potential. South Korea is the tenth largest market within the global “ultra-premium” malt whisky sector, based on value, and was estimated to be worth some $161 million (£143m) in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 65 per cent.
The latest deal follows the group’s recent entry into Mexico and South Africa through franchise agreements in those respective geographies, as ASC continues to expand its global footprint into new growth markets.
In September, ASC said it had seen “significant” membership growth putting it on track to hit its ambitious revenue goal. The group said membership stood at just over 36,000, after seeing a return to growth in China and an acceleration in growth in the US - both of which are key markets. The value of US shipments in the third quarter of this year is likely to exceed the £1.6m achieved in the whole of the second half of 2021, it noted.
News of the continued progress came as the group published first-half results which revealed a 25 per cent hike in revenues to £9.9m, with significant growth in UK venues, Europe and China. Membership growth is seen as a leading indicator of future revenue growth and the company is confident it can double revenues between 2020 and 2024.