INTERVIEW: Diane Edwards, general manager of J. Wray & Nephew

Diane Edwards Wray & Nephew

itzcaribbean talks to Diane Edwards, general manager of J. Wray & Nephew UK Ltd for a chat about her role in one of Jamaica’s favourite brands.

How did you get involved with Wray & Nephew?
As Trade Commissioner for Jamaica, I had long been involved in export marketing and trade development for a range of Jamaican products. When the opportunity to be responsible for marketing and distribution of Appleton and Wray & Nephew Rums arose in 2003, I jumped at it enthusiastically. Having grown up in Jamaica with Appleton and Wray & Nephew Rums I thought this would be a great opportunity to help build a world class brand every Jamaican can be justifiably proud of.

What challenges have you faced?
Initially it was learning the industry jargon of the drinks trade as well as understanding the strategic and commercial issues of the business. I had to build a specialist team who could deliver the new vision of the company. We wanted to emerge from our roots in the Jamaican community and build consumer awareness in the premium bars and restaurants by working with bar tenders on creative serves for the products. One of our early challenges was ensuring that Jamaicans over here understand that Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum is exactly the same product they know and love back home, that our product is not watered down compared to the Jamaican one – it is the real deal, from the same production line. I think that message has gotten through now.

Tell us about the Brand?
Appleton is the second oldest estate in the world – the Appleton Estate has been making rums since 1749! Wray & Nephew White Overproof is slightly younger – 1825! Appleton Rums are sold in 35 countries – we are big in Canada, Caribbean, New Zealand, USA & United Kingdom. The Appleton range of rums are golden rums, aged in oak barrels, fitting right into the trend for golden rum cocktails this country is experiencing right now. Whereas Wray & Nephew White Overproof is what they call a true pot still rum, made according to ancient tradition and not aged. All our rums are hand blended by our Master Distiller. One amazing thing for me is how the young British have taken to Wray & Nephew Overproof and made it one of their cocktail ingredients of choice in trendy bars in places like Shoreditch. We work with other drinks like Ting & Ginger Beer, which mix brilliantly with our rums and we have supported charities such as ACLT.

What is your day to day working schedule
I speak with the Sales team about new successes and challenges, about competitors and what they’re doing. I deal with financial issues which would cover credit control and new customer accounts. I talk to marketing about activities they are planning, new strategies they are creating and constant analysis of the market. I go out on the road regularly and visit various customers and accompany sales team members when they meet with their clients. This is very much a people business and you have to have that skillset of communicating and dealing with people. Every day is different, there are numerous long days but enjoyable.

What drives you?
I am a proud Jamaican and this brand is from my Island, so it’s not just about being a business success, it has a personal element to it also.

How do you unwind?
I have a very active social life, I love to visit bars and see our products stocked and sip a great cocktail, I take part in pilates, tai chi, dancing weekly. I also do a lot of reading.

What is your favourite drink from your range?
Appleton Estate 8 year old is my favourite, it has a strong pungent flavour, it’s great for Vanilla Daiquiris.

What is in the future?
Make Appleton and Wray & Nephew the dominant voice and the rums of choice of discerning consumers in the UK, the drinks for people who want real pleasure from drinking the best.

Wray and Nephew