COCONUTS N' SPREADSHEETS
– A Look INside EVA MÅHLÉN'S TOOLBOX FOR FINDING GAME-CHANGERS
IF YOU WERE TO CLAIM THAT EVA MÅHLÉN KNOWS A THING OR TWO ABOUT THE SPIRITS INDUSTRY, YOU WOULD BE GUILTY OF MAKING THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. IN FACT, EVA’S JOB IS TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE INDUSTRY – AND BEYOND. AS SENIOR MANAGER STRATEGIC PLANNING SHE KNOWS THAT IN ORDER TO STAY AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION, YOU NEED TO KNOW THE UNDERLYING FACTORS BEHIND THE RELEVANT CHANGES AND TRENDS, BUT PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY, YOU ALSO NEED TO KNOW HOW, WHEN AND WHERE TO ACT EVEN BEFORE IT BECOMES REALITY.
‘Strategic planning’ sounds important, but what does it mean?
I usually tell people that I’m trying to predict what will make a difference for us as a company. Me and my team look at trends, demographics – basically everything I can find in terms of data – and try to pinpoint how we can make a difference.
When I started here eight years ago we tried to find details in every market that could tell us about how each brand would perform. We tried to be certain when we deep down knew the outcome was almost impossible to tell. Now, we are much more focused on what we can actually predict and – more importantly – act upon. Our outlook now is much more long-term and wide-ranging.
Talking about outlook, what’s the biggest trend in how we consume alcoholic beverages?
People get together and connect with friends and family much more than before. Partying and clubbing is still a thing of course, but it’s becoming less important in general. We also drink more responsibly, with less alcohol, and we’re generally healthier both in how we drink and how we eat.
Are there any global shifts in society that affect the spirits industry?
Yes, definitely. One of them is the rapidly growing middle-class in China and India, which leads to an increased demand for premium products. This opens up for international brands, but the million-dollar question for the industry is what choices young adults of the middle-class will make: will they go for spirits categories they hardly know, like vodka, just to do something new and not drink the same as mom or dad? Or will they stick to categories that are huge already, like baiju in China and whiskey in India, but upgrade to more premium brands? Who knows – perhaps Swedish vodka will be the next big thing in China and India.
So you think The Absolut Company can leverage from these trends and shifts?
Yes, that’s our aim of course, but before you do anything else you need to look at it long-term. Then you’ll soon realize the importance to adapt to the new market. If we identify a market we think will be huge, we know that we can’t use copy and paste from our previous success. We need to stay locally relevant.
Being this reliant on data, what’s your relationship with spreadsheets?
I really like spreadsheets. I’m a nerd when it comes to Excel. Both the problem-solving bit, where you need the right formula in order to do the most efficient calculation, and the analysis bit, where you need to find the x factor in different markets. I love digging into the data to try and find out why gin is so popular in market A and why whisky dominates market B.
It’s still a very versatile job, though. One day you’re looking at macro-economic data in the Euro zone and the next day you’re trying to find out how they use coconut in the cuisine of a particular Indian state. That versatility makes me believe I might stay here at the Absolut Company for at least another eight years.
Eight years is a long time. What has made you stay for so long?
This is a great company and I like it more each year that passes. The fact that we constantly look at how we can improve, the openness and that we always give that extra effort are huge factors for me.
I also love the diversity. Just to give you an idea: in my team of nine people here in Stockholm, the boss is German, my closest coworkers are British, Spanish and Australian, while I’m Swedish. As I said – I have plenty of reasons to stick around.