Hip-hop artist Pharrell behind Diageo Qream liqueur

NEW YORK Fri Jul 15, 2011 1:00am IST

Singer Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. performs at the 35th Paleo music festival in Nyon July 20, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files

Singer Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. performs at the 35th Paleo music festival in Nyon July 20, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. hip-hop artist and designer Pharrell Williams has a special treat for the ladies and Diageo PLC is bringing it to them.

The world's largest spirits company, which also developed Ciroc vodka with rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs, is launching a new dessert-inspired liqueur on Thursday called Qream.

Qream (pronounced like "cream") targets women who like ice cream and comes in two flavors: strawberry creme and peach creme. Its suggested retail price is $29.99 per bottle.

Alcoholic drink makers like Diageo, and rivals Pernod Ricard (PERP.PA) and Fortune Brands FO.N, have set more of their sights on female drinkers in recent years, with everything from flavored vodkas to fruity malt beverages to low-calorie ready-to-drink margaritas.

Qream is the brain child of Williams, the Grammy award-winning American music producer, singer and fashion designer, who claims to not be much of a drinker himself.

He said he wanted to design a drink that would make people, especially women, feel comfortable about having something sweet.

"I think there's such a stigma in the world about indulgence, making people feel guilty," Williams said in a telephone interview. He said he was also inspired by the fact that chocolate and other sweets were resilient in a recession.

"Those things release endorphins. That means it brings joy to people," he said.

Still, a 4-ounce glass of Qream has only roughly as many calories as a glass of white wine, according to officials at Diageo, who said they were impressed with Williams' idea.

"What was great about it was his vision actually dovetailed very nicely with Diageo's focus on marketing to women," said Anna MacDonald, Diageo USA's marketing director for liqueurs.

Qream -- with a logo that evokes a royal seal and a Q inspired by the word "queen" -- is the second product developed specifically for women from London-listed Diageo, after Godiva vodka, launched last year. Other recent products, such as Jose Cuervo Light Margarita and Seagrams 7 Dark Honey whiskey, are developed with men and women in mind, MacDonald said.

MacDonald declined to give sales targets for Qream or details about the financial arrangement between Diageo and Williams.

In addition to being part of the production duo The Neptunes and the band N.E.R.D., Williams has founded fashion lines Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, and has collaborated with Louis Vuitton and artist Takashi Murakami.

And at the end of the day, the artist said he was attracted by the chance to express himself on a new platform.

"I've done it in visual art. I've done it in design. I've done it in music. And now we're covering gustatory," Williams said. "One day you may look up and there'll be an olfactory presentation in some sort of fragrance. I just want to continue to please the senses of our species."

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Richard Chang)

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