The times they are a-changing

If you thought the Old World – New World distinction and competition which we talk about all the time today only applied to the wine world, you’ll have to think again. I had to anyway. Reading the Millionaires Club’s latest report published by Drinks International, I was astonished to realize that the New World has taken the world of spirits production and sales by storm. A huge and long-lasting storm, too. But it is a New World that has to be redefined: unlike in the world of wines, here we’re not talking about the USA, South Africa or Australia. Rather, it’s countries it wouldn’t even occur to the lay pub-goer to put on the alcohol map: India, Philippines, Korea, Brazil…

To quote from the report, ‘Scotland no longer makes the world’s best-selling whisky … the biggest brandies and gins don’t come from France, the UK, or the US but from the Philippines and India … Bacardi – so long the transcendent spirit – is being overrun in the confines of its own category.’ We live in exciting and surprising times indeed. And what’s even more surprising is that these countries often produce spirits that the average Westerner has never even heard about, let alone tasted: soju/sochu, or baijiu, to name just two of the market leaders. In the trade these are called domestic or regional brands, which means they don’t appear on the global market. Be that as it may, they sell far more bottles of their products than international brands do. To give you one example: the soju brand Jinro sold over 65 million 9-litre cases of soju in 2012. How many do you think the leading international spirit brand, Smirnoff, sold? Under 26 million – much less than half of the soju. And Smirnoff sells quite a lot more bottles than the next international brand down the line, Bacardi, does (at just under 20 million cases).

Some other interesting trivia: do you know how many Scotch single malts made it to the Millionaires Club, meaning they sell at least 1 million cases of 9 litres of whisky? One – yes, one. Glenfiddich, and it is  last on the Millionaires list, at no. 176. So one thing to learn is that, like with other products, quality is  not necessarily what drives the system. It’s still shocking to think that brands that are so ubiquitous in our Western world are dwarfs when compared to others that are totally unfamiliar to us and that come from (well they don’t really come because they barely leave their own region, no need for that) countries far far away.

The world’s best-selling brandy is called Emperador and it is made in the Philippines. It’s the world’s second biggest liquor brand today. It’s increased its sales by 500% between 2009 and 2012, in merely three years – quite amazing. And the list goes on and on – a number of whiskies made in India and Japan, and cachaca, and rum from – guess where? The Philippines! If no other lesson to take home today, the Asians do drink big time – because, as I said, the vast majority of these brands are not sold outside the regions of their production (which, for the record, tend to be massive enough as they are; think of China or India for example).

Here is the link to the full Millionaires Club report in PDF format.

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