Challengingthe famed white spirits
Updated: 2011-04-01 10:56
(China Daily European Weekly)
Rice wine is an integral part of Chinese cuisine, but if Lithuanian Vodka maker Stumbras has anything to do with it, rice wine will soon make way for grain alcohol.
Stumbras, one of the world's oldest and largest distilleries dating back to the 19th century, has set its sights on the Chinese market. Unfazed by the market saturation of domestic liquor brands, Nerijus Raudonis, Stumbras head of export development, says China is a big market for spirits of all sorts, including vodka.
Stumbras gold-filtered vodka.
"The spirits market in China is one of the biggest in the world. Domestic players like Wuliangye, Moutai and other companies dominate the market. Most of them make traditional Chinese baijiu and other herbal alcoholic beverages. But the market for imported spirits is also increasing every year," says Raudonis.
The Lithuanian company is testing the Chinese waters with its premium brands like Stumbras Vodka, Lithuanian Gold Vodka and herbal alcoholic beverage 999.
"We want to be seen as the ambassadors of European culinary heritage in China," he says.
Stumbras also produces other alcoholic drinks like brandy, liqueur and bitters.
The company, however, is not the only foreign brand vying to make an impact in China. Apart from domestic made liquors, Stumbras also faces challenges from other European brands like the Absolut vodka brand of French spirits maker Pernord.
Raudonis says that Stumbras Vodka is a protected Geographical Indicator labeled product, and represents history and quality that is guaranteed by the European Union. Raudonis adds that Stumbras Vodka is made through a special process and cannot be replicated.
"We understand that competition in the market is strong, especially in the mainstream segment of the market. Stumbras AB products are made in a boutique production, using traditional methods invented by our grandparents many years ago and perfected by Stumbras AB experts," says Raudonis.
"In terms of positioning in the market, for example, Lithuanian Gold Vodka is the first Gold-Filtered vodka in the Chinese market. Stumbras Centenary Vodka is positioned as hand-made vodka with natural wheat stalk in the bottle."
Stumbras is already available in China, through a distributor in Shanghai. Raudonis says the company remains upbeat as demand for high-end products is increasing in China.
The next step, says Raudonis, is for Stumbras to enter second-, third- and fourth-tier cities in China.
"We strongly believe that vodka can be consumed as a dinner drink next to Chinese baijiu in the near future," says Raudonis.
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