Liquor producers continue to look for growth opportunities in new categories occupied by imported brands. Kaluga Distillery "Crystal" launched its brand of the Korean drink soju with a strength of 13%. By the end of this year, the Alcohol Siberian Group (ASG) wants to enter the category dominated by the Jinro brand. The demand for low-alcohol drinks is growing, but soju is still little known in Russia.
The Kristall plant has launched the production of soju, a traditional Korean alcoholic drink, under the Stun brand, the company told Kommersant. The line includes five positions with different fruit flavors with a strength of 13%. In retail chains, Stun should be sold for about 200 rubles. per bottle 0.375 l. The owner of the Kristall plant, Pavel Pobedkin, says that the soju recipe was developed and adapted by technologists from South Korea. This year the company plans to reach sales of 50 thousand dal of the drink per month, and in 2024 it wants to begin exporting to Korea and China.
According to data from market participants available to Kommersant, in January-July the Kristall distillery produced 1.07 million liters of vodka, ranking 12th in the Russian Federation in terms of this indicator. The portfolio includes the brands Bionica and Charochka, and produces Khorta vodka under contract. KLVZ "Kristall" also produced liqueurs Alter Heiler and Konig Heiler, positioning them as a replacement for Jagermeister, which caused opposition from the owner of the Mast-Jagermeister brand. This year, the company filed a claim in court to protect its rights, and Kristall KLVZ filed a counterclaim to protect its reputation and compensate for damages.
The sales volume of Korean soju in Russia at the Kristall KLVZ is estimated at approximately 60 thousand decalitres per year. The most popular brand in the category is Jinro, which ranks first in The Millionaires' Club ranking by Drinks International with sales of about 90 million decaliters in 2022. On the online showcase of Perekrestok, Jinro with a strength of 13% costs 499 rubles. for a bottle of 0.36 l with a 16% discount. The Russian division of HiteJinro did not respond to Kommersant.
Director for development of the main portfolio of ASG (White Birch, Five Lakes, Sibbitter) Natalya Nevorotova says that ASG is developing three flavors of soju and plans to start selling the drink by the end of this year. In the Russian Federation, the category is just beginning to develop, but given the global trend and interest in Asian culture, it will grow, the ASG predicts. Marketing Director of Alvis (Elder, Kinovsky) Svetlana Yartseva notes that soju corresponds to the trend for drinks that can be used for cocktails, but so far the category is not widely known in the Russian Federation. Local consumers are ready to try new things, but are reluctant to reduce the alcohol content, Ladoga (Tsarskaya, Barrister) points out. The Rust Group of Companies (Russian Standard, Green Mark) does not see prospects for significant sales of soju in Russia, including due to the almost complete lack of knowledge about the drink.
According to the national retail audit NielsenIQ, gin remains the fastest growing alcohol category in the Russian Federation. In January-July, sales of the drink grew year-on-year by 29.5% in volume and 24.2% in money. Natural sales of vermouth increased by 22.5%, aperitifs by 15.1%, and vodka decreased by 0.9%, analysts calculated.
The head of the WineRetail information center, Alexander Stavtsev, notes that the surge in popularity of local gin in the Russian Federation has shown that entering new categories for the market can be justified. The production of soju does not require complex production technology and fits into the trend of growing demand for low-alcohol drinks, he points out. But, Mr. Stavtsev adds, the launch of soju will require competent communication with the consumer so that the drink can compete with beer and wine. CIFRRA director Vadim Drobiz adds that soju may become in demand primarily among consumers of low-alcohol cocktails.