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Angostura targets emerging markets for rum

By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, April 12 2012

ANGOSTURA is famous the world over for its aromatic bitters yet its range of rums, including premium blends 1824 and 1919, is still relatively unknown in many countries.

That’s why the company has embarked on a three-year plan (2012 - 2014) to introduce its “Caribbean Rum” range to emerging rum markets and to re-launch it in countries like the United States where it was previously sold through the now defunct distributor, Angostura USA.

Angostura’s Executive Manager of Export and Business Development, Genevieve Jodhan, said the company recognised the importance of having a presence in Eastern Europe and Asia; two of the main emerging markets for rum consumption, as well as in established markets such as the USA and Canada.

Hence the first ever annual Angostura’s International Distributors’ Forum was held during Carnival 2011, at the same time as its Global Cocktail Challenge was relaunched as an annual event. GCC has previously been held every two years.

Jodhan told Business Day it was a deliberate choice to hold both events, particularly the Distributors’ Forum, during Carnival to help Angostura’s international representatives better market their “Angostura Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean Rum” line.

“The distributors not only get to experience our culture during Carnival, they participate in rum emersion classes. They’re trained in the features of our rums, the advantages and benefits of our rums, getting to meet the blenders, seeing how the rum is produced and learning how to mix cocktails with them.

“We also show them how to marry our rum with Bitters because in most emerging rum markets, most people have seen Bitters but they don’t actually drink a lot of cocktails and if they drink rum it’s not necessarily our rum,” Jodhan said.

Australia, Taiwan and Russia are among the countries visited over the past year by a team from Angostura.

In markets where scotch and whiskey are dominant, such as Russia, Jodhan said the company had to launch an education and brand awareness campaign which has been led by its Master Distiller, John Georges.

“He visits the countries we’re interested in launching our line of Caribbean rums, which have a butterfly on the logo, and speaks to staff, distributors and bartenders about what our rums are about and what we can offer to the market.

It took us three years to get into Russia, which is about the norm in emerging markets; nine months to get the product into the market, nine months to train the staff, another six months to see that your programmes work. It’s a long process but we at Angostura are confident we’re on the right track to become a significant player in this and other emerging rum markets,” Jodhan explained.

To ensure everyone was “on the same page” about how best to market Angostura’s rums, the 2012 Distributors’ Forum was attended by distribution teams from the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, South Africa, France, Hong Kong, Sweden, USA, Ukraine, Lithuania, India, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Caribbean.

Distributors arrived in Trinidad on February 16, 2012 to attend the three-day forum, which not only examined best marketing and sales practices, Angostura said it also helped to shape “a powerful sales and marketing strategy for the years ahead.”

As Jodhan explained, “80 percent of our global export sales are Bitters because Angostura is still a small and relatively unknown rum “player” in the world. We are known as the aromatic bitters company so our job right now is to educate distributors and consumers about our rums.

“As a general strategy, we’ve been using the markets where we are successful in Bitters to open the door for our rums. Our top three Bitters markets are Australia, USA and the United Kingdom.”

Jodhan also spoke about the strategy behind including an image of a butterfly on the label of its export market range of rums; “Angostura Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean Rum”.

“In February 2011 we re-launched Angostura rums in the US under the new label, which has a butterfly on the top right corner. We chose the butterfly to make our label distinct because Trinidad has the largest variety of butterfly species in the world; 450, and because of the connection between the sugar cane harvest and butterflies.

“When Trinidad still had a sugar cane industry, one could tell it was time to harvest the cane by the number of butterflies hovering around the sugar cane arrows. People used to say the butterflies were kissing the sugar cane arrows. The butterfly on our label also ties in nicely with the fact that Angostura House has the largest collection of butterflies in the world; the Barcant Collection,” Jodhan noted.

Angostura only manufactures Bitters here in Trinidad at its headquarters on Eastern Main Road, Laventille but its rums are bottled in two countries.

Jodhan explained that where your product is bottled can determine which markets you are allowed to enter.

“We manufacture rum in two places — House of Angostura here in Trinidad and since 2007 under CL World Brands in East Kilbride, Scotland. From Scotland, we market our rums in Europe, Australia and other emerging markets through our distribution channels. CL World Brands is our partner that works with us to help in terms of getting the route to market for that side of the world. So they do Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia for us.

“We manufacture rum in Trinidad for sale in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean markets.

So we do Bitters in Trinidad only and rum in Trinidad and Scotland. Angostura decided to have dual manufacturing points for our rums because of marketing considerations; where is it best to market from and logistically what is the best point to bottle before shipping,” Jodhan said.

Angostura’s export line includes a 3-year-old rum or “Reserva”, a 5-year-old rum and a 7-year-old, which are all now available in the US market.

“This year we’re launching 1919 and 1824 in their new packing in the US,” Jodhan told Business Day.

“We made the neck of the bottle longer for easier handling, the bottle itself has a slightly different shape and we updated the label a bit. We’re working with a city-by-city plan in the US, which started in Manhattan, New York. Next is Chicago, Illinois then San Francisco, California. We’re a small company so we’re moving into key markets within the US first to establish our rum brand but you would definitely find Angostura Bitters in every bar in the USA,” Jodhan said.

The packaging in which the 1824 and 1919 are sold has also been changed to include images of TT’s culture, history, flora and fauna.As with the decision to hold its annual Distributors’ Forum during Carnival, Jodhan explained that before Angostura can sell its rum to distributors and retailers in emerging countries, it has to ‘sell’ where the rum comes from.

“We’re hoping now to use these products to promote Trinidad and Tobago because a lot of the times, the biggest challenge when you’re abroad is to explain where you’re from and what your culture is all about.

“Imagine you’re sitting in Thailand and you have to locate TT country on a map, talk about our history from the Amerindians to Columbus to modern-day TT. So now we’re using the packaging, the box, to highlight elements of our history and culture, our flora and fauna, including Carnival, Columbus and the Scarlet Ibis.

“It’s almost like a show because before we can say who we are, we have to say where we’re from, so we talk about the spirit of Trinidad and Tobago and that we embody that when you sip one of our rums,” Jodhan said.

“UK Rum Ambassador” Ian Burrell, who attended both the Distributors’ Forum and GCC 2012, told Business Day “Angostura has the luxury of having one of the only brands that you’ll find in any good bar around the world, and that’s Bitters. So in terms of moving into new territories with their rum, they’re already in the market with Angostura Bitters, it’s just a matter of bringing new products in.

“Their rums are still fairly unknown in several markets but brand awareness is growing and in Europe I see them doing a lot of work in the old eastern block countries, namely Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine.”

Burrell also said Angostura’s other advantage over its rum competitors is its wide range of light and dark rums.“It’s almost like a one-stop shop; light rums for cocktails, dark rums and premium blends such as 1919, 1824 and even Single Barrel, that can be drunk with a couple cubes of ice or neat.

If you’re looking at pushing volume sales, it’s going to be younger, often white, rums in cocktails. If you’re looking to build your brand, then you’re looking at the older rums; 1814, 1919, et cetera, that people would enjoy sipping after dinner or with some plain chocolate, depending on the rum on hand.

“You want people to ask for an 1824 or a 1919 by name when requesting an after-dinner rum, not simply telling the waiter they’d like a rum and asking for a recommendation. That’s called building your brand, getting people to ask for your product by name and that’s what Angostura is in the middle of doing,” Burrell stated.

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