Stolichnaya is a historic vodka model. It has deep roots within the vodka business, relationship again to 1948, and was a typical bearer of Soviet/Russian vodka.
The rights to the Stolichnaya model have been acquired in 1999 by SPI Group, a personal firm chartered in Luxembourg, based and owned by Russian businessman Yuri Shefler. The Russian authorities has disputed the legality of the sale of the Stolichnaya model and vested these rights in a Russian state-owned firm – FKP Sojuzplodoimport.
The upshot is that two completely different corporations declare possession of the Stolichnaya model. Every operates in these nations the place the native courts have upheld their possession of the model.
In the USA, the Stolichnaya model is managed by the Stoli Group, a division of SPI Group. Not too long ago, I sat down with Damian McKinney, CEO of the Stoli Group to speak in regards to the latest, dramatic adjustments at Stoli group, in addition to the way forward for premium vodka in North America.
Damian McKinney brings an eclectic mixture of abilities and experiences to his position because the CEO of the Stoli Group. An officer within the Royal Marine Commandos, he operated in quite a lot of the world’s sizzling spots, together with the Persian Gulf through the Gulf Conflict, and acquired quite a few awards for braveness and distinguished service.
In 1999, he based and constructed a worldwide consultancy, McKinney Rogers, which was acquired by GP Methods. McKinney has a formidable popularity as a enterprise chief, reworking corporations and types to turn into the very best on the planet. He has labored throughout many industries and continents, reaching vital recognition, with specific deal with the beverage alcohol business.
JM: In the USA, since its creation in 2013, the Stoli Group has functioned each as a beverage firm and an importer of different manufacturers it distributed. Within the final yr, you seem to have pulled again from third occasion distribution in favor of focusing by yourself manufacturers. What’s behind that technique?
DM: Focus. Over the previous yr we now have established a transparent, hyper deal with elevating Stoli to essentially the most highly effective extremely premium wine and spirits portfolio on the planet. Because of this, we now have recommitted to present manufacturers and launched new premium ones. We’re turbo charging Stoli with manufacturers together with Elit (Vodka), Kentucky Owl Bourbon, Villa One Tequila, and naturally, Chateau Miraval Rose.
JM: Stoli Group has a big wine portfolio. Its wholly owned subsidiary Tenute del Mondo owns an curiosity in famend Tremendous Tuscan manufacturers like Luce, Ornellaia and Masseto. Not too long ago you acquired Angelina Jolie’s 50% curiosity in Chateau Miraval. You’ve different premium wine properties in Spain and Argentina. Lots of your wine manufacturers are joint ventures, within the case of the Tremendous Tuscan wines, with famed Italian producer Frescobaldi. Do you like a three way partnership format? What position does wine play in Stoli’s total beverage portfolio?
DM: Our wine arm, Tenute del Mondo, operates a mixture of joint ventures and 100% possession: we personal Achaval Ferrer, Melipal and Arínzano fully.
Our imaginative and prescient is to create the world’s main ultra-premium wine group, by constructing a rare portfolio of wineries. Wine is intimately related to terroir, and nice winemakers take a few years to study the subtleties of a person winery and to have the ability to make nice wine from it. We subsequently worth the consistency and expertise that our companions carry to the wineries in our portfolio, and take nice worth from their continued participation. These partnerships additionally permit us to broaden our personal data and expertise.
General, we see wine as vastly complementary to our spirits portfolio. Most luxurious drinks customers get pleasure from a portfolio of various wines and spirits, and by having each wine and spirits our purpose is to have the ability to provide these customers one thing particular for each event, regardless of the drink they select for that second.
We additionally consider strongly that our experience in model constructing and distribution provides big worth to the wine manufacturers which we work with; the world of spirits has all the time excelled in growing and advertising and marketing prime manufacturers, and by combining this model constructing course of with our wine crew’s deep data of the class we’re capable of create one thing really particular.
JM: There have been a whole lot of adjustments at Stoli during the last yr. These embody vital adjustments in personnel, a renewed deal with owned manufacturers, and an enlargement within the product vary of present manufacturers. What didn’t you want in regards to the outdated Stoli and what would you like the brand new Stoli to be?
DM: We’re all beneficiaries of historical past. And I’m grateful for the place Stoli is at this time. Those that got here earlier than us created a legacy of which we’re proud.
Whereas our wealthy historical past is what introduced us right here, extra lately, Stoli didn’t have highly effective, or shopper led manufacturers or a robust established international crew or tradition. Should you have been to ask Stoli personnel a yr in the past, who’s Stoli? You’ll be onerous pressed to discover a constant or compelling reply.
Slightly over a yr in the past we got down to rework the enterprise. To not solely create essentially the most highly effective extremely premium model by 2025, however to create a company powered by the very best expertise we might discover who have been dedicated to that mission.
With a purpose to obtain that purpose, we now have had to have a look at every little thing from portfolio, to folks, to course of. To that finish, we:
· Reworked our groups by hiring primarily based on capabilities, experiences, AND maybe most significantly, a unifying mindset.
· Seemed for expertise that was mission oriented and motivated by the prospect of making change. This consists of recruiting these all in favour of revitalizing present manufacturers and impressed to creating new partaking ones.
· Embraced people that have been entrepreneurial and motivated to work in a lateral group.
· And, after all, those who actively help variety, inclusion, and sustainability. Basically, these dedicated to standing up for equality and sustainability causes which can be essential to our wellbeing and survival.
The result’s a renewed, energized mission targeted international crew. Should you have been to ask a Stoli worker at this time – Who’s Stoli? You’ll obtain a a lot completely different reply than a yr in the past. I’d hope they’d say “Stoli is a corporation that hires the very best folks, cares about doing the proper factor, and rewards worker engagement.”
JM: Stoli’s beverage portfolio now consists of bourbon producer Kentucky Owl, in addition to mezcal model Se Busca and Tequila model Cenote, amongst others. Vodka remains to be the first driver of Stoli Group’s gross sales, nonetheless. Are you trying to develop Stoli’s beverage portfolio? Will this be primarily by acquisitions? What beverage sectors most curiosity you?
DM: Stoli Vodka has and can proceed to be a major driver of gross sales. This previous yr we woke up our sleeping big. In recognition for the legacy and excellent product, we double downed on Stoli Vodka and primarily relaunched it with a heightened consciousness and gratitude to those that have supported us all alongside, together with the LGBTQ+ communities. On the identical time our Elit Vodka continues to dominate the premium area and in reality, was simply acknowledged because the Finest Vodka for the tenth time by the Beverage Testing Institute.
Past Vodka, we proceed to construct out wider and deeper. For example, our dedication to Kentucky Owl is unwavering and is evidenced within the hiring of our Grasp Blender, John Rhea, in addition to the hiring of David Mandell as president of Kentucky Owl® Actual Property Firm LLC. Mandell is chargeable for main the development and growth of the Kentucky Owl Distillery and Park situated on over 400 acres in The Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown, Kentucky.
Whereas we now have set our wine portfolio, vodka, bourbon and tequila manufacturers on the proper course, we at the moment are working to broaden our gin and rum manufacturers. The enlargement of those strains will include a mix of acquisition and natural progress.
JM: Botanical vodkas, web site/terroir particular vodkas and grain varietal particular vodkas have all turn into extra distinguished in the previous couple of years. Is that this the subsequent wave of vodka innovation? Will these traits have legs? What are Stoli’s plans in these areas?
DM: Customers are, in reality, in search of authenticity and innovation. Our plan is to proceed to ship each of these issues in significant and fascinating methods.
One space by which we’ll focus will probably be to construct out our experience round flavors. To that finish, we’ll innovate actual flavors from authentic sources. Moreover, our 5-year plan consists of huge efforts in each environmental and social pillars. To that finish, we’ll present customers with transparency and types rooted in sustainability.
JM: Over the past 20 years we have seen a broad generational shift from white spirits to brown spirits. Vodka has held its personal, though its charge of progress has declined considerably.
In accordance with IWSR Drinks Market Evaluation, by way of worth, vodka in 2000 represented 21.5% of whole spirits worth within the US, whereas in 2020, vodka was 23% of whole spirits worth.
Why do you assume vodka has fared higher than different white spirits? How is at this time’s vodka drinker completely different from the one 20 years in the past? Do you see any proof but that the market share of white spirits is staging a comeback?
DM: Sure, Vodka has all the time fared nicely, because it has by no means gone out of trend. It has remained extremely constant as a clear, pure various to brown spirits. Vodka has remained versatile and the business has witnessed huge improvements to stay present regardless of a always evolving market.
At the moment’s vodka drinker cares a couple of “higher for you” product. They’re motivated by conscious consumption, high quality, transparency and sustainability. Customers need to join with “genuine manufacturers” and are much less all in favour of conventional promoting campaigns.
As an alternative they wish to see manufacturers that take motion (not simply share phrases). You will notice our help of this with our Liberate Your Spirit marketing campaign which is a platform to liberate voices around the globe and spotlight points that may be overcome if all of us pull collectively (i.e. gender, equality, inclusion, peace, and the local weather disaster).
Wanting forward, there may be additional proof that market share for white spirits past vodka is making a comeback. We will see it within the renewed curiosity in gin that may be a international phenomenon.