Moutai takes fiery spirit to Europe

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS - By AN­GUS MCNEICE in Ham­burg, Ger­many an­gus@mail.chi­nadai­

China’s iconic liquor brand Moutai chose the north­ern Ger­man port city ofHam­burg, famed for its bars, res­tau­rants and en­ter­tain­ment venues, to launch its cam­paign to bring the fiery spirit to Europe.

Tues­day’s launch was part of a global cam­paign to make Moutai part of the world’s drink­ing cul­ture.

The event was touted as Moutai’s of­fi­cial en­try into Europe. While Moutai is a main­stay at for­mal cel­e­bra­tions across China, its ex­po­sure among Western­ers is largely lim­ited to busi­ness­peo­ple or for­eign dig­ni­taries on trips to China.

Moutai ramped up its in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions in earnest in 2014 when it held a ban­quet in San Fran­cisco and pro­mo­tional ef­forts saw hip bars in New York add Moutai cock­tails to their menus.

Ex­port rev­enue in­creased by 69.46 per­cent in the first half of this year, ac­cord­ing to Yuan Ren­guo, chair­man of Kwe­i­chow Moutai Group, with to­tal an­nual sales on course for $6.4 bil­lion across 60 coun­tries and re­gions. The brand is cur­rently fo­cus­ing on Europe, tak­ing out ads in ma­jor pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the Fi­nan­cial Times, and sched­ul­ing another gala for early 2017 in Paris.

At the Grand El­y­see ho­tel in Ham­burg, 300 guests were served the sorghum-de­rived liquor in three cock­tails de­signed by a Ger­man bar cater­ing ser­vice.

“We had a lot of fun, but it was the most dif­fi­cult time we’ve had mak­ing a new cock­tail be­cause it’s such a dif­fer­ent taste. It’s re­ally com­plex and re­ally strong,” said Alexan­der Brit­tnacher, founder of Next Level Cock­tails.

“Moutai has a smell and taste of ca­cao, so in one cock­tail we com­bined it with a choco­late vodka and choco­late bit­ters,” he said. “In another we looked for food pair­ing part­ners and we found that black­ber­ries were a good com­bi­na­tion.”

Moutai is in talks with a Paris-based cock­tail man­u­fac­turer to sell pre-mixed drinks on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, and the com­pany is scout­ing a lo­ca­tion in Frank­furt for its own cock­tail bar.

Moutai’s Euro­pean strat­egy will also fo­cus heav­ily on Chi­nese res­tau­rants, ac­cord­ing to An Huailun, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Moutai’s im­ports and ex­ports com­pany.

The com­pany is in talks with Euro­pean re­tail­ers and the liquor will sell off the shelf for 149 eu­ros ($160) per 500ml bot­tle. In theUnited King­dom, a good 750 ml bot­tle of sin­gle malt Scotch whisky costs at least 30 pounds ($38).

Yuan said it made strate­gic sense to launchMoutai’s Euro­pean am­bi­tions in Ham­burg, given Ger­many’s strong brew­ing cul­ture and the city’s sta­tus as one of the con­ti­nent’s ma­jor ports.

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