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And the World's Top Selling Spirit Is...

And the World's Top Selling Spirit Is...
© Park Ji-Ho
Forget Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker, local spirits trounce foreigners.

The world's biggest-selling spirit is a South Korean soju that is barely seen in export markets.

Jinro soju has once again topped the Real 100 list of the best-selling spirits brands around the globe. The list is produced by the International Wine & Spirit Research market intelligence organization in Britain.

In total, 16 brands of soju and shochu – distilled beverages traditionally made from rice and barley respectively – feature in the top 100 list. These brands are the leaders of the spirits world – 64.6 million cases of Jinro, produced by the Hite Brewery company, were sold in 2011, more than double the sales of the next biggest-selling brand, Ruang Kao, a molasses-based drink produced in Thailand.

Last week, Hite announced it would affix to its soju bottles labels with the message, "Stop drunken violence! Let's improve our drinking culture!"

The South Korean market accounts for 95 percent of Jinro soju sales. Indeed, domestic sales represent 90 to 100 percent of revenue for seven brands in the top 10. For example, Ruang Kao and Emperador Philippine brandy (6) sell exclusively in their domestic markets. The majority of these brands are low-priced and sell in markets where imports cannot compete on price and local tradition is dominant.

Only three brands in the top 10 are truly international – vodka producer Smirnoff (3), rum giant Bacardi (7) and blended Scotch whisky house Johnnie Walker (9). These brands have a global penetration and do not rely on a single key market.

Six of the top 10 brands are Asian – the region has experienced a strong recovery from the global financial crisis and its markets and wealth are increasing.

China, India, Thailand and the Philippines are all in the top five largest-growth spirits markets. Forty-five of the Real 100 brands are in fact produced in Asia, and most sell predominantly in their domestic markets.

India, the second-largest growth spirits market behind China, has a total of 20 brands in the top 100, made up of locally made whiskies, brandies and rums. Officer’s Choice, produced by Mumbai-based spirits company Allied Blenders and Distillers, is the world's largest whisky brand, moving up from 11th place to 8th and overtaking local rival McDowell’s.

McDowell's fall from the top whisky spot it had held for years is yet another blow to its owner, Indian magnate and politician Vijay Mallya, according to The Hindustan Times. His UB Group's Kingfisher Airlines subsidiary is experiencing tough times and its market share has slumped.

However, UB still produces five of the 20 top-selling spirits brands in the world, according to The Hindustan Times' analysis of the Real 100 list. In addition to McDowell's whisky, it owns the Bagpiper whisky (#11), Celebration rum (#13), McDowell's brandy (#15) and Old Tavern whisky (#18) lines.

International Wine & Spirit Research says several Chinese baijiu brands are certainly among the 100 top-selling spirits in the world but have not been included in its list because information about individual brands is impossible to obtain from producers, who are regionally based and usually controlled by the government.

Top 10 spirits brands by volume:

 

Brand

Category         Owner

2007*

2010*

2011*

1

Jinro

Shochu/soju

Hite Brewery

72,010

67,655

64,595

2

Ruang Kao

Other spirits

Thai Beverage

33,400

30,000

30,900

3

Smirnoff

Vodka

Diageo

23,731

24,414

25,197

4

Kyongwal

Shochu/soju

Kyongwal

19,524

15,676

20,396

5

Cachaça 51

Cane

Müller de     Bebidas

21,458

19,454

20,155

6

Emperador Philippine

Brandy

Consolidated Distillers Philippines

8,640

10,000

19,000

7

Bacardi

Rum

Bacardi-Martini

19,154

18,138

18,411

8

Officer’s Choice

Whisky

ABD

6,600

15,265

17,102

9

Johnnie Walker

Scotch whisky

Diageo

14,512

15,498

16,681

10

McDowell’s

Whisky

UB India

11,026

15,192

16,396

 * All volumes are in thousands of nine-litre cases, to the nearest 1,000

 
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