A row over trademark rights to Stolichnaya Red vodka has prompted the Russian government to withhold the brand’s export, sparking fears from distributor First Drinks Brands that its UK market share will plummet.
First Drinks brand manager Jon Evans says he received official notification from Russian distillers Soyuzplodimport (SPI) on Monday (March 4) that the Kremlin was refusing to let the company ship the brand from Kalingrad docks.
He had been seeking clarification from SPI about February’s shipment, which failed to arrive in the UK. The company receives about 480,000 bottles a month.
The dispute revolves around the Kremlin’s attempts to reclaim ownership of Stolichnaya from SPI. It argues that the rights to the trademark were illegally sold cheaply in the chaos of the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Evans says: “Stocks of the brand will run out pretty quickly and as of this week, we will not be able to supply our customers at all. It’s not a good situation to be in and it is hurting our growth potential.”
He adds: “Stolichnaya Red is sold in bars such as Revolution and our competitors, such as Absolut and Finlandia, will try to capitalise on our absence.”
First Drinks Brands says supplies of Stolichnaya Blue and the three flavoured Stolichnaya vodka brands are as yet unaffected, with six months of supplies in stock.
The Russian government’s trade representatives in the UK were unavailable for comment.