Pernod Ricard has launched its Our/London, the first version of its global Our/Vodka brand in the UK. The initiative is part of the international rollout of Our/Vodka, which sees the brand use local ingredients, launch a micro-distillery and operate a partnership business model with local entrepreneurs.
While Our/Vodka has one global recipe, its ingredients are locally sourced, meaning the product has a different taste in each of its markets, which include Berlin and Detroit. Further launches in LA, New York and Amsterdam are also planned using the same model.
Asa Caap, chief executive of Our/Vodka, says: “The biggest success for Our/Vodka is of course to succeed in building the global family we dream of. If we succeed with this, Our/Vodka will be the first brand ever that is both global and local at the same time.”
The Our/London brand will be distributed from a micro-distillery events space in East London, which aims to promote the brand.
It will be run by two entrepreneurs based in London, restauranteur Clive Watson and entertainment PR firm director Neil Chivers. Watson has just opened new restaurant Blixen, while his previous London successes include The Riding House Cafe. Chivers’ firm LD Communications promotes the tours of acts such as The Rolling Stones.
Caap explains: “Most of our partners are from outside the industry. Why? What do they bring that more traditional partners might not? Well, since our owners are from the spirit business, we thought it makes much more sense to bring people in from other industries.
“Our New York partners are from the skate industry, the Detroit partners are social entrepreneurs, the Seattle partners are designers and the Berlin partners come from fashion and PR. The ideas and solutions that these people bring to Our/Vodka feel very unique and fresh.”
This initiative is not the only innovation developed by Pernod Ricard, which describes the creation of the Our/Vodka brand as a “black ops project”. Last year, Pernod Ricard’s outgoing chief marketing officer Martin Riley told Marketing Week how the spirits brand was innovating in multiple areas, including digital technology, with a connected cocktail dispenser and wearable tech.
Caap says the company will measure success for Our/Vodka and its international versions not only by financial return but proof of the concept, adding: “For Our/London, we hope to become a hub for likeminded people and hopefully to break even within a couple of years.”
Mintel’s senior UK food and drink analyst Douglas Faughnan says the Our/Vodka business model and rollout seems like a genuinely new approach in the spirits market. He says that while the drinks industry has long focused on “craft” products – 20% of Brits have drunk craft beers in the last six months – the spirits market has taken longer to embrace the craft ethos.
“This is definitely a unique approach with the premise of a standardised global recipe and local ingredients. While provenance is not something new in the spirits industry, this is interesting. It’s not just generic origin. Our Vodka is taking provenance to another level – Local ingredients, produced in London, produced by Londoners, for Londoners.”
Q&A: Neil Chivers & Clive Watson, Our/London partners
MW: Is the micro distillery your primary distribution method? Or will you be aiming to have Our/London stocked in retailers/bars/restaurants too?
CW: While we do expect to sell some product directly from the distillery, it won’t be our primary route to market. We’re off the beaten track a little so won’t get passing trade as such, although, via event activity, we hope the distillery will become a destination in time.
Initially, while we are seeding and building the brand, we will be selective as to where we’ll be selling Our/London but yes, we plan to distribute to retailers, bars, hotels and restaurants with additional ambitions further down the line. We also hope to distribute our product in less conventional ways than normally associated with spirit brands.
MW: Why have an events space? What type of events do you hope to run and how does that fit your business strategy?
NC: We have run and been involved in events together since we met at University in 1991. For us using the distillery as an event space is really important, as it gives us a chance to curate our own events and collaborate with interesting and likeminded local businesses and brands, bringing the right people directly to where we’re making our product.
Our distillery is integral to our story and provides a perfect location and opportunity to showcase our product in context at source. We don’t have a big marketing budget so we will have to be creative; hosting and sponsoring the right events is essential to marketing Our/London effectively.
We currently work in food and music so these are two areas that will naturally be reflected in the events we put on; we have a great space and the freedom to use it as we please, so we’ll see who we end up connecting and collaborating with.
MW: The premium vodka market is pretty tough right now with brands seeing some declines…why will you be successful in a market where some of the world’s biggest brands are struggling?
NC: When we were first approached about Our/Vodka what struck us most was how fresh the business model was. Not only is it a great tasting and beautiful looking product, the approach was really appealing to us. It’s a new and brave way of taking a product to market.
We believe that as each new Our/Vodka distillery opens, the brand gets stronger. The ability to be able to share ideas and experiences with our global family directly is really unique and means that, we learn from each other’s successes and failures. As each local city brand gets bigger, so too does the global brand.
Whilst the UK vodka market may appear saturated, it’s a big market with room for innovation. We hope the quality of our product, the way it looks and what we do with it will stand out from the other vodka brands currently out there.