SPI Groups Stolichnaya is bottled in Latvia

SPI Group's Stolichnaya is bottled in Latvia

A senior SPI Group exec has claimed a boycott of its Stolichnaya vodka brand by the gay community because of its Russian connections had “minimal” impact. 

Speaking to just-drinks, SPI's CMO Marco Ferrari said some US accounts stopped selling Stolichnaya but that the protest - a retaliation against anti-homosexual legislation in Russia - “didn't really get any traction” in other markets. Most of the US accounts soon returned to serving the vodka, Ferrari said. 

The boycott started in the US in July after authorities in Russia introduced a ban on "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”. In response to the protest, SPI Group CEO Val Mendeleev wrote an open letter to the global LGBT community criticising the new laws. 

There was “a little bit of anger”, Ferrari said, within the company to the boycott because it linked SPI Group with official Russian policy. SPI, which is based in Luxembourg, bottles Stolichnaya in Latvia using Russian ingredients. It is involved in a long-running dispute over ownership of Stolichnaya with Russia, where a different company owns the rights to the brand.

“Stolichnaya has been a strong partner to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Trangender) foundations and organisations for many years,” Ferrari said at the TFWA World Exhibition in France. “To be associated with the Russian Government, their beliefs and their actions, in a company that advocates tolerance and openness, it really hit us in the guts.”

However, Ferrari said the protest helped SPI “get our message across and tell people who we are”.

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