E&J Gallo is to distribute manufacturer Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co.’s soju in the US to try to expand the drinks into more mainstream channels.

Soju is a Korean spirit typically made from tapioca, sweet potato, rice, wheat, or barley with an average abv of around 20%.

Lotte Chilsung’s soju brands Soonhari, Chum Churum and Saero are available in specialist Asian retailers in the US. Spirit of Gallo – E&J Gallo’s spirits arm – said today (4 December) it wants to “expand distribution across all other channels”. A distribution deal between the two companies starts next month.

Britt West, the general manager for Spirit of Gallo, said the soju category was at a “pivotal” moment in the US.

Without citing the source of the data, he added: “The soju category doubled in the US over the past five years, driven by accelerating consumer demand.

“The newest generation of drinkers has been driving the growth and is turning over the soju category due to its variety, convenience, and accessible price point.

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“We are entering the category at a pivotal moment with the strongest partner, and we look forward to capitalising on this opportunity.”

Soju is the largest spirits category in the world in terms of volume and Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co. is the world’s second-largest soju manufacturer, according to Spirit of Gallo.

Part of Lotte Group, Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co. produces over 100 beverages including soju, beer, whiskey, fruit wine and rice wine. It has six manufacturing facilities and exports to over 70 countries.

Kyungdong Kim, president of US subsidiary Lotte Beverage America Corp., said: “We are excited to partner with Spirit of Gallo to leverage their distribution network and go-to-market capabilities to bring soju closer to more consumers and take the category and the Lotte Chilsung brands to new heights.”

In September, Spirit of Gallo partnered with Mexican boxer Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez and Mexican spirit company Casa Lumbre to launch a range of Tequila RTDs in the US. Spirit of Gallo said the products would initially be launched in “select markets with large Mexican-American populations”.

E&J Gallo set up Spirit of Gallo last year as a dedicated umbrella business unit for its spirits operations.

In July last year, the wine giant announced a “strategic investment” in Horse Soldier Bourbon, a deal that marked its entry into US whiskey.