Zamora Co fights "marketing gimmick" gins with Icelandic plant build - CEO

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Zamora Co is upping its international focus with construction of an Icelandic production centre for its Martin Miller's Gin and the potential launch of coffee-based RTD cans for signature liqueur Licor 43.

Zamora Cos CEO Emilio Restoy hit out at the "wall of gins" on the market

Zamora Co's CEO Emilio Restoy hit out at the "wall of gins" on the market

The Spanish company has quadrupled its international staff in the past four years and opened in-house distribution centres in China and the US. Last year it also acquired a majority stake in Martin Miller's and bought into the Lolea sangria brand. That followed the purchase in 2017 of a stake in Texas whiskey Yellow Rose.

Speaking to just-drinks at Prowein last month, Zamora CEO Emilio Restoy said the company is building a distillation plant and visitors centre in the Icelandic town of Borgarnes, with construction expected to complete by the end of the year. Borgarnes has a population of less than 4,000 but attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year as it is one of the principal sites for viewing the northern lights.

The up-to-EUR3m (US$3.4m) investment will mean Martin Miller's Gin is fully produced in on the northern European island. The gin is currently distilled in England using Icelandic water and bottled in Iceland. The company's aged variant, 9 Moons, is also aged in Iceland. 

Restoy said the plant will bolster Martin Miller's premium credentials and help differentiate the 20-year-old brand from the "wall of gins" hitting the market in the past few years.

"On one side, [the growth in brands] is phenomenal," Restoy said. "On the other, many of the things they call gins are not gins. You have to have something that moves away from a marketing gimmick or flavour of the week to something that has legs. Consumers want a real thing, and with the Internet you are five clicks away from finding out the real story."

Restoy said the US, which has so far failed to see the same gin boom as in European markets, is primed for increases, especially in premium gin, where he said sales have doubled in the past few years.

"The US is a fundamental market," he said. "Where is the volume coming from? From vodka."

Meanwhile, Zamora is tying Licor 43 to coffee as consumers increasingly expect the brewed drink to appear in alcoholic beverages. Last year, the company launched Licor 43 Baristo, an iteration blended with coffee beans grown on the Canary Islands.

Now, Zamora is working on coffee-infused RTD cans for Licor 43, though Restoy says a product will only be launched once he is happy with the taste profile. The company is also encouraging new on-premise coffee serves for Licor 43.

"Premium coffee is growing," Restoy says. "The barista is becoming more relevant [along with the bartender] and there is a merging of the two. We think we have something to say - a point of difference."

Restoy says Zamora's international drive is paying off, with non-domestic sales last year up 23% compared to an 11% increase in Spain. The company expects to make 50% of its sales from international by 2022, compared to 39% currently. 

Restoy also said the stake purchases in Martin Miller and Yellow Rose will help deepen Zamora's global route-to-market by attracting distributors.

"[The brands'] route to market is very similar and the clients are the same," he explains. "Also, the price positioning is the same [above US$30]. We are niche compared to the big players, so we have to solve that by offering faster growth, and margins that are worth playing around."

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