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SB meets… Irina Zhygunova, Nemiroff Vodka

The global chief marketing officer of Ukrainian vodka brand Nemiroff on the company’s plans for global expansion.

Irina Zhigunova, global chief marketing officer at Nemiroff Vodka

What sets Nemiroff apart from other vodka brands?

Ukraine is a traditional country and was one of the first states to produce wheat vodka. Our Honey Pepper vodka is based on a 16th-century recipe, and we were one of the first in the world to introduce honey pepper as a flavour. It’s got balance and it’s not too sweet; it’s quite a unique product. And of course, the brand is clearly positioned towards a masculine-targeted audience. Around the world, the trend is to position products for everyone. So we wanted to be different and target a specific audience: Nemiroff Vodka for men.

But women will of course be our target sometimes, but we target men mainly. In a time when people target everyone, being very specific and having our target market is very good for us. The brand still looks masculine and the types of sponsorships are very appropriate for our consumers.

Where are you seeing the most success for Nemiroff right now?

It depends; we are number three in global travel retail and have been for the last three years. We’re a traditional Eastern European vodka. We are available now in Poland and the Baltics, which are part of our traditional markets. We have started entering new European markets, such as Germany, Italy and Spain, and also Asia. We launched in the USA, which is one of our strategic markets and we keep improving distribution. The Middle East is very strong and we are growing there, which is great as it’s traditionally perceived as a non-vodka-drinking market.

Can you tell me about your new range, Inked Collection?

Yes, so it’s a new range of flavoured vodkas. You have Burning Pear, Blood Orange and Wild Cranberry. They’re infused vodkas, not just flavoured. The Wild Cranberry flavour has a little Cognac also added to the vodka for extra depth. We have already developed some cocktails for each flavour. The range is going to launch first in global travel retail, but then we are looking to also launch in Eastern Europe, and then Poland in 2020.

How is your sponsorship deal with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) going?

The UFC is a perfect match for our target audience. You have to be careful who you advertise with. You have to find some sponsorship that will help to strengthen your DNA. UFC was a really perfect match. The indomitable spirit is in both brands’ DNA. We were surprised to find that 63% of global UFC fans, they consume vodka as their spirit drink. It gives us a global platform, international brand perception and a real, authentic partnership. It’s not really a sponsorship; it’s a real partnership. We are both very open and transparent.

Do you plan to launch in any new markets?

We consider Asia to almost be a new market for Nemiroff. In the UK, we are looking for a distribution partner and in Canada, it’s the same story. Even though we are already in the USA, it was quite niche, so we are still in the launch phase of the USA. And we are still launching in Europe as well.

What do you enjoy most about working for Nemiroff?

At present, I have been with Nemiroff for three years. Before, I worked for the Coca-Cola Company, so I was FMCG and dealing with some premium products. It taught me a lot about brand building and how to get insights into consumer trends and market trends. Of course here, my personal experience helps a lot with the global growth of Nemiroff. Really now, our focus is on driving business and our routes to market.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No