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Local Spirits Brand Champion 2021: Jinro

Jinro delivered an impressive 10.4% sales increase amid the challenges of 2020

Jinro’s ability to deliver consistent growth from the world’s biggest volume base is mind‐boggling. In the year of the pandemic, the Korean soju brand was able to raise its nine‐litre-case sales from 86.3 million in 2019 to 95.3m in 2020 – a 10.4% increase against a backdrop of global challenges.

In 2019, Hite‐Jinro relaunched its flagship Jinro brand in the Korean domestic market with an aim to “strengthen the authenticity of soju”.

“After its launch, Jinro gained explosive popularity not only among the middle aged, but also younger generations,” says Hwang Jung-Ho, executive managing director at Hite‐Jinro. “In 2020, the sales [in Korea] more than doubled compared to the previous year, and despite the Covid‐19 crisis, it has greatly contributed to the increase in overall soju sales.”

Internationally, the company has also been working hard to “strengthen our brand power”, says Jung-Ho. Jinro’s strongest markets remain those geographically closest to Korea. The brand has carried out target‐focused marketing for “strategic” Asian markets to “capitalise on cultural and geographical advantages”, Jung-Ho explains. This includes focusing on local markets, “aggressive” business and sales support, and numerous other activities to build the brand.

This strategic approach has seen sales in China and the Philippines triple in the past three years, while in Singapore, sales have quadrupled over the same period, and are five times higher in Hong Kong. “Aside from that, sales have boosted in most overseas markets, with 20% annual growth rate on average,” Jung-Ho adds.

Jung-Ho also sees opportunity for Jinro to find success outside of Asia through the recent rise of K‐pop, namely with the growing popularity of boy band BTS, aided further by acclaimed South Korean films such as Parasite and Minari. The “Korean wave”, as Jung-Ho calls it, is expanding to the Western world, and with a growing interest in Korean food culture as well, Jung-Ho sees room for growth in the US and the UK. Jinro has seen sales grow by 10.3% CAGR in the US, 19.6% in the UK and 66.5% in Russia in the past five years.

Jung-Ho adds: “With the expansion of the Korean wave and our product competitiveness, fruit‐flavoured soju is attractive to young Western consumers who are accustomed to wine culture, so there will be a good chance of success in the future.”

Elsewhere in the local spirits category, Brazilian cachaça Pitú returned to growth in 2020, growing by 10.7% to 11.8m cases. Pisco brand Mistral also had a strong year, rising by 10.9% to 1.6m cases.

However, shōchū brand Daigoro by Asahi Breweries is no longer listed, as it fell below the 1m‐case mark.

Local spirits (figures: million 9l-case sales)

BRAND OWNER 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 %+/-
Pitú Pitú 10.9 10.7 10.7 10.6 11.8 10.7%
Ypióca Diageo 4.8 5.1 4.7 4.5 4.2 -7.1%
Mistral Compañia Pisquera de Chile 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.6 10.9%
Yeni Diageo 3.4 3.4 3.0 2.5 2.1 -14.7%
Iichiko Sanwa Shurui 7.8 7.5 7.2 7.0 7.1 1.1%
Kanoka Asahi Breweries 3.4 3.3 3.4 3.4 3.6 5.9%
Jinro Hite‐Jinro 74.0 76.8 78.0 86.3 95.3 10.4%
Chum Churum Lotte Liquor 26.1 27.6 28.6 25.5 19.9 -22.0%

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