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Chinese market ‘meaningful’ for 818 Tequila

818 Tequila, the brand created by Keeping Up with the Kardashians star Kendall Jenner, has reported a positive first full-year of trading, boosted by success in China.

818 Tequila will launch in Dubai this month

Speaking to The Spirits Business, 818 Tequila president and chief operating officer, Mike Novy, confirmed the brand had set and hit its sales target for its first full year.

“We are very happy with our results. We hit a target that we put out there on the horizon of 120,000 nine-litre-equivalent cases, and while the year is not yet 100% closed, we are right there on that number, which quite frankly I’m really amazed by,” Novy said.

“It was actually just kind of a wild ass swinging-for-the-fences kind of a number, and the fact that we are there is super encouraging, and really exciting.”

818 reported sales of 136,000 cases in its first seven months of business.

Earlier this month, Tequila surpassed American whiskey in value terms to become the second most valuable spirit category in the US, with the category also set to overtake vodka this year, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

Novy confirmed the US market had “the lion’s share” of its sales, but that markets outside of North America were becoming key to the brand’s success. “China has become a really meaningful market for us,” he said.

Despite China not being ‘a massive Tequila market’, Novy said the brand’s approach was to consider the profile of the country’s consumers in order to unlock the market.

“We took a look at China, and for us specifically with 818, while the size of the Tequila market is certainly not something we’re completely ignoring, we are more interested in the consumer profile of where young, social, dynamic consumers live, work, eat, and enjoy, and we saw that opportunity in China,” he said. “And, we’ve really unlocked it.

“We’ve now sent our fourth container. Within two months, we had shipped and started to deplete the number that we thought the highest volume, ultra-premium Tequila was selling in that marketplace.”

A resonating brand

Novy explained 818’s strategy for establishing itself against other spirits categories that are dominant within the Chinese market: “What we’ve seen with 818 in China specifically is it’s big in the nightlife on-trade, and I think it comes down to that the category is interesting, and the brand is really resonating with those consumers.

818 Tequila was launched by Kendall Jenner in 2021

“From a larger context, we’re pulling people in from other categories. We talked to the nightlife operators, and asked ‘what were these people drinking before we entered the market?’, and they said they were ordering Cognac.”

“What’s exciting for us,” he continued, “is how the brand is interacting in the marketplace. And that’s kind of what we’re hoping with moving into Dubai, as well.

“And then as we get to the UK, and specifically in London, we’ll hope to tap into the underlying trends in Tequila, but also hope to transcend those and just be a brand that’s appealing to people who may have been drinking from another category of spirits.”

818 Tequila is set to launch in Dubai this month (January), and will move into the UK market later in 2023.

Novy went on to say that the past year has been a learning experience for the ‘tiny’ 818 team. “We’re still trying to uncover all of the wonderful insights as to what’s making this thing really work,” he said.

“Rather than pre-determining the outcome, we’re going to try and be nimble in how we keep the pace with the consumer, and that will inform how we approach connecting with consumers in different parts of the world, because that story is going to be different – we don’t know how, but we just know it will be different.”

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