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Supreme Brand Champion 2023: Jinro

Jinro consistently tops the global sales charts – and after hitting a major milestone in 2022, the Korean spirit has secured the title of Supreme Brand Champion.

Korean soju Jinro is the world’s biggest-selling spirit

Interest in all things Korean, from K-pop to Korean barbecue and the television series Squid Game, has helped bring attention to the country’s national spirit, soju.

At the forefront of soju’s success is category giant Jinro, the world’s biggest spirit brand, which surpassed 100 million cases for the first time in 2022. This milestone prompted Jinro to be named this year’s Supreme Brand Champion, the ultimate accolade in our report.

The Korean soju brand increased by 6.8% to 100.9m nine-litre cases, marking its fifth consecutive year of growth.

Hwang Jung-Ho, the managing director of HiteJinro’s overseas business, discusses the key driver behind the brand’s success: “The biggest factor is the growing sales in both domestic and overseas markets. Korea’s soju market is very competitive and limited in size, but even under such difficult circumstances, we have maintained our position as the number-one brand through the brand power accumulated over 100 years and differentiated marketing and sales activities.

“As a result of continuously promoting the soju category and Jinro in overseas markets, soju was listed as an official product name and received worldwide recognition.”

The most significant challenge for the company is ensuring its customers can reach the product. “The biggest task we are pursuing is to continuously develop a distribution network so that consumers can easily access our products anytime, anywhere,” he says.

“Beyond the domestic market, we believe there will be potential demand for soju in all overseas markets that have not yet been explored,” Jung-Ho notes. “Although there are no specific plans yet, I believe that if the demand for soju in the overseas market increases, there must be an investment to respond to the growing demand.”

Jung-Ho says the brand will also focus on “large-scale consumer-facing activities” after a break due to the pandemic. The company plans to promote its brand through partnerships in areas such as music festivals and film festivals, as well as food-related activities. In the UK, the brand sponsored London-based All Points East music festival last summer.

While Jinro focuses more on the off-trade, the brand is also seeking to carry out more activity in the on-trade.

“We preferentially sell our products to Korean and Asian restaurants,” Jung-Ho explains. “In addition, we are making efforts to sell our products to major restaurants and bars that have symbolism and influence, centring on major commercial districts.

Jinro will launch new products to “strengthen” its portfolio

“One of the biggest characteristics of soju is that it can go well with any food, and we believe that this will work as a strength so that our products can be tasted in famous restaurants around the world.”

The company will also look to launch new products to “strengthen” its portfolio in the mid to long term.

Jinro is hoping to attract a younger generation through online promotions. “We communicate with consumers through various channels such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and will continue to develop content that is most effective in brand promotion and that consumers can be enthusiastic about,” Jung-Ho says.

Jung-Ho has noticed that Jinro’s popularity has attracted competitors, but he isn’t worried about them.

“In countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore, a variety of similar soju products with low prices are being launched,” he says. “These products acted as a positive factor in increasing the size of the soju market, but also can be a threat factor, such as forming direct competition with our brand.

“However, we are overcoming these crises well, based on our strong brand power.” The company says it will continue to “invest more time and effort” in promoting the brand in the future.

“As the popularity of soju grows, many competing brands are emerging overseas as well. We are doing our best to build a differentiated image from these competing brands,” Jung-Ho notes.

Jung-Ho is optimistic that soju will continue to grow as curiosity in Korean culture becomes prevalent.

“Due to the Korean wave and people around the world’s interest in Korean culture, I predict that the demand for soju will increase for the time being,” he says.

“We believe that the trend of preference for low-alcohol liquor and consumers’ tendency to prefer various flavours will act as a very positive opportunity for the growth of the soju category.”

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