Nemiroff’s new CMO outlines global growth strategy
Ukrainian vodka brand Nemiroff appointed a new chief marketing officer (CMO) in August. We spoke to Mykola Takzey to learn more about his plans for the brand.
“I truly believe that we can become the first Ukrainian global brand,” asserts Mykola Takzey. In April 2023, Takzey joined Ukrainian vodka brand Nemiroff as its global chief marketing officer, tasked with spearheading the company’s international ambitions.
“I have no doubt that the drivers of growth when it comes to market will be our portfolio covering major consumer needs and making sure that every single SKU in the portfolio has a very clear role,” he adds.
For Takzey, spotting opportunities where challenges lie is his raison d’être at the company. A husband, father of two children and proud Ukrainian, Takzey brings almost 20 years of professional experience and marketing know-how to the role.
“Nemiroff is a unique company because it’s a very rich company in terms of history, but also it is the symbol of Ukrainian indomitable spirit,” he says. “The history of the company, the resilience of the company and the commitment of its people is just amazing.
“Obviously, my main priority is marketing, making sure that marketing is consumer-centred. It’s also about strategic brand-building and it’s about market activation, making sure our marketing communication strategies are deployed effectively.”
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, last year was hard on Nemiroff’s sales. The Brand Champions 2023 report showed a 57.4% volume decline for the brand in 2022, as Nemiroff’s nine-litre-case sales fell from 5.6 million in 2021 to 2.4m last year. Running a business in the midst of a war has thrown all manner of challenges at Nemiroff. It forced the distillery to temporarily close, but Takzey is happy to report it remains up and running.
Takzey’s Ukrainian pride shines during the interview – and he notes how important it is for Nemiroff to support its country. Nemiroff has long been committed to supporting local producers in its vodka production, from farmers to bottlers, and that commitment has not waned since the war – if anything, it’s got stronger.
“We base our business models on sustainability issues, meaning we want to resolve them and create value, not only for the business and our partners and consumers, but also for the society, environment and communities,” Takzey says. “We are working on a holistic sustainability plan. In terms of sustainability at Nemiroff, it all starts with the value chain. So, it’s about sourcing and partnering with local farmers, local suppliers, making sure they follow sustainable agricultural practices. We do pay a lot of attention to the farming and reduction of water usage. It’s also about energy efficiency.”
He explains how Nemiroff has set an “ambitious target to reduce 100% of possible waste if it’s possible”. Furthermore, the company has a project called Biogas, which is scheduled to launch in 2024. Packaging innovation will also be considered as part of Nemiroff’s sustainable endeavours: “We’re looking at lighter glass technologies for bottles.”
The CMO adds that this all feeds into the brand’s prioritisation model, which is two-fold: the first part considers market factors and the second looks at brand factors.
“We’re obviously looking at building volume of imports in our markets, but also we’re looking at the brand-building potential in those markets. And we now have priority one and priority two markets that will be the base for our growth. The way we see it, it’s not only geographical expansion, but it’s also about holistic brand-building in those markets,” Takzey explains.
He continues: “Obviously, we have our core positions in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the Baltics. But we’re also looking at places like the UK – we signed a partnership agreement with Whyte & Mackay – but also other big European markets.
“Without the US, I don’t think we can be a global brand. So, the US, plus Canada, Australia and major European markets, are definitely top of our growth lists.”
Global travel retail is also key if Nemiroff is to reach its global brand status, Takzey notes.
“Travel retail is the highest affinity channel, if you wish, for the premium consumer,” he says. “Premiumisation is such a strong trend – that is why we will be introducing a new brand. We really want the duty free and the travel retail community to be exposed to this brand firsthand because the consumer profile is perfect for the ultra-premium proposition.” The new addition to the Nemiroff portfolio will be unveiled at the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference in Cannes, France, in October.
Takzey’s confidence and belief in the future success of Nemiroff is steadfast. Despite the challenges that the war in the brand’s home country poses, the CMO sees strength in Nemiroff’s business model and the potential in its future.
“I joined Nemiroff, let’s say when the most challenging phase of the business operations [was] over,” Takzey says. “But, from what I’ve learned, all Ukrainian businesses lived through this. The disruption of supply chain logistics, workforce, markets being closed. It’s an absolutely right attitude that the leadership of the company was saying: ‘OK, we’re living through a very, very, very tough time business-wise. Can we try to reframe these challenges as business opportunities?’
“And that’s why I think now it’s easier to talk about the global positioning of Nemiroff and the geographical expansion, innovation – all of these trigger a culture shift within the company. And I think, while this culture shift is taking place, it also helps employees in Ukraine be part of a bigger vision, bigger purpose and to see themselves as ambassadors of this indomitable Ukrainian spirit through the brands we offer to our export markets.”