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Home-grown brand Golden Blue rapidly eats into whisky market share

All News 10:30 June 07, 2016

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- To many South Koreans, a Scotch whisky aged over 17 years has been a symbol of luxury and the ultimate drink for successful businessmen. But that became a thing of the past amid the prolonged economic slowdown and changing drinking trend.

Golden Blue, a home-grown whisky released in 2009 by a fledgling Korean distiller based in Busan, has been increasingly widening its base among whisky lovers who prefer a mild taste and affordable price tag.

Unlike a typical whisky with a Scotch label and 40 percent alcohol, the liquor in the dark blue bottle has 36.5 percent alcohol content and does not show its age on its package.

Sales of Golden Blue have risen for the sixth consecutive year since its launch, bucking the downward trend of the local whisky market that has kept sliding since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Sales of whisky have dropped from 2.84 million boxes in 2008 to 1.75 million boxes last year, dropping nearly 40 percent.

"Golden Blue has changed the Korean consumers' perception that whisky is a strong and bitter liquor, going against the shrinking local whisky market," Kim Dong-wook, the chief executive of Golden Blue, said.

As a result, Golden Blue's market ratio has risen from 1.5 percent in 2011, to 6.6 percent in 2013 and then 16.1 percent, or sale of 281,792 boxes, in 2015.

It is now South Korea's No. 3 whisky brand following Diageo's Windsor and Pernod Ricard's Imperial.

Diageo and Pernod Ricard, the world's top two liquor companies, account for 38.9 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively, of the local whisky market.

In particular, Golden Blue's no age statement (NAS) whiskies, which mix different age whiskies to create desired flavors and does not show an age on the package, have led the growth.

Buoyed by the recent trend, the Korean distiller in late May launched a new blended whisky for younger customers, called "Phantom the White," which comes in a stylish bottle with a clear color.

The company said it aims to earn 250 billion won (US$210 million) in sales by 2020 to become the nation's No. 1 whisky-maker.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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