NEW YORK - At a time when new vodka products are constantly popping up in the United States, Estonia's Onistar has made a bid for the attention of American consumers by promoting its Turi vodka product as coming from a land that mixes tradition with innovation.
According to Monsell Darville, Bacardi U.S.A.'s group marketing director, the vodka company has witnessed recent success abroad.
"We launched Turi vodka in New York, Los Angeles and other major markets in September 2002, and reached our aggressive goals ahead of schedule despite entering one of the most crowded vodka fields ever," he said.
Editorial coverage in magazines that include Wine Enthusiast and Bon Appetit is providing greater visibility for the company.
"We owe a large part of our success to Turi's authenticity," Darville added.
The alcohol company stresses the fact that its product is based upon a old recipe and is made in a centuries-old distillery. Estonia's spirit producer Onistar, which turns out Turi vodka in cooperation with Bacardi, has been in operation longer than many of its competitors. The vodka product is created, sourced, distilled, and bottled in Estonia.
From September 2002 until the end of 2003 Onistar shipped about 1 million liters of Turi vodka to bars and retailers in the United States. The company exported 1,788,000 liters in terms of total alcohol export last year, half of which consisted of Turi vodka. This U.S.-targeted product makes up roughly 50 percent of Onistar exports, while the other half goes to Latvia and Lithuania. The company ships approximately three-fourths of the alcohol produced by the distillery abroad.
To beef up its image abroad Turi vodka has placed ads in U.S. publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair. Targeting the American market, the company boasts that it is made from "natural Estonian rye and spring water only" drawing a comparison with "today's vodkas [that] are distilled from wheat, barley, rye, corn, potatoes, sugar beets and even grapes."
Perhaps the biggest surprise is how Estonia itself is being marketed along with Turi vodka. The Baltic country is promoted as a medieval fairyland containing a delightful mix of history and advancement. This duality calls attention to what the company states as "Estonia's traditional and ultra modern sensibilities."
But while the company has pushed aggressively forward with a marketing strategy to reach people who may not even be able to locate the Baltic country on a map, it has also made an effort to gain exposure within the Estonian-American community through cultural partnerships.
Turi supported the recent Estonian Animation Festival in New York, an event that brought the community together to celebrate the Baltic country's popular animators. Later this month the company will be visible when the Estonian American Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosts a gala ball.
The turnover of Onistar's business in 2003 was reported as 116 million kroons (7.4 million euros), approximately 10 percent more than the previous year.