BY VERONIKA ZHUPANOVA
Despite economic instability in Russia, the country’s vodka market remains considerably the largest globally by volume. But it is slowing down, with GlobalData forecasting a negative compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -2.4% over 2015-2020, albeit improving on the -5.5% CAGR during 2010-2015. Russia’s shrinking market means it is more competitive and brands are coming up with new ways to cut through the noise, such as packaging innovations and novel positioning.
Increasingly sophisticated packaging helps products stand out
The desire for premiumisation and indulgence is the primary driver in the vodka category, motivating over a fifth of consumption volume (21.4%) in 2016. To cater to this consumer need, manufacturers convey superior quality in a number of ways, such as describing sophisticated production processes, using better-quality ingredients, and communicating premium qualities through sophisticated packaging.
Take, for example, Belaya Berezka (‘White Birch’) vodka, and its novel packaging, which takes the form of a glass bottle with a concave lens. According to the product designer, this shape clarifies and enlarges the image of a winter village landscape behind it, which, in addition to adding a visual benefit, generates desire for consumers to touch the product. This is a strong competitive advantage in a saturated market. It is worth noting that such packaging sophistication also helps to protect the beverage from counterfeiting, assuring consumers of the genuine nature of the product.
Disruptive new product development: maximise taste sensations by pairing vodka with food
Meanwhile, Sinergiyahas found another way to capitalise on consumer desire for superior taste sensations. Its vodka, SnezhnyiKrab (‘Snow Crab’), is formulated to be paired with seafood in order to maximise consumer taste sensations. The new vodka features crab shell extract and is recommended to be cooled to 10˚C and served with ‘delicate crab meat’, according to the packaging.
The beverage will also be popular among the 41% of Russian consumers who, according to GlobalData’s 2015 fourth-quarter global consumer survey, find the concept of pairing food with spirits appealing. This is the first example on the Russian vodka market we have seen that encourages consumers to explore food pairing. However, to succeed with such positioning, brands need to invest heavily in marketing activity that promotes pairing their drink with food, either through packaging or platforms such as social media. Using videos or ads depicting the beverage paired with certain foods will educate consumers and create buzz around the brand.
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Packaging as a tool to confirm authenticity
In order to protect consumers from illegal alcohol, which is associated not only with funding criminal structures but also with potentially irreparable health damage, Alcogolnaya Sibirskaya Gruppa (Alcohol Siberian Group) came up with a solution for its Pyat Ozer (‘Five Lakes’) vodka. First, the manufacturer came up with a blue colour shade, inspired by the colour of a Taiga lake. The colour is described as unique and aims to help consumers to identify the legitimate product on the shelf. The bottle, which features not only this specific colour but also an unusual shape, is produced specially for the group in only two factories in Russia.
In addition to security, the colour gives the product a twist, as blue is an unusual colour in the country’s vodka market. To further protect consumers from fraud, the brand offers an additional security check: on its website, consumers can enter a 12-digit code from the packaging to verify the genuine nature of the beverage.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018
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