Specialty Brands grows duty free portfolio

Specialty Brands will be introducing three core brands to the trade at the IAADFS Duty Free Show: Vicomte single malt whisky, Xcellent Vodka, and Red Eye Louie’s Vodquila. Each offers a unique point of difference ideal for duty free, says Specialty Brands’ President Bob Syner.

Syner says that Specialty Brands is more geared for success in the channel than ever before.

In January the company brought in duty free veteran Richard Pichardo from Pernod Ricard, as Vice President Export Sales, specifically to grow Specialty Brands’ duty free business.

At Pernod Ricard, Pichardo was responsible for Central America and border stores,
SB is uniquely positioned to provide brands across many categories to fit operator’s needs, he says.

“With Red Eye Louie’s Vodquila and with Vicomte, we have opportunities, especially in the airports. We have other brands that work for the southern border. We have lower priced items ideally suited for the Central America duty free border or domestic market,” says Pichardo.

Having Pichardo at Specialty Brands has already made a difference for the company, says Syner.

“We’ve had two solid meetings with DFASS and they are considering Vodquila and Tears of Llerona tequila, which they are going to test in Dallas airport. We’ve made a presentation to Duty Free Americas,” he says.

Core brands
Vicomte, a single malt whisky aged eight years in cognac barrels and made in France, is the company’s main introduction at the Orlando show this year.

Vicomte bottle“It’s the oldest French whisky on the market and a small batch product, and is offered around $37-39, which is the price point we are trying to stay at in the U.S. market. And there will be a 12 YO going forward,” says Syner.

Red Eye Louie’s Vodquila is a special blend of ultra premium vodka and imported super premium tequila. The vodka is made from multiple grains and distilled six times, while the tequila is made from pure blue agave plants and distilled in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico.

“This is the first and only vodka and tequila blend 50/50. The response from DFASS was very positive. It has been a winner. The product was released about 19 months ago and they are in 21 states and doing almost 30,000 cases already. The bartenders love this item,” says Syner.

Specialty Brands is also featuring Xcellent Swiss vodka in Orlando.

“I am a partner in Venturi Brands, our importer in the local U.S. market, which is launching Xcellent domestically. Specialty will handle the export side for Latin America duty free and the Caribbean. This product is not new to the United States. It was here six years ago when they were doing almost 30,000 cases in the U.S. We’ve had a very good response to it in a short period of time. We are hoping it will take off and get back into the market shortly.”

Syner also has high hopes for Tears of Llerona, an extra anejo tequila made from 100% blue agave aged for six years, that the company will have available for tasting at the IAADFS show.

Syner, who has a track record of finding unique brands and then losing them when they are sold, is making sure the cycle does not repeat with his portfolio.

“I lost some very key brands within my portfolio and it is not easy to find replacements. When we lost Three Olives and Pinnacle it took time to find new vodkas. We’ve been slowly finding the right companies to work with. The goal with this portfolio is to take on items that we not only get exclusivity for duty free, the Caribbean, and Latin America, but also for global sales,” he tells TMI.

Specialty Brands also plans to develop its own brands that it will have ownership stakes in.

“A broker is going to lose brands, unless he owns his own brands. Our goal is to eventually, with Venturi Brands, only develop our own spirits. We are working with three distillers now on partnerships where will have at least 40-50% ownership of the brand.”

Specialty Brands is also looking to grow into a more global company. “We are expanding into other parts of the world. We are already in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Now we are targeting Australia, Asia, where we’ve already got a distributor in Hong Kong, as well as Spain, Russia, the Baltics, Mexico, and duty free.”

Specialty Brands also brought in Magdalena Andrade as Export Manager for domestic sales in Latin America.

Michael Pasternak