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BlogSpirits & Wines

Peter Marshall (PM):  Sanna, TFWE is fast approaching. How important is this an event for Anora?

Sanna Sundin (SS): This event is highly important for us, as this is one of the communication channels that represents the interests for our industry. As Anora is born out of the union of two equals – Arcus and Altia – it gives us a great opportunity to meet up with existing key customers and partners to showcase our journey and focus areas, and also discuss options with new contacts and leads that can support our growth journey ambitions.

PM:  Will you have your full range on display?

SS: We will not have our full range – we will present our key international brands, Koskenkorva, Skagerrak, Larsen and Linie, as well as showcasing novelties within vodka, gin, aquavit, liquors and wines.

PM: How much growth has Anora achieved over the last 12 months?

SS: In January-June 2022 we have had strong growth, especially in spirits. Our net sales were EUR 299.2 million, 1.8% growth compared to last year, with Koskenkorva as one of the main drivers both within the Nordic and international markets.

PM: Do you see any key trends in your sectors? 

SS: We see that sustainability plays a higher role for both consumers and operators – this is something we highly appreciate as it is a fundamental part of our DNA as a business. Expectations on brands and companies are only going to grow. We need to factor this  not only on a product level, but throughout the consumer experiences and in our entire value chain.

Other important trends within spirits are premiumization and health (low abv, naturality). We also see the importance of origin and locality –  especially in the gin category, where  the consumer purchase has a starting point ‘closer to home.’ The gin category is driven by this premium tendency, but we also see flavours and colours as an equally important trend for more affordable gins in the future.

PM:  I think it’s fair to say that the core pillar of your business and product range is sustainability. Given this, how difficult is it to convince retailers that it is a price worth paying?

SS: There is little doubt that this is a difficult journey! Luckily we now share the same agenda with many of our retail partners. And it is quite simple – it is a must-do area for all stakeholders! We and our partners cannot do everything – but if everyone is doing something, we will get there. That also goes for consumers.

PM:  So, let’s focus on just two of your brands. Skagerrak and Koskenkorva. Skaggerrak is an interesting product. It’s very strong in the Nordic region, but there’s plenty of scope for growth. 

What makes it different as a dry gin brand? 

SS: ‘Classic’ is a never-ending trend. Consumers return to the classic traits of a premium dry gin and we see that consumers want to have a simple but premium spirit that they can take in the flavour direction they desire.

In making Skagerrak Gin, we put a lot of effort into creating our Nordic version of a classic London Dry Gin. Together with some of the top bartenders from Denmark, Norway and Sweden, we sat down and found that what the spirits market needed was a premium gin that worked perfectly in making the three classic gin cocktails – Martini, Negroni and a Gin & Tonic. Together we wanted to make it a London Dry – but with a significant Nordic twist because of our roots within Nordic spirits.

Skagerrak Gin has a distinct Nordic identity that shows in the subtle brand details and characteristic choices we have made. As you know, Nordic simplicity is traditional for Nordic designs and Nordic cooking, and this makes Skagerrak stand out in an international gin category. For example, our experience from spirits distillation comes from a Nordic Aquavit tradition. Making world class Aquavits are at the heart of our history and when making Skagerrak we are proud to lean on this tradition.

The gin is made with over 100 years of experience within spirits craftsmanship. Our history is tightly connected to the extraction of the best flavours and aromas from botanicals and converting into premium spirits. It is distilled with botanicals growing in the region around the strait of Skagerrak, such as elderflower, chamomile, rose hip and sea buckthorn, which provides the subtle and complex fruity and floral notes. Combined with the use of the seaweed Dulse, our botanicals give Skagerrak Gin that fresh, crisp and salty top notes reminiscent of the Nordic seas.

Skagerrak Gin has already won several international awards for design, brand and premium liquid quality. With a brand like Skagerrak Gin, I see plenty of opportunities for growth internationally, because of our combination of ‘Nordicness’ and true classic gin traits.

PM:  It also keeps faith with your sustainability/eco-minded ethos, doesn’t it? 

SS: Yes. Skagerrak Gin is produced at the Gjelleråsen facility outside Oslo, Norway. The Skagerrak sustainability efforts start here, with a more than solid foundation. In fact 89% of the energy that goes into making Skagerrak Gin is renewable green energy, such as geothermal energy. 100% of our waste is recycled and we are working towards Co2 neutral production.

With our basics in place, we wanted Skagerrak Gin to stand out and talk directly to our consumers about sustainability and moving the needle. So we have named our Skagerrak sustainability efforts ‘Be The Wave’. Making big waves starts small. Our efforts towards a greener and more sustainable future also starts small but, as it is with waves, when we accumulate all our small and big efforts, the waves get bigger and more impactful.

Our waves are the Skagerrak Gin roadmap towards more sustainable production and greener activities. Wave 1 is what we already are doing – it’s the credibility we build on for our sustainability efforts. The waves that will  come are activities designed to reduce Co2 footprint through increased local production, as well as our push towards a best-in-class lightweight bottle using the highest possible amount of recycled glass. All our big and small waves are pushing us towards Co2 neutral and beyond. Because I don’t believe we should ever stop making waves.

PM:   Well, it’s worth showing your 30 second commercial.

 

PM: Moving on to Koskenkorva, we have recently read a lot about the brand in other media as well as in trunblocked.com If there is one brand that defines Anora’s sustainability positioning this is surely it.

I see two issues here. How long a process is it to convert farmers to regenerative farming – what’s in it for them? And, we touched on this earlier, is it more difficult to convince retailers because of the cost that this is the way forward?

SS: Converting farmers to regenerative farming is a long-term process and requires commitment from all parties.

Anora aims to significantly grow the yearly production of regeneratively farmed barley used for the distillation of Koskenkorva.

In order to reach this ambitious target, Anora needs to provide a lot of regenerative farming trainings to our contract farmers and get them interested in converting their fields to this more sustainable farming practice.

When farmers transform to regenerative farming practices,  their fields’ growing condition will improve over time, the cultivation is more effective and the yield is better. Currently the farmers also get a price premium for regeneratively farmed barley.

This is actually a huge opportunity in climate work.  If all the farmers in the world transitioned to regenerative farming, we could remove up to 322 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. That is nearly as much as we emit globally in 10 years!

PM:  You have achieved significant growth on this brand in the last 12 months. How extensive is your distribution now and what are your principal aims for distribution over the next 12 months? Are there any new developments you can let the industry know about now?

SS: Koskenkorva is still in the early stages of global distribution. We have a fantastic starting point from the Nordics and have improved our presence very well in a number of international markets. Our focus for the coming 12 months is certainly to improve our distribution as well as  our existing distributor partnerships. In terms of new developments, we are launching exciting new novelties  – but focus will be on our core range and the fantastic sustainability aspect that Koskenkorva Vodka carries. One example of a novelty that will be presented is the Koskenkorva Blueberry, a liquor made from real Finnish forest blueberries, reminiscent of grandma’s blueberry tart fresh from the oven.

PM:  The one thing that can be said about your approach to communication to consumers is that it is fun – almost English in tone – and I think it’s worth showcasing a couple of your ads to demonstrate this point. Do retailers get it?

SS: I think Koskenkorva’s growth shows proof of successful communication – the brand team has done a phenomenal job. And the communication is authentic, shot in the Village of Koskenkorva portrayed with real farmers and factory workers. It also has the right tonality and quirkiness that we need, now that we talk more about sustainability. It’s important to be able to talk about this serious matter in an engaging way. Our communication helps us with that.

PM: With Cannes ahead of us next week, one final question. What do you hope to achieve?

SS: We hope to meet as many of our customers and partners as possible and  assure them that, despite the turbulent times still around, we are here to support them and our industry with ambitions of common growth. We also plan to continue to  showcase how important sustainability is for us as a company, and to see how we can deliver to and support our stakeholders’ agendas in the best way possible.

 

Peter Marshall

Founder: trunblocked.com/Marshall Arts

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