The story appears on

Page C6

December 10, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » iDEAL

Grand liqueur hits spot with young drinkers

THE French company that makes Grand Marnier liqueur started focusing on the China market about six years ago after taking a long look at potential new growth regions for the cognac-based drink. And like many companies that have backed icon brand products with serious marketing and sales effort, they are reaping rewards.

"The brand has taken off over the past six years, experiencing triple-digit growth at the start to now consistently record increases of 50 percent each year," the company's Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yves Coppin said earlier this week.

Coppin was talking after the launch of Grand Marnier's 2009 limited edition bottle, named "Irresistible" and with a vivid red lacquer and faux candy seal, at the trendy landmark nightclub M1NT.

In a national market where fashionable imported spirits are cognac and whisky and the most popular is the domestic spirit baijiu (white spirit), Grand Marnier is a high-end liqueur that is cutting through.

It's a renowned pre- or after-dinner tipple with history dating back to 1880 when Frenchman Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle dreamed up the smooth blend of selected barrel-aged cognacs with the bitter tropical citrus, bigaradia orange.

As the No. 1 liqueur exported from France, selling in 150 countries and regions, and made by a company that is the fifth largest buyer of cognac in the world, it retains a steady, Old World reputation and character.

But its market in China is possibly the trendiest of any it enjoys elsewhere.

"Usually the worldwide target for Grand Marnier, because we are the most expensive liqueur, is the 35-45-year-old bracket," the Shanghai-based Coppin says.

"But in China we focus more on the young generation, 25-35 years old. They know we have a cognac base, they like mixed drinks, such as an icy Grand Marnier with a tonic, and they like to party.

"And we love having Grand Marnier at that kind of party."

While the liqueur is available in nightclubs and hot spots in first-tier metropolises such as Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen (Guangdong Province), its market is expanding outside to cities such as Wuhan (Hubei Province), Chengdu (Sichuan Province), Dalian (Liaoning Province) and Xi'an (Shaanxi Province).

With a sustained focus on the haunts of foreign customers, Coppin and his team are targeting the Chinese bars "which have the customers we want to seduce."

While acknowledging that his direct competitors in China are other liqueurs, including orange flavored, he says Grand Marnier is up against "any kind of premium spirits like cognac and whisky as well as other high-end drinks like Champagne."

The drinker categories are more defined in other overseas markets than China which is also still a nation of developing palates.

"Our market in the US is the cocktail market, but this is still very small in China," Coppin says.

"While we are very strong in the narrow range where the cocktail culture exists, we focus on introducing people to the pure liqueur itself, with a mixer - like tonic or iced tea."

In the meantime, the Grand Marnier China team - including brand ambassador Alexis Bauduin - is encouraging its wider use in such cocktails as Margaritas, Cosmopolitans and B52s by educating bartenders to be ready for when the trend changes.

There's no China influence on this year's all-over-red special edition, Coppin says, which follows a growing line of annual "specials" named "Grand Red," "French Touch" and "Versailles Spirit," among others.

"If it was because of China we would have chosen red and gold. But red has always been a symbol of the company in the label and seal because in 1880 it was a sign of excellence."

Wine companies looking for a slice of China action are prone in their marketing spiel to highlight the drink's compatibility with the country's many food styles. But that's off the radar here, which Coppin confirms by putting the liqueur firmly into the "before and after" dinner category "or with desserts."

"We have many events starting with a Chinese dinner and we use the centenary cuvee to pair with desserts. And for fun, I've done a few things (working it in) with Peking duck and the French duck a la orange but that's not how we want to promote Grand Marnier.

"You drink it to relax, share it with friends and it becomes the genuine connection."

An example of which might be one of the most interesting circumstances Coppin knows of Grand Marnier drinking in China.

"It was in the kitchen of a big Chinese restaurant in Wuhan at the end of the night when all the chefs had finished work," he says.

"They had 20 bottles of Grand Marnier in the freezer and every night they would drink one or two shots as a ganbei (bottoms up) to celebrate the end of a good day.

"There were 12 or 15 of them together and they were all drinking a glass of Grand Marnier frozen."

The 2009 limited edition is available at selected high-end bars and specialist retailers.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend