Richard Browne, Business Reporter
J. Wray & Nephew Limited is now bottling Skyy vodka inside Jamaica, one of the leading spirit brands in parent company Campari's portfolio, and will supply the product to regional markets.
The move adds to the Jamaican spirits company's vodka production base.
It lost the marketing rights for the Smirnoff vodka to Red Stripe Jamaica in 2007, under a pullback by Diageo Plc, which is both the owner of the brand and parent company for Red Stripe, but bottles the Kirov brand.
Gruppo Campari said the addition of Skyy demonstrates the pivotal role it sees for Wray & Nephew as the nexus of its Caribbean operations.
The Italian company acquired Lascelles deMercado - which was rebranded J. Wray & Nephew to leverage the name of the flagship company in the group - in December 2012. Last week, the Italian spirits company launched the locally bottled version of Skyy in Kingston.
"Being locally bottled will certainly give a price reduction that will benefit our consumers," said Ugo Fiorenzo, senior market director at Wray & Nephew.
While not saying what the price point for Skyy will be, he told the Financial Gleaner: "Our consumers will be offered a very competitive price".
Nearly 3.5 million cases of Skyy are sold worldwide. Fiorenzo said the volumes to be produced in Jamaica from the bottling plant at its Spanish Town Road, Kingston complex, will be additional to the current global output.
He declined to disclose volumes, but said the Jamaican production would supply the domestic market as well as exports to the English-speaking Caribbean.
Fiorenzo, at the October 8 launch event, called the move an "important milestone" for the Jamaican market.
"For the consumer, this is cause for great celebration because the fact that we have brought the bottling of Skyy to Jamaica means that we will be able to reposition this world-class premium vodka so that it is available in Jamaica at a more attractive price point," he said then.
The vodka is targeted towards the top end of the market. "Due to the Skyy positioning, we are aiming to a premium consumer that enjoys life," Fiorenzo told the Financial Gleaner this week.
A price check at one of the supermarkets frequented by Skyy's target market shows Skyy is currently selling for J$2,450 for a one litre bottle. This compares to J$1,743 for a similar bottle of Smirnoff vodka and J$4,025.30 for one-litre of Absolut vodka.
Asked why Gruppo Campari took the decision to bottle the vodka in Jamaica, Fiorenzo said J. Wray & Nephew is seen as "an important hub for the Caribbean".
"It's quite a high investment and we are not stopping, because we have big plans," he said.
Beyond Skyy: "There a lot of works in progress; the aim is to improve our distilleries and bottling plants."
Regarding plans to bottle other spirit brands in Jamaica, the market director said "only Campari and Skyy" for now. But added: "Tomorrow we will see."
The Campari brand has been bottled in Jamaica for years to serve the Jamaican and Caribbean markets.
Other big Gruppo Campari brands include Appleton, Wild Turkey bourbon, Cinzano, Aperol and Cabo Wabo tequila.
Distribution of Skyy will be handled by Wray & Nephew's local sales force "and will be mainly through the accounts that fit the Skyy consumer," Fiorenzo said.
Skyy vodka is the number-one domestic premium vodka in the United States and No. 5 premium vodka worldwide. Skyy vodka is distributed internationally, with major markets in the US, Brazil, Canada and Italy.
Skyy was created in 1992 in San Francisco and soon became the largest domestic super-premium vodka brand in the US. Campari acquired a majority stake in Skyy in 2002, and a decade later in January 2012, Skyy Spirits was rebranded Campari America.
Skyy has got several accolades over the years, including the 'Hot Brand', 'Brand of the Future', and the 'Blue Chip' awards, according to Wray & Nephew.
The company said the vodka, which is distilled in the US from 100 per cent American grain, was awarded a score of 94 points from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge for its exceptional smooth taste.
Skyy is produced using an innovative quadruple-distillation, triple-filtration process, Wray & Nephew said. It is distributed through various channels in Jamaica, including supermarkets, restaurants, bars and clubs; and is available in original as well as raspberry, passion fruit and citrus-infusion flavours.