HiteJinro: Soju’s export mission – Drinks International

HiteJinro is a major player in the soju category that has recently begun expanding into UK markets. The brand, which has consistently topped Drinks International’s millionaire club list, sold over 94 million 9-litre cases in 2021.

The expansion is part of continued investment in the UK market to increase distribution and brand awareness, following the success of recent UK brand collaborations, including a campaign with Honest Burgers which aligns on the traditional consumption of Jinro alongside food.

Hwang Jung-Ho, General Manager of HiteJinro, told Drinks International at the All Points East Festival, “Recently, our sales have rapidly increased by more than 10 times. People are interested in Korea through K-drama or K-movie, which includes scenes of people drinking soju, so the younger generation is more interested in this product. We have also noticed that younger generations prefer a low alcohol drink as they are increasingly interested in wellness.

Interest in Korean culture, particularly in the UK, is something HiteJinro is tapping into through its recent sponsorship of the All Points East festival, the first time a Korean spirits brand has supported a major UK festival. HiteJinro’s activation saw a two-story bar, themed after a giant Jinro case, where festival-goers explored a neon bar and prize games based on traditional Korean games.

“At the moment, as we are introducing to the UK market, it is the beginning. Already in the Korean market in the UK, we have sold a lot, I think this is our base to develop on the whole of the European market.

“HiteJinro’s long-term plan is for many different countries to experience our soju. Many festival attendees are from the younger generation, which fits our goals for them,” Jung-Ho continues.

Another key step in mind expansion is to be recognized as one’s own category. “In April, our soju was recognized as a product in its own right. From early next year, it will be known in the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Nice Classification as soju. Thanks to this recognition, we can expand our products globally, which is important,” adds Jung-Ho.

HiteJinro also plans to target both restaurants and supermarkets, making the drink accessible to consumers nationwide. This follows the launch of its new peach flavor, as appetite for Jinro’s flavored line, Chamisul, has grown to 51% CAGR since 2018 and has accelerated over the past two years, with the Chamisul line taking a market share of 63% in 2021.

Regarding the future of HiteJinro and further expansion of the line, Jung-Ho says, “We already have fruit soju; Green grape, plum, grapefruit and now peach. If consumers need a certain flavor, there’s no reason we can’t meet that demand, as we’ve seen with peach. However, we already have Chamisul Fresh (regular), which we won’t ignore when expanding fruit flavors. We will always pay attention to our usual soju.

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