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Havana Club 44th among world's 100 top spirits brands
CubaNews / April 2005

By Larry Luxner

Havana Club rum now ranks 44th on the Impact Databank list of the world’s top 100 premium distilled spirit brands, up from 50th last year and 53rd the year before.

The index, published in Impact’s Mar. 1-15 issue, shows that Havana Club sold 2.0 million nine-liter cases in 2004, a 7.5% jump over the 1.9 million cases sold in 2003, based on unrounded data. That followed a 10.7% increase over the 1.7 million cases sold in 2002, and growth of 13% the year before that.

Even more impressive is the fact that Havana Club has been able to score these gains without selling a drop of rum in the United States, the world’s largest rum market, due to the embargo.

Nevertheless, Havana Club’s total worldwide sales volume is only one-ninth of that of its chief rival, Bacardi. As in previous years, Bacardi is still the world’s most popular spirits brand, with 20.3 million cases of rum sold in 2004, a 3.0% gain over the 2003 figure of 19.7 million cases.

But Smirnoff, produced by Diageo PLC, is running a close second, at 20.1 million cases, and “is poised to catapult past Bacardi in sales volume in 2005,” according to Impact.

Havana Club is produced at distilleries in Santa Cruz del Norte and elsewhere in Cuba by Havana Club Holdings (HCH), a joint venture between France’s Pernod Ricard and the Cuban government. The 50-50 venture, established in 1993, is believed to generate annual sales of around $200 million, with profits of some $40 million.

Bacardi has been fighting for years to wrest control of the Havana Club trademark away from HCH. Under Section 211 — an arcane law slipped into a massive 1998 spending bill at the behest of Bacardi — U.S. courts are prohibited from protecting the rights of expropriated Cuban trademarks.

But Section 211 is bitterly opposed by groups like the National Foreign Trade Coun-cil, which warns that the provision threatens more than 4,000 U.S. trademarks currently registered in Cuba (see interview, pages 8-9).

Other rum brands listed in Impact’s top 100 index include Diageo’s Captain Morgan (No. 7, with 6.3 million cases); Brugal of the Dominican Republic (No. 16, with 4.5 million cases); Pernod Ricard’s Montilla (No. 38, with 2.3 million cases); Diageo’s Cacique, bottled in Venezuela (No. 58, with 1.7 million cases); Bacardi’s Castillo (No. 60, with 1.6 million cases); Venezuela’s Santa Teresa (No. 71, with 1.4 million cases) and Jamaica’s Appleton Estate (No. 91, with 1.1 million cases).

Cacique is doing particularly well in Spain, where it competes against both Havana Club and Bacardi, according to Impact.

“Cacique has been taking market share from Havana Club in Spain, as the latter’s global growth, which had been fueled by the Spanish market, is slowing considerably.”

Pernod Ricard, which is in talks to acquire rival Allied Domecq, already owns 13 of the world’s top 100 spirits brands (Allied Domecq has 12). That compares to 17 brands for Diageo — the world’s largest drinks conglomerate — and seven for Bacardi.

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