A potent, Korean, rice-based liquor brand has emerged as the world’s best-selling spirit, cementing the country as the drinking capital of Asia.
According to a recently released industry report, the country’s leading soju brand Jinro sold 61.4 million 9-litre cases of the distilled, rice-based liquor — more than double the sales of vodka-maker Smirnoff, which sold 24.7 million cases last year.
Jinro’s closest soju competitor, Lotte Liquor, meanwhile, also nabbed a top spot as the third best selling spirit brand in the world.
Described as a sweeter version of vodka — clear in colour and smooth in taste — soju is the drink of choice among Koreans who tip the liquor back in quick, successive shots.
One of the most popular food and soju pairings is to drink it with barbecued dishes like bulgogi or kalbi, soy, garlic and scallion-marinated meats, or to serve it with the Korean version of bar snacks.
According to Jinro, which has 58 per cent of the soju market in that country, Koreans drink nearly one billion of their 360ml soju bottles a month.
Meanwhile, in their “Millionaire’s Club” report, which ranks spirit and liquor brands that break the one million nine-litre sales mark, Drinks International and Euromonitor identified La Martiniquaise’s Poliakov vodka as a newcomer to the exclusive group, as well as grape-based vodka brand Cîroc, fronted by hip hop star P. Diddy.
Consumption of baiju, a popular Chinese white liquor, was also singled out as a spirit expected to experience major growth in the near future.
Just days after the release of the Millionaire’s Club report, French drinks company Pernod Ricard also announced it had gained a 100 per cent share in Pernod Ricard Korea Imperial after buying HiteJinro’s remaining 30 per cent share of the company. The move signals a growing focus on the South Korean market for the spirits and liquor industry.