Pernod Ricard has begun rolling out two new brands in the Australian market, from  the internationally acclaimed portfolio of Sovereign Brands.

In 2021, Pernod Ricard announced its partnership with Sovereign Brands, taking out a minority stake in the company which was then increased in late 2022. Now, this partnership sees Pernod Ricard bring the Luc Belaire sparkling wine and Bumbu Rum brands to Australia.

Co-founder of Sovereign Brands, Brett Berish, was in Australia to kick off the rollout of these brands, and sat down with National Liquor News to discuss their stories.

“We’re launching two brands right now – Luc Belaire, which is in about 80 or so countries; and Bumbu, which is in about 70 or so countries… they’re two really unique brands that have great stories,” Berish said.

Core to the beginning of these stories is tradition. Berish looks to regions that are renowned for a product and builds unique twists from there.  

“Tradition plays a huge role in what we do. If you look at Bumbu rum, the reason we produce it in Barbados is because that is the original rum island, and that’s where it started. I like that history and I think it’s an important story to tell,” Berish said.

“For Belaire, it’s the same thing. I think the best rosé comes from Provence, so that’s where our sparkling rosé comes from. On the Brut side, I think the best grapes are Chardonnay from Burgundy. I believe in that traditional mindset.

“It’s easy to see tradition, but the harder part then is to stand out with the taste. If you taste my brands, you’re going to taste a discernible difference. That’s something inherent to how we do business – I will not launch a brand unless it tastes discernibly different than the competitors, unless it doesn’t taste like anything you’ve ever tasted before.”

The portfolio Sovereign Brands is introducing to Australia aims to do that through several unique SKUs. For Bumbu Rum, there are original, XO and Créme versions, while for Luc Belaire, there is a range of sparkling white and rosé, as well as Bleu, an eye catching blue-coloured sparkling.

“The hard part of new brands is that everyone is afraid of something different or something new that isn’t the same as everyone else. The one thing all my brands have in common is someone has said they’d never work,” Berish said.

“When I launched Belaire in the US, they said it wouldn’t work because I launched with a rosé – I was told I should launch with a Brut first because that’s a bigger seller. I also put it in a black bottle, so you couldn’t see the liquid.”

But the brand was a huge success and continued to grow rapidly both in the US and internationally until the release of Belaire Bleu, which Berish described as “the single biggest wine or spirit launch in the US two years ago.”

“What it does is bring new consumers to the category. I want people to try things and experiment with something new and different,” Berish continued.

These themes have driven Berish’s innovative brand building activities since he began Sovereign Brands in 1999. Other than the two smash hits he is now bringing to Australia, over the years Berish has created iconic international brands such as Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades (which he later sold to Jay-Z), and D’Ussé Cognac (which is part of Bacardi). Still in the Sovereign Brands portfolio but not yet in Australia are McQueen and the Violet Fog, a small-batch gin from Jundiai in Brazil, and Villon, a revolutionary liqueur.

The latest addition to the Sovereign Brands portfolio is a Scotch whisky called The Deacon, which is due to come to Australia later this year. It’s the first whisky from the company and was created in collaboration with Pernod Ricard. Berish described it as the first new whisky brand that Pernod Ricard has helped created from scratch in 20 years.

“All my brands have meaning behind them. For The Deacon, in Scotland that is a title you’re given if you’re the best at what you do. We think that has great meaning and so does the bottle – the copper matches the copper pot stills, and the X in the background matches the X of the Scottish flag. The Deacon character wears these goggles, which we will give to our ambassadors to continue the imagery behind the brand,” Berish said.

The Australian market

Berish said: “It’s been a long journey [to get Sovereign Brands to Australia]… for me, in any market, it’s demand-based. The market will tell you when they’re ready for it, when they start asking for it, looking for it and wanting it.”

While in the country, Berish and Pernod Ricard’s local Sovereign Brands team went out into the trade and saw this. He gave one example of an independent liquor retailer they met with who already knew a lot about Bumbu, and had had customers asking for it. This was just one of the things that impressed Berish about his tour in the trade.

“In the wine and spirits space, the amount of selection you have here is amazing. You can go to the smallest store and they have such a remarkable selection, with brands I’ve never even seen before… in comparison to the US, I could go to the biggest stores and not see that selection,” Berish said.

“I think Australia will be a fantastic market for us. Just on my time here so far, the reaction has been fantastic.”

Berish also noted that Sovereign Brands’ partnership with Pernod Ricard would make the Australian rollout smooth and well supported.

“Globally, the biggest issue with international brands in Australia is that it’s so far away from everyone’s depos. The key is planning ahead, and this is what Pernod Ricard is great at,” he said.

“Pernod Ricard to me is this unique space – even though they’re a big company, there’s a huge sense of family, community and passion here. I think that’s very hard to achieve and I like that. I need to believe in people, and I do here. I like Alex Ricard, I like his team and the people here in Australia are also amazing. There’s tremendous passion here.”

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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