This Winter, I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil with our trade organization, DISCUS, and a handful of other U.S. distillers. The trip was made possible through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program (M.A.P.) and was designed to promote American spirits to a relatively untapped market. It was a whirlwind of a trip, but filled with memorable experiences and potential for future business in an amazing country.
After an overnight flight, I arrived in Sao Paulo and met up with our group at D.O.M., which has been rated the top restaurant in South America for the last 4 years. Renowned chef, Alex Atala, graciously spent time explaining all of the dishes he created for us all using native Brazilian ingredients such as manioc, heart of palm, pirarucu (type of fish), and even Amazonian ants.
After a relaxing lunch, we rushed off to the first of our trade events. I had an opportunity to pour our McKenzie line for several reporters, importers and bar owners/managers. After the tasting, our group gave a presentation on the history and cultural significance of US spirits. Jeff Arnett, Master Distiller from Jack Daniel’s, led most of the discussion. The other members of our contingent were Scott Harris from Catoctin Creek, Dan Farber from Osocalis Distillery, and Christian Krogstad from House Spirits.
The next morning we took a quick flight to Rio. We enjoyed a welcome drink – Caipirinha of course – while taking in the beauty of Copacabana Beach, which our hotel overlooked. A similar trade event was held that evening with dozens more journalists and industry people. We had dinner as a group that evening and then took in some samba in the fascinating neighborhood called Lapa.
The trip was eye opening on several fronts. The cocktail scene in both Sao Paolo and Rio is not unlike what we see in our metro markets here in the States. Bartenders are very knowledgeable and constantly searching for new ingredients. The same level of pride is taken when mixing a drink as we see in some of our top accounts in NYC. Even with the awareness and demand for U.S. products, however, access is limited. I met with several people that fell in love with our Rye and mentioned that they can’t buy any Rye whiskey at all for their bars.
So what does this all mean for FLD? We hope to get some of our products into the market later this year. I am convinced the demand is there for craft whiskeys produced in the U.S. and even though the barriers to entry are high, we are going to pursue some potential distribution arrangements and talks are underway. From what I understand, the products will be priced at an ultra-premium level due to import tariffs – perhaps over $100 per bottle – but there is a market there to make it work (Sao Paolo, after all, has the 2nd largest Ferrari dealership in the world).
While our focus continues to be on building our customer base here in the States, it was really exciting to think about our brand making some headway into a high growth market like Brazil and all the international opportunities we might be able to look at down the road.
Here are some photos from my trip: