Brazil in a Bottle

Bossa, a super-premium with relatively low volumes, is certainly on the lookout for new listings. “We are actively looking for partners to help us leverage the major marketing opportunities presented by the World Cup and Olympics to grow Bossa more quickly and in many more markets,” says Gomes. 

Luttmann sets out the Leblon masterplan: “We plan on being the drink of choice for people watching the World Cup in bars, homes, and pubs around the world. We have aggressively expanded our geographic footprint worldwide in order to be present and visible during the World Cup, and to be picked up by consumers when they are having friends over to watch the games. We have fielded our own World Cup team of bartenders from around the world – 11 bartender ‘players’ who will be joining us for a week during the World Cup. 

“These bartenders will apprentice at our distillery in Minas Gerais, participate in ‘Altinha’ beach football against a team of top Brazilian bartenders and, of course, go to a World Cup game. It will be a great way to get some top bartenders deep information and knowledge about Brazil, cachaça and our product, who will then spread the word in their home countries and markets.”

Delicate issue

In Brazil itself, one might expect to see the cachaça brands plastered to everything within sight of a television camera, but as Pirassununga 51’s CEO Ricardo Gonçalves tells us, it is a delicate issue. “I don’t have an interest in sponsoring because I can’t compare cachaça with the beer and motor industry. Cachaça is a very inexpensive product and sponsorship costs too much. We have to have a guerilla strategy for people exposed to the World Cup.”

In fact, the constraints don’t end there. “In Brazil you have a lot of restrictions on spirits. We can only advertise on television between 9.30pm and 6am, whereas beer can advertise any time. I don’t think this will change. Spirits have a bad image and lobbying won’t change the reality of our advertising laws.”

IBRAC is working on a “new plan for cachaça and its institutional image”. The body will communicate in all 10 host cities and in several states there are cachaça training sessions with hotels, bars and restaurants. “These training events will intensify as from the beginning of 2014,” says IBRAC’s Ribeiro. “We think for those that directly interact with consumers, it is fundamental to be well acquainted with cachaça. The focus is on the Caipirinha and its variations with local fruit, but also the way it’s served neat, in [other] cocktails and with food.”

Despite 51’s dominance of the Brazilian market (except the Ypióca-stronghold state Ceará in the north east) Gonçalves does not expect much of a sales swing. “We do not expect a change of sales during the World Cup. [Internationally] people will be curious about Brazil, we will have a lot of exposure and there will be more people interested as a result. But beer is the main alcohol of consumption for football. Maybe I am wrong and I will have a big bonus because of a surge in cachaça sales.” But Gonçalves says he expects “some incremental volume sales” accountable to new packaging of his mainstream lines, both domestic and export.

To progress, cachaça has to grow in a similar direction and speed to the country’s gentrification. The recent economy dip and political protests to one side, Brazil has become a wealthy, modern nation whose people are looking to spend their money on international brands more and domestic brands less. 

“The cachaça market is going to improve in value but volume will decrease,” says Gonçalves. We have to improve the image of cachaça and we have to improve the professionalism of the industry. It will become a more sophisticated spirit. It’s the duty of the main brand in the market to do something about the change of image. If you do not, you are not the leader.”