Ladoga, the St Petersburg-based distributor, is to sell the Godet Cognac brand in Russia following an agreement with the French company.
The first shipments of the French brandy have already been received by the Russian firm, which will sell not only Godet but also the Lautrec and Godet Cuvee brands in a number of Russian cities, including St Petersburg and Moscow.
Ladoga has been the sole Russian distributor for Godet Cognac since April, and is planning big things for the brand there. Veniamin Grabar, Ladoga's manager, told the Rosbalt news agency: "We hope to take up to 5 per cent of the Russian market for premium Cognac during the course of 2003," big ambitions for a brand which is still relatively small.
But Godet has always had big ambitions, at least according to its chairman Jean-Jacques Godet. Speaking at a presentation held by Rosbalt, he said: "'We do not produce as much Cognac as Martell, we only produce a million bottles every year. However, we always stick to two principles: we put the customer first and we only sell high-quality Cognac. By following these two principles we are now one of the top five producers."
Russians, for so long associated with vodka, are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their drinking habits, although Cognac is still very much a luxury product there. But with traditional Cognac markets in Asia unlikely to ever recover from the collapse of sales there in the late 1990s, companies are continuously seeking the next big opportunity. While Russia could hardly be called a new market for Cognac, the potential for increasing sales of the drink there is huge, as consumers strive to meet western consumption standards, provided, of course, the economic situation there continues to improve.
Godet for one will be ready if an explosion in sales does occur, although for smaller producers operating at the premium end of the market, sales have always been based more on quality than quantity. The company already exports its Cognacs to 65 countries, including core markets such as the US, Asian giants such as China, Korea and Taiwan, and other emerging markets in Europe such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.