Monday, January 24, 2011

Less Tiki, More Southwest: Matching the Drink to that Mad Gringo Shirt.

Have I led you astray in the previous post, where I mentioned “a tiki-themed alco-beverage?” Didn’t mean to. What I ended up drinking was El Amanecer de Xalixco, better known as the Tequila Sunrise*.

“Tropical” is really more Southwestern since the figure in the pattern of the new shirt is Kokopelli. Fertility god of the Anasazi. Three thousand years old. Looks good on that shirt, don’t it?

There’s nothing of Polynesia here, though. I also didn’t have any pineapple juice. What I did have was orange juice. Grenadine. Fresh lemons. And Xalixco Reposado Tequila from Guadalajara. So this is a post about liquor brands and marketing. Yay!

Along with the monster tequila marketers there are dozens if not hundreds of craft-made tequilas that are sold at different price points: plenty of entries in a marketplace that’s changed in several significant ways since the last time Signalwriter blogged about tequila, in 2005.

The reviewer nchoward made some interesting observations about the tequila market just a few years ago:

…88 percent of all tequila…is consumed in one of two ways: Shots or margaritas. By the age of 25 the average man has cut his shots consumption by 20 percent. The target consumers…are men 25 to 34 years old evolving to sophisticated drink choices. Now these consumers are drinking whiskeys, rums, and vodkas, usually mixed with cola. For leading brands, about 60 percent of consumption is with cola. Compare that to tequila where 60 percent of consumption is in margaritas.

Or in Tequila Sunrises made by considerably older guys in, say, suburban Houston. There’s more – from a recently published global tequila market review:

Tequila has been displaying high volume growth across a broad spectrum of international markets over the last few years. Indeed, some 13 out of the top 15 global Tequila markets posted gains over the 2003-2008 period. The US and Mexico remain the key markets by far. The most successful part of the US Tequila market in value-growth terms remains the super-premium sector – albeit at a reduced rate of growth.

That Xalixco Reposado from the Signalwriter liquor cabinet is an apparently middle-of-the-pack tequila with a history. Unearthing some background, you can read that Jesus Hernandez founded the original distillery at “the beginning of the XIX century.” Three Hernandez generations owned the distillery named La Invencible until 1962 when it was sold to the Orendain family.

In ’71, Roberto Orendain sold it to Bacardi which subsequently added new technology, expanding the operation (now called Tequileña thanks to another merger) to a daily production of 10,000 liters of tequila; and intro’d the Xalixco brand in the domestic Mexican market.

Forgive the pun, but by 1987 the worm had turned for Bacardi so it sold part of the plant to Mexico’s Vergel Brandy which lost still more market share so in 1990 Vergel sold out to Enrique Fonseca, Sr.

Are you keeping up? Fonseca is noted to be one of the largest agave farmers in the state of Jalisco. He’s credited with reinvigorating the Xalixco formula (with blue agave) and brand, and building exports to the US.

This Xalixco is warm and smoky – none of that burning, numbing sensation you get with cheap tequila – with an aroma of a pinewood fire and a taste of delicate creosote and sugar. It’s a sipping liquor, too good to mix with orange juice. But it’s sitting on the shelf at $18-20 bucks a bottle and will probably never be noticed because it’s not a “super-premium.”

Fonseca doesn’t need another super-premium; the company has a number of aficionado brands like Asombroso that it keeps introducing.

Too bad that consumers have no brand story to grab onto but I think Xalixco is a more of a distribution play: a shelf-filler. Tequila’s a huge big market. The brand has its role to play. Enough, then, about marketing - let this liquor’s value be our little secret.

*Low-grade the tequila and keep it simple. Here’s a recipe from Esquire.

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