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What’s red-hot but -18°C below?
Sounds like one of those children’s riddles, doesn’t it? But it’s not.
The numbers below not only provide the answer but tell their own astonishing story. Nearly 7.2 million 9-litre cases sold last year worldwide. The number nine premium spirits brand in the world. The thirteenth-biggest premium spirits brand in travel retail despite really only focusing on the channel since 2012, a period in which it has almost quadrupled volumes. One domestic market in 1960, over 100 today.
Welcome to the extraordinary world of Jägermeister, one of the world’s most recognised spirits brands. One that in any league table of peers is surrounded by brands belonging to multi-national conglomerates and yet remains resolutely in the fifth-generation family hands of parent company Mast-Jägermeister.
Take a look at that peer group. Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Bacardi, Jack Daniel’s, Absolut and Hennessy among them. And get this. Jägermeister, a herb-based liquor, ranks ahead of Baileys, Jameson, Ballantine’s and a host of other international powerhouse brands.
If the numbers above are important, so are these ones. 383. As in quality checks on the product. 56. As in the number of herbs, blossoms, roots and fruits in a recipe known by a handful of people and guarded more closely than the keys to the United States Bullion Depository. 98. The number of 2cl Jägermeister shots consumed each second around the world. And 1. As in a mono-brand that has driven one of the great international brand success stories over the past eight decades.
As mentioned in my last Blog, I have been in Mast-Jägermeister’s hometown of Wolfenbüttel this week discovering that story.
When I tell it, I suspect you will be as surprised as I was by many of the revelations. Jägermeister is virtually synonymous with a party brand and yet is so very much more than that. It was a craft spirit long before the term was invented, a beguiling combination of ingredients that would put the best Indian kitchen to shame. Its focus on quality control is unrelenting.
Its marketing is legendary. From irreverent, sometimes risque but brilliant advertising campaigns through the 70s and 80s to cutting edge social and digital media wizardry today. Passion runs through the company and its people like a bloodline, as valuable as a 57th herb but this time not a secret.
I had the immense pleasure of spending time in the very good company of Hans-Manuel Vogt, Head of Customer Development, Global Travel Retail; Dietmar Franke, Director Global Travel Retail; Andreas Lehmann, Head of Public Relations; and Stephanie Cleary, Head of Trade Marketing, Global Travel Retail. A tour of the distillery put to bed once and for all the clichés about Jägermeister being simply about hard partying. Take a look at the photo below, which shows just 25 of the herbs, blossoms, roots and fruits that go into every one of those 98 shots that is consumed every second around the world. The attention to detail with regard to raw materials and production is astounding.
On Wednesday night I dined with them and Chief Executive Officer Michael Volke, a man who is leading the company in a purposeful fashion that never deviates from its principles for short-term gains. He’s deeply supportive of the travel retail channel and it shows in the numbers above. When you consider that Jägermeister is on fire in the Chinese on-trade market (another surprise, as is the fact that it is known as ‘Ye Ge’ in China, which roughly translates to ‘wild character’), you know that its future in travel retail is bright indeed. As I’ve written before, some of the company’s travel retail exclusive concepts are right out of the sector’s top drawer.
“How was your day?” Michael asked me. “Great,” I joked, “I found out the secret recipe.”
“That’s good,” he replied. “So now we have to kill you.”
The only killing, in fact, was with kindness and hospitality that was as warm as the Jägermeister was cold (-18 below is the perfect serve. I know as I was served several of them). My full story won’t appear until next month but I promise you that like the Jägermeister that matures in mighty oak casks for a year, it’s worth the wait.