Maker of Special Reserve Whisky to launch new products

Sanjay Gupta, CEO of Myanmar Distillery Co Ltd (MDC), which bottles Grand Royal whisky, one of Myanmar’s most iconic brands, is seeing a shift in alcohol consumption trends in the country.

“Health is becoming more important to people. People prefer staying in control and drinking in moderation. Inclusive family values are rising in importance and consumers are associating themselves with brands that are viewed positively by a wider range of people. We have to make sure we stay relevant amid these changes,”Mr Gupta told The Myanmar Times during a recent interview.

Last November, the company launched MacArthur’s Blended Scotch Whisky, a brand owned by Scotland-based Inver House, which also owns international whisky brands like Hankey Bannister, Old Pulteney and Speyburn. MacArthur whisky, which is imported from Scotland and bottled at the MDC factory in Yangon, targets young and urban whiskey drinkers.

Mr Gupta added that MDC has invested heavily in technology and implemented world class processes to ensure only the best quality whiskies are launched in the market.

“We need to anticipate what consumers will want in the future. We expect that consumer preferences will keep changing and in the last three years we have invested more money compared to the ten years before that combined to ensure the best quality so our brand does not lose its relevance among consumers,”he said.

Since its inception in Myanmar Special Reserve has come to be one of Myanmar’s most well-known brands. But how did the company manage to capture and retain consumer loyalty and build up its brand equity through the years?

The way Mr Gupta tells it, “when the company first launched Special Reserve, it was a one-segment market. Everyone would either have a standard Whisky or choose another spirit or beverage. Special Reserve was a premium product then, launching at a time when nobody offered the consumer a choice to upgrade,”he said.

“With the ability of our master blenders, we managed to ensure that our customers always got a consistent, well-aged drink. That’s how we retained customer loyalty to the brand. When they see a Special Reserve bottle, they know what they will get,”Mr Gupta added. “We have three warehouses filled with casks. This is part of how our we age and mature our whisky to ensure a smoother, rounder and more sophisticated drink.”

Today, Grand Royal has four whisky products in its portfolio – Black, Smooth, Signature & Special Reserve . It also carries Mac Arthur’s Blended Scotch Whisky , the Eagle Whisky and Royal Dry Gin. The company runs one distillery and two bottling factories in Yangon and Mandalay.

Still, MDC will need to work harder to retain its market share moving forward, as not only are consumers getting more health conscious, competition from the beer and wine segments of the market is also getting more intense. Meanwhile, problems with cheaper counterfeit products and non tax paid illegal products continue to plague the industry.

Mr Gupta said the company is already sharpening its strategy of targeting specific segments of the market. “We will be launching new products this year and the real test for us is for consumers to genuinely enjoy the taste. Meeting the demands and staying relevant as tastes change will be very important for us to sustain our brand value going forward,”Mr Gupta said.

So far though, Special Reserve still appears to have strong brand equity in Myanmar being the only Whisky to have won the most number of International Quality Awards . Last year in fact, the company was approached to be the main sponsor of the inaugural Pride of Myanmar, an awards platform that discovers, recognizes and promotes local talents who have not just made their mark nationally but on a global platform as well.

“The Pride of Myanmar fits in perfectly with our brand. we are proud that we are a brand that was born and bred in Myanmar and is as good as anything else in the world. The platform is for people who do outstanding work in different fields who are proud of the work done. We believe in this,”Mr Gupta said.

“We are hoping that through this platform, we will be able to identify people who are doing different work in Myanmar so that we can reward those who deserve it,” he said.


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