Bagrationi 1882, one of the leading Georgian sparkling wine companies, started preparing for new European and U.S. market expansion from 2006, soon after trading relations with Russia were interrupted. On October 8, 2008, Bagrationi finished re-branding which was aimed at restoring its quality and image face. The company expanded its business and today in Ukraine it is considered a luxury drink. “It stands next to the best Ukrainian sparkling wines”, George Ramishvili, BAGRATIONI 1882, Director General, says in this interview with The FINANCIAL.
Q. Ukraine was the market which to some extent replaced the export volume that used to go to Russia. What kind of level did Bagrationi sparkling wines reach in Ukraine?
A. After the closure of the Russian market we did not reduce our production. It was wholly divided between Georgian and Ukrainian markets. We had already reached some kind of a level at the Ukrainian market but we are still working on increasing the number of our customers with the help of different activities.
Every year Bagrationi raises the number of its sales in Ukraine, which is the second largest market after Georgia. In Ukraine Bagrationi is considered a luxury drink. It stands next to the best Ukrainian sparkling wines. We are keeping the same price so as not to lose customers because of it. It was not easy for us to establish ourselves in the new market. Our success does not give us the right to relax completely though. We are still working on improving our products and following the world’s demands.
Q. After August’s events international support from Europe and the U.S. started opening new trading ways for Georgian products, how do you think, are Georgian goods ready to enter other major international markets?
A. Today Bagrationi 1882 is ready to enter new European markets. We started preparing for that two years ago, after the Russian market’s closure. Every wine company which had previously exported to Russia, had to find an alternative for themselves. Everyone had their own strategy and plans of entering alternative countries’ markets. But the demands of our potential partner countries are common for everyone: our goods must satisfy the demands of the country, which is mainly based on high quality, otherwise you won’t be able to enter. This is what we have been working on for the past two years.
Q. The high quality of products are the main demand of international markets, but there are some other no less important aspects. What are Georgian companies staking into consideration when entering foreign markets?
A. All of us heard about the unprecedented support from the U.S. and Europe. The most important is that these are not only words, and we must start acting soon. But international support does not give us a reason to just relax. On the contrary, it means that we must multiply our energy and work ten times over. Your product must have the best endurance in this competition and the corresponding international level. Only the best products will enter international markets. First of all it depends on the quality, of course and secondly- correct marketing. Before this time we also used some kind of economical privileges, but this never meant that any Georgian goods, without any distinction of quality, could find a place in the market. All of the sectors are full of different brands and products, and you must beat them only by having better offers.
Q. On October 8 Bagrationi 1882 had a presentation of re-branding, what kind of reforms have you done?
A. In 2006 the company’s management was changed and from that period onwards new heads invested about USD 10 million. The company was changed. A new specialist was bought in for the marketing and international relations direction. During a year we were working on re-branding Bagrationi.
We spent more than EUR 100,000 on this. This was very time and labour-consuming. At the time we equipped our factory with new western technologies and improved its visual side.
Our priority has always been quality, but these new technologies will help us to improve even further. We cultivate grapes on our own territory. But at present, the number does not quite satisfy us and so we will have to add to it from others’ vineyards, but after four years we hope to have enough of our own. Today we can watch and control all the procedures, from collecting grapes to the pressing and pouring into bottles. The profile of our factory was different before. We bought grapes juice from factories. Now we are developing our own vineyard, keeping the grapes and hoping to improve the quality this way.
In 2007 with the guidance of new marketing and sales manager, Bernd Shafer’s, a German specialist, a new strategy was collaborated. This included the foreseeing and satisfying of all customers’ wishes and demands. Working on the image of Bagrationi was started with changing the logo. The world famous British company Claessens designed the new logo for Bagrationi 1882. Claessens has made logos for such famous brands as Guinness, Chivas Regal, Campari, Johnny Walker and so on.
The logo of Bagrationi includes the philosophy of the company, which is connected with the traditions of Georgian kings. The new face of Bagrationi was made with long collaboration with German company Hammerle. Under the ruling of the German specialist Hilarius Putc, we restored technologies and equipped a new line of pouring. With the help of investors we bought a worldwide popular-company Willmes press, which satisfies the highest quality of squeezing grapes.
Q. Which countries do you presume to enter first?
A. Bagrationi is on its way in to the West, just like Georgia is in general. We hope to master the U.S., German, and Chinese markets after some period. We hope to see some kind of results in these countries. First of all you must have your basic work ready and then generate enough money to make investments. This all requires money and energy most of all.
Q. What kind of PR activities are you using in terms of local and Ukrainian markets?
A. In comparison with last year Bagrationi raised sales by 10%. This might be connected with our constant actions and work at restoring quality. Our advertisements are equivalent to our quality. People who buy Bagrationi never regret their choice. In international markets our partners make decisions themselves about marketing activities. In Ukraine, for example, they most often use a tasting campaign. As for PR campaigns, we are oriented at segments which are directly connected with our products. These are cultural performances and from sport- mostly rallies. The cars are directly connected to sparkling wines. Most events connected with cars do not happen very often and so they always deserve to be celebrated with good quality sparkling wine.
Interviewed by Madona Gasanova