The view from the outside
In the United States and many other countries, the caipirinha is a relatively new cocktail that also appeared in non-Brazilian bars around 2006. As with most new trends, Cachaca has just arrived in the middle of America, while in coastal cities such as New York and San Francisco it has long ceased to be an international novelty and is already part of the permanent repertoire of bars. You can find flavored caipirinhas on the drinks menu, but cachaca is only offered in the top bars in connection with the specialties of the house.
The “Cachaca” category is less propagated in the United States by the big brands like Pitu and Cachaca 51 (Pirassununga), but by noble products like Sagatiba, Leblon and Cabana. The latter two brands are not yet available in Germany.
Gerard Schweitzer, co-founder and managing director of Leblon, explained the different history of cachaca products in Germany and the USA: “Cachaca and Caipirinha have been known on the German (and European) market for over twenty years. Caipirinha is very mainstream, and market leaders like Pitu, 51, etc. have been involved from the start. The Germans were enthusiastic about Brazilian culture and brought home bottles of Cachaca from their many stays abroad. Over the years, several brands that were specifically designed for the Brazilian market have also been introduced, which also wanted to secure their share, but they tend to be located at the lower end of the market. ”
Schweitzer adds: “The big companies in the USA mainly supplied former compatriots because many Brazilians came to the States to live and work there. For a long time, low alcohol levels were preferred until more sophisticated brands were introduced, the strategy of which was to open the market to a clientele who did not appreciate the hard, little differentiated industrial products. In 2009, this category more than tripled its volume with over 100,000 nine-liter crates. ”
Schweitzer did not create Leblon to contest the cheaper cachacas, on the contrary: “With the new international cocktail clientele in mind, my partner Steve and I wanted to introduce a really remarkable cachaca. We felt that this category needed a banner brand that was worthy of a cocktail nation. We knew, of course, that the American market would be the key to success. ”
John Gakuru, global brand ambassador for Sagatiba Cachaca, explains that from the start, international clients were considered: “Sagatiba was designed as a top brand for both the domestic and the international market. The success of these efforts is evident in the distribution of sales. In the Cachaca category, 99% are produced for the domestic market and 1% for export. At Sagatiba, it's 60% for the domestic market and 40% for export. ”
Sagatiba was developed in 2004 and launched in Germany in 2006. The owners of Leblon and Cabana seem to be waiting for support to prevail in the local market.
According to Schweitzer, “Cachaca has around 260-280,000 nine-liter crates a year in Germany, and caipirinha is still one of the most popular cocktails alongside the mojito. However, the market is dominated by cheap brands, and top brands (in different categories, not just in the Cachaca category) find it difficult to assert themselves. That's why we think it is important to find distributors who can help us build the brand in the same way that we have opened up other markets. ”
Matti Anttila, the founder of Cabana Cachaca, argues similarly: “We have not yet reached the German market. We looked around, but when it comes to top-quality spirits and especially cachaca, he is rather underdeveloped. So a wonderful opportunity, but we have not yet found the right partner to develop this segment. ”
Schweitzer and Gakuru agree: without Caipirinha, Cachaca would have had no chances, but at the same time it represents the biggest obstacle for Cachaca.
According to Schweitzer, "the cocktail, the caipirinha, is the main focus in Germany and less the category" cachaca ". Obviously, the customers first think of caipirinha and then of the basic spirit, which is understandable, because the cocktail has finally paved the way for the category. ”
In the United States, too, customers got to know Cachaca through the caipirinha, but perhaps the basic spirit has become more widely known due to the intense competition between the top brands. Sagatiba has a relatively neutral taste and is therefore very suitable for mixing. Leblon is a bit creamy due to a slight maturation in cognac barrels. Cabana is soft, but at the same time has a strong taste.
While Caipirinha goes well with a little refined, industrial base spirit, the top cachacas are ideal for cocktails that require a little more tact. Schweitzer as well as Gakuru seem to agree that bartenders who want to use Cachaca more often have to think beyond the Caipirinha.
Gakuru comments: “In my opinion, there is a social explanation for the declining development of the Cachaca category in Germany: In Germany, Cachaca has been on the market for so long that the 20- to 30-year-olds connect him with the generation of their parents, and whoever wants to already take over the drinking habits of the parents! , , , After all, there are many talented bartenders in Germany who create the best things. For us Sagatiba people, it is clear that Sagatiba is much more versatile and can also be used for other cocktails.
Schweitzer is convinced that “Top cachacas like Leblon can experience a boom again and not only help the Caipirinha to gain new popularity, but also result in new, high-quality cocktails. Already established cachaca brands (especially the large industrial brands) have not set much in motion, but the market can revive with the fine spirits. I consider it our job to convince bartenders and bar visitors that with cachacas like Leblon you can create completely different things than just caipirinhas. ”