Vodka Fusions seem to be appearing more and more. The first one that I was introduced to (like most of us) was, Lovoka Liqueur Fusion. Then I started noticing other “copy cats” popping up Carvo, FUSIONice and Thunder. But who is the original and who is the copy cat? The liquor industry is cut throat and every original recipe and idea needs to be launched, marketed, implemented and guarded very carefully in order to become a success and Lovoka seemed to have got their formula right from the start.
While looking around on the web for other vodka flavour fusions, I stumbled upon a Spanish product, Gecko Vodka. They claim to be the original caramel vodka and their product is packaged in a very familiar aluminium bottle. So I started asking questions. Two brands in particular came back to me, Lovoka and FUSIONice and their answers piqued my curiosity. Here is what they had to say:
Jamie: Who is the brain behind the brand?
Lovoka: The Entrepreneurial Team involved in trading in Alcohol in South Africa.
FUSIONice: Brain behind FUSIONice is Cliff Knezovich – actually I shouldn’t take all the credit as it was actually my wife’s idea to take the product to SA back in 2009.
J: Caramel & Choc Vodka. Where did the idea come from?
L: The idea was born from the love of Caramel and Chocolate.
Fi: Flavoured vodka has been around for a while, but not in this specific format or viscosity. It was when we found and tasted the product in Spain 2 and half years ago, we knew this product would work in SA.
J: Such a unique bottle. Whose idea was that and where did you find it?
L: The bottle is produced in Europe and has never been introduced into the African market. The Lovoka Team saw the opportunity and gap for such unique packaging to revolutionize the market.
Fi: Again the product we tasted in Spain in 2009 came in an aluminium bottle – because we liked its uniqueness and knew nothing like it existed in SA at the time we just knew it would work. The bottles themselves actually all come from China despite other brands claims that they are produced in Europe (fact).
J: How long did it take you to develop?
L: 8 whole months from concept to launch.
Fi: Development has taken a total of 2 years taking into account the time it took to initially try and setup a distributorship with the Spanish company producing this vodka. Once negotiations broke down, we hit some further “setbacks” and it took us an additional 12 months to perfect the recipes and taste for FUSIONice infusions.
J: There are a lot of copy cats popping up. Who was the original?
L: Often copied but never perfected. Lovoka will always remain the original.
Fi: Gecko Caramel Vodka is the original – they have been producing this product for over 3 years now. FUSIONice was the first with the idea to take this product back to SA, but the “setback” mentioned earlier was as a result of the copy cats. We knew we were not going to be first to the market in SA, but some things are just worth the wait.
J: Do you think the copy cats will hurt your sales?
L: South Africans are very brand conscience and brand loyal individuals. Lovoka spends a great deal of time, money and effort re-investing in marketing opportunities to stay Top of Mind with the Consumer. The public appreciates such re-investment in terms of social gatherings – golf days – large sponsored events with international artists and also play a significant role in supporting charities.
Fi: I think in any environment it’s good to have competition – it keep prices competitive and encourages the manufacturer not to skimp on quality. We spent longer developing our flavours and didn’t want to rush to market without perfecting our taste. Some other brands have used cheap, inferior products and charged top dollar for the same thing – we like to distinguish ourselves from that mentality and focus our attention on supplying a top quality, premium product at a reasonable price.
J: Is it produced and bottled locally?
L: Lovoka is produced by our favourite Wine Maker – Douglas Green (Wellington), who also handles the sales and distribution for Lovoka.
Fi: FUSIONice is 100% South African and is produced and bottled locally by Halewood International using South African made premium triple distilled vodka.
J: Any ideas for more flavours in future?
L: Top Secret.
Fi: We have already launched a new flavour, namely coffee, and as with the original idea to bring caramel and chocolate vodka back to South Africa, it is the only triple distilled vodka based coffee liqueur on the market in this format and packaging. As for any future plans for new flavours, South Africa is about to experience a new taste explosion!
J: Which of the flavours is your favourite?
Fi: I must say mixing caramel and chocolate together is my favourite. We have called it a caramello bear and it is fantastic.
Now that we have established that Gecko were the original vodka fusion liqueur and are assuming that they too get their bottles from China, (they didn’t get back to me) then how can Lovoka claim to be “the original chocolate and caramel vodka in the distinctive aluminium bottle”?
Although it probably doesn’t matter, Lovoka and FUSIONice are great tasting brands, it sounds like there is a lot of copying happening. I don’t mind copy cats, as FUSIONice said, competition is healthy, it keeps you on your toes, but who copied who?