Lovoka – The original copy?

Choc Cocktail

Fusion vodkas make yummy cocktails

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.

Gecko

The original Original

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:

Lovoka

A very familiar aluminium bottle


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.

Fusion Range

Fusion's aluminium range

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.

Caramel Fusion

FUSIONice Caramel looks very exciting

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.

Lovoka Fusion

So sexy

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.

Choc

Anyone else lus for a chocolate?

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.

Caramel Lovoka

Sweet, golden Caramel


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!

Caramello Bear

Remember these yummy bears?

J: Which of the flavours is your favourite?  
L: Both.
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?

51 Comments

Filed under General, Market, Vodka

51 responses to “Lovoka – The original copy?

  1. This looks a bit fishy to me. So Gecko got copied, which makes Lovoka look stoopid cos they do say they were the original… But where can we find Fusion? I haven’t seen it here in the Cape?

  2. JAMES

    So who was the first in South – Africa ? As far as I can see Lovoka has been here for more than a year and was definately the first in the South Africa so the claim to be the origional could be supported . Gecko has 370 followers on Facebook , FUSIONice a mere 108 and LOVOKA has 4836 follwers and CARVO ….ZERO so who is the biggest and the best ?

    • Hey James,

      The first in SA? FUSIONice say they have been in development for 2 years and that they got the idea from Gecko, Lovoka say it took them 8 months. I did say that Lovoka have got their marketing formula right and as you say, the amount of followers just proves that point. As for who is the best? Well, that’s for the consumer to decide. 🙂

  3. Yep – as they said “Lovoka will always be the original” which isn’t technically true because Gecko was first – even if only in Spain. I did go and look at the website – Lovoka says their bottles are coming from Europe – whereas Fusion says they come from China? Very interesting. Sounds like there is a rat in liqueur industry!

  4. A rat indeed – I agree with John. Lovodka have been leading us up the garden path and looks like the guys form Fusion Ice were the orginal party thinking about bringing it to SA shores. I saw Fusion Ice guys at Good Food and Wine and that was there official launch into the market – not bad for only a few weeks presence me thinks!! Lovodka got a serious contender now. I like the way the Fusion Ice guy actually puts his name to the brand and doesnt hide behind a corporate mask!

    • Glad you enjoyed the article Frik.

    • Olivia

      A great man will stand behind an honest product. These are the kinds of people that will continue to take the time to protect the consumer by developing superior products. Isn’t it illegal to give false information about the product you are selling?

      I know where I would put my money. Looking forward to the new FusionIce products.

  5. Jannie

    Word on the street is that the guys from Lovoka were part of the original ‘team’ (including the guys that are now Fi) that spotted Gecko in Spain and started crafting the idea to take it to SA – in its aluminum bottle. But the guys that became Lovoka decided to sprint off secretly early with the idea and launch in SA. So on that technicality, Gecko are the original inspiring brand (acknowledged by Fi but not by Lovoka), Lovoka the first in SA but having cheated their way to first place, and FI the latecomer with dignity.

  6. I’ve never seen Fusion. But I’ve had lots of Lovoka. Love it to pieces! What do they say about all of this? Where did the idea come from? Who was the original? And are they going to admit they copied it and if not, who did? Where is Gecko in all of this? Love drinking it, but think there are some answers that need to be taken care of here – hate it when people rip off other people’s ideas and make them their own…

  7. Nicola Dandrea

    I think its a simple thing. The first product in the market is the original. In SA, that would be Lovoka. If you ask me thats wot its about. The fusion guys said that they saw it, cool, but the Lovoka guys never said that they created the idea. Besides, the question was not who created Caramel and Chocolate Vodka, but rather why those flavours. Come on, read it properly.

  8. Nicola Dandrea

    oh, and the question of who was the original is correctly answered. This is a south african site talking to a south african product. Ive never seen geco in joburg. If its a Spanish product, then it has nothing to do with this… or am I mad???

    • Granted, we are a SA site, but we do talk about a lot of international brands. Gecko is not available in JHB, but because FUSIONice mentioned them as being the original, it does have something to do with this.

  9. JAMES

    Dear Jamie ,

    If the above is the case should you not do an in depth search if Gecko is the actual “ORIGINAL” ? You sound very biased towards some brands here but no further mention about CARVO , THUNDER, LE NEIGE , PROVOCATIVE , who all come about on the back of one brand …. why not do your homework ?

    • Hi James, I have in fact been in contact with Gecko, Lovoka and FUSIONice to give all parties the opportunity to respond to this article. I look forward to letting you know what they say.

  10. Jason

    This must be the most absurd blog I have ever read. Can anyone tell me who invented Whiskey, Brandy , Rum ect ? WHO CARES, go and buy them and be the judge ! Do you know if Charles Glass and Pierre Smirnoff ever existed and created BEER /VODKA ? …..bla bla bla fishpaste this is all crap, drink and be merry ! Can’t the blogger write about intresting stuff ? I agree with James, Jamie you sound a bit biased…..do you work for any of these companies or are you the journalist ?

    • Hi Jason, thanks for stopping by. We aren’t employed by anyone other than ourselves, and no we aren’t journos, we’re bloggers. Some have found it interesting, sorry you didn’t. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Nick

      This must be the most absurd comment I have ever read. The provenance of different brands and products, and the way that they are conceptualised and marketed, is a very significant concern to many people in the alcohol industry. It also matters to lay people, affecting their decision as to whether or not they support a brand and buy their products.

      Some of us are discerning about what they put in their bodies and who they give their money to. You, rather obviously, are not.

  11. Hi Guys, I can vouch for Cliff and Fusion Ice. I’ve been working on the brand with Cliff for the last year or so and am not surprised Fi took so long to launch. On design alone we went through an incredible amount of changes and refinements. I know for a fact that the flavors went through an even more rigorous process, having personally carted a bag full of flavors to Spain for the Fi team to test, all of which were rejected. The product on the shelves today is the result of total commitment from Cliff and his team to give South African consumers the best. And yes I am biased.

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  13. Peter Li

    Wow, ya serious this is happening?? This is interesting news…I LOVE SA

    • Hey Peter, imitation happens all over the world, but, I love SA too! Thanks for stopping by! Make sure to check out the follow up article with Gecko’s answers! 😉

  14. mark hood

    Hi All of you Fusion Ice Lovers!!!

    Its so exciting to see so much brand awareness and all the hype for these awesome products. we are penetrating the market in Cape Town and we are growing by the day. The taste alone speaks for the quality of the product and people love it. It is available all over Cape Town . please e mail me to find your closest stockist on eternia@iburst.co.za.

    shot of caramel ( FUSIONice of course) !!
    Mark

  15. Carlton

    Hello who Makes Carvo and how can i buy it? i was resently in SA and my friends and i love the Carvo in the Glass Bottle so now all i want to know is how can i get it here back home were i live?

    • Rouvanne

      Hi Carlton – we haven’t dealt with Carvo, so I can’t comment though I have also tasted it and do think the chocolate is excellent. Can’t see where you live, otherwise I’d have an answer for you. But do come back and enjoy it here – we love tourists!

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  17. Sury

    I tried this during my holidays in Mozambique, and I am so sad i didn’t get it on my way back to the USA…. This is amazing, I generally don’t like alcohol but this drink is just……. I wish they start to sell it abroad 😦

  18. Is Lovoka actually made using Vodka? Doesn’t say vodka anywhere on the bottle… (Although vodka is a spirit, it is a distinct category of spirit and thus the producers would surely label it vodka if it fulfilled the requirements.)

  19. Alfred

    Rumours are flying around that Lovoka isnt even made from Vodka, hence why you will not find the word Vodka on the bottle. The base is apparently CANE, which is why so many people are complaining about the massive hangover the next day. All I know is that when I order a caramel vodka I will make sure it is a caramel vodka like Fusion Ice and Carvo – they actaully say it is vodka on their bottles. After reading the article it seems like there is definitely some truth to there being a rat!!!

  20. Rouvanne

    Hey Alfred & Marc – thanks for the interesting comments – went and checked the luvlovoka.com website and there is no mention of vodka in their product descriptions. Very interesting indeed, as when we first sold the fusion flavours it was very definitely a vodka fusion liqueur.

    We have asked for response on Twitter @LovokaSA so hopefully this will be cleared up. I have run out of Lovoka (personal stash) and I have to admit that Fusion Ice did send us a couple of bottles after this article so I could check. Theirs flavours are definitely fused with triple distilled vodka.

    Any response will appear here. Cheers!

  21. Jonathan

    I have a question. I’ve been reading the comments and was wondering where do all these brands (the local ones) buy their alcohol from. Is it local, imported or what? I dont think they actually make it themselves, so then it would stand to reason that they all use the same spirit base?

    • Rouvanne

      Hey Jonathan – thanks for stopping by. I don’t know where they get their spirits from, but am I am sure they don’t all use the same spirit base.

      As it stands, since the time of writing this post Lovoka has changed it’s website (and probably their packaging too – I don’t have a bottle to compare) and just say that it is infused with the finest spirit (Holy Spirit?) but don’t say what. Do a search – you’ll see it’s still listed all over as a vodka infused liqueur, but that’s not what they are putting in it. Fusion Ice uses vodka – it states very clearly.

      As Nick says above, I do care about what I drink, and cane just doesn’t cut it for me. But we’re still waiting to hear from Lovoka who have DM’ed us to say an answer is coming, so we’ll have to wait and see.

  22. OK folks, just received this from Lovoka on Twitter:

    @jagenbag HI Jamie. Apology for the late reply.We confirm that the alcohol base used in Lovoka is Vodka.

    • That’s very interesting. Why the hell would they not stipulate that on the bottle? I honestly have avoided buying it as I thought it was cheap spirit disguised as vodka. Talk about a brand and marketing fail.

      • I must say, I would also prefer it if the bottle said what was in it, but they say it’s vodka, so until proven otherwise, it’s vodka.

  23. Maybe, since you seem to be biased only on those 2 local brands, in the interest of journalistic integrity, check out the Original FUSION CARAMEL VODKA launched almost a year before Fusion Ice, just after Lovoka and before any of the other Carvo’s, Thunders, etc etc appeared on the shelves. With followers across the various facebook profiles and pages numbering over 7000 and countrywide popularity. Great products offering value for money to the consumer, look through the various picture albums of the hundreds of successful promo’s around the country at some of the top venues.

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=596100311

    • Rouvanne

      Hey Harry – nice punt for your brand! We didn’t ever consider focusing on Fusion Caramel Vodka because we didn’t think it should be put in the same superior category. It’s great that your FB pages have so many followers and that your promotions are so successful, but compared to the brands that we did focus on, we have always just felt that it was a bloody ugly bottle and so weren’t interested in it. I have no idea what it tastes like (our address can be forwarded on request) and whether it compares to the brands we have focused on – as bloggers again, not journo’s – because we felt it had inferior packaging and so weren’t bothered with it.

  24. Thank you, my reply was intended to be a punt.
    As to the “superior” category that you mention and your focus on packaging it is strangely clear that you have little interest in superiority of product as you claim as that would require you to taste every brand to ascertain which one’s are indeed “superior” and which ones are actually inferior, but are more focused on how pretty the bottle it comes in is. By that I gather that you would drink any crap, as long as it was presented in a nice looking bottle and was double the price of everything else. The world Spirit markets a littered with fancy over priced products such as these where the contents are sadly lacking purchased by fools like yourself being duped twice, once on the pallet and a second time in the wallet.
    Nevertheless, and, since you are so concerned with packaging , I must applaud Lovoka as irrespective of whether the product, as is claimed by yourselves, was “copied” from the original Gecko or not, the concept, brand name and over all getup of the product is excellent and a job well done. So much so that it is, in my opinion, better than the original Gecko product as far as originality of concept, branding and overall presentation. Fusion Ice on the other hand , seems to me to be more of an attempt to copy Lovoka as opposed to an attempt to copy the original Gecko product.
    But having read through your entire blog, it occurs to be that a more plausible reason you have excluded all other brands has nothing to do with the pursuit of quality or any other reasons that you give, but more to do with your bias towards Fusion Ice and your blog is merely a “Lovoka bashing” blog intended to further the interests of Fusion Ice and create a forum where you and others associated with Fusion Ice can attack Lovoka for the benefit of Fusion Ice.
    Case in point, there is a debate “introduced” further up your blog alluding to some sort of mystery surrounding the spirit used for the making of Lovoka as opposed to your clear and confident assertion that Fusion Ice, by virtue of what is stated on the bottle, is definitively made with Vodka. This question could easily be answered by googling the Liquor Products act 60 of 1989 and ascertaining what exactly constitutes “Vodka” in South Africa.
    Under regulation 22
    Vodka shall –
    (a) Be produced by the distillation of any fermented, undiluted, harmless vegetable article or any fermented, with water diluted, harmless vegetable article, including any of the products mentioned in regulation 18(a), in a rectifying or fractionating column;
    (b) Not have any distinctive characteristics, aroma, taste or colour; and
    (c) Have an alcohol content of 43 percent
    Since 22 (a) above clearly refers us to back to regulation 18(a) as “included” in the classification of products that can be classified as vodka, it is interesting to find that regulation 18 relates to none other than the Regulations for CANE SPIRIT and regulation 18 (a) reads as follows:
    Regulation 18
    Cane Spirit shall –
    (a) Be produced by the distillation of
    i) Fermented sugar cane juice;
    ii) Fermented, undiluted sugar cane molasses, or fermented sugar cane molasses, which has been diluted woth water or;
    iii) Fermented, undiluted sugar cane syrup, which has been produced in the manufacturing of cane sugar, or fermented, with water diluted, suger cane syrup, which has been produced in the manufacturing of cane sugar
    in a rectifying or fractionating column;
    (b) Not have any distinctive characteristics, aroma, taste or colour; and
    (c) Have an alcohol content of 43 percent
    So from the above one can determine that in so far as South Africa is concerned VODKA as a classification can be made from Sugar Cane, molasses etc and as such VODKA and CANE SPIRIT are identical.

    There are 2 main distilleries making potable absolute alcohol at 96.4% strength, these being Illovo and NCP, both of whom make their alcohol from Molasses.

    There are a few smaller distilleries making grain alcohol but none on a scale suitable to supply the bigger liquor producers and bottlers in South Africa. (Products made from this type of spirit would clearly state “made from grain”).
    One such “bigger” liquor producer is Halewood SA and I am quite sure that they purchase the bulk of their alcohol, for the production of all their products such as Red Square Vodka, Red Square RTD Spirit Cooler, etc etc, from either of the two or both. And since the alcohol is made from a sugar base, although legally classified as Vodka, it is actually none other than triple distilled CANE SPIRIT ( the triple distilled claim relates to the distillation steps required to bring it to 96.4% purity)

    Incidentally, Halewood SA is the contact packer and producer of your beloved FUSION Ice !!

    • Rouvanne

      Hey Harry – thanks for your reply – it is very interesting regarding the difference/similarity between vodka and cane. But it just proves a point, ‘fools’ like myself will just stay away from cheap and nasty, drink real vodka, and make sure that I get what I pay for. And design DOES play a very important part in my decision. I’ll be more likely to try a well designed product and if it means I miss out on something because its in shitty packaging, so be it. Try reading Steve Jobs to see why design is important.

      I have mentioned before that we are in no way affiliated to any of the products in this post and the only contact we’ve had with the brands is to write this post or get reactions from the brands. You will notice all three brands we focus on have a similar quality of packaging, which is why we weren’t interested in yours. If you claim the quality of your product is superior, cool – send us a bottle and we’ll give it a try. Otherwise we’ll just remain foolish and buy what appeals to us, and write what interests us. That’s the wonderful thing about being bloggers.

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  26. BPD

    The original caramel vodka, if you are looking at authenticity is in fact a caramel vodka called Soof-K. This caramel vodka is produced from a Nordic recipe that has been used for generations (Norway is home to infused vodka by the way). Original caramel vodka is made by having caramalized fruit and nuts lay in the vodka during the distillation process, thereby creating a natural infusion.

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