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October 13, 2011

Liquid Living Magazine


Sobieski Vodka , Poland ’s #1 Premium Vodka, Achieves U.S. 200,000-Case Sales Milestone in Record Time
Proving Quality is in the Bottle, Not in the Price

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla., July 21, 2008— Imperial Brands, Inc., a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Belvédère S.A., today announced that Sobieski Vodka, Poland’s #1 premium vodka and one of the fastest-growing international spirit brands, has reached its 200,000-case sales milestone in the U.S. in less than 12 months since launching in 2007.

“Much of the initial credit for Sobieski’s success goes to our Imperial Brands sales team and the first-class distributor network that we have put together,” said Chester Brandes, CEO of Imperial Brands, Inc., the exclusive importer of Sobieski Vodka.  “In this period of economic uncertainty, the timing is right for a brand like Sobieski, which offers real heritage and unparalleled quality at an affordable price. There is no question that Sobieski is poised to reach its stated goal of 1 million cases in sales in five years.”

Sobieski Vodka, which retails at a price of $10.99 for a 750 ml bottle and $19.99 for a 1.75 liter bottle, was launched in the U.S. in 2007 with its “Truth in Vodka” integrated marketing campaign that announced to vodka enthusiasts that they need not  pay a king’s ransom for a premium quality vodka.  The campaign urges consumers to focus on what’s in the bottle, rather than on gimmicky marketing techniques and overpriced packaging. This back-to-basics, anti-hype campaign, which initially targeted the beverage trade media as well as key influencers and tastemakers, will now target consumers more broadly.

“We are proud to have achieved such unprecedented sales success in the increasingly competitive vodka marketplace,” said Timo Sutinen, V.P., Marketing and Business Development of Imperial Brands, Inc. “Our ‘Truth in Vodka’ campaign clearly resonates with consumers and with critics alike and differentiates Sobieski from the competitive set. Sobieski Vodka is all about outstanding quality and taste.  We will continue to spread the truth to an even wider audience and help them overthrow the tyranny of overpriced vodka!”

To mark the milestone, Imperial Brands is initiating a $4 million national advertising program this summer to take the “Truth in Vodka” campaign straight to consumers through coordinated print, online and outdoor media.  High-profile lifestyle publications such as Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, W, and Details Magazine will carry Sobieski Vodka ads, which poke fun at the increasingly ridiculous marketing claims of competing vodkas.

“Last year, when we launched Sobieski Vodka in the U.S., we caused a stir in the trade press by exposing the hype behind so many overpriced vodkas today.  This year, we have significantly increased our advertising budget in an effort to speak directly to consumers nationwide,” said Sutinen. “We are bucking the trend and strongly believe that our honest messages about vodka will greatly appeal to the consumer’s common sense, rather than reinforce the prevailing gimmickry.”

  • The Sobieski advertising campaign includes many provocative taglines; such as:
  • "We Designed a Bottle to Suit the Spirit Inside.  Notice the Lack of La-Di-Da.”
  • "Sex May Sell, But It Has Nothing to Do with the Making of Great Vodka.”
  • "Who Needs Superdelegates?  We’ve Got a Whole Country Behind Us.  The #1 Premium Vodka in Poland.”
  • "The #1 Premium Vodka in Poland.  Finally, an Endorsement that Matters.”

About Sobieski Vodka

Sobieski Vodka, the #1 premium vodka in Poland and the world’s #7 bestselling and fastest growing international spirits brand, makes no compromises on quality and exemplifies the height of Polish craftsmanship and authenticity.  Building on a noble heritage, Sobieski Vodka is produced exclusively from the revered Dankowski rye at a distillery dating back to 1846. 

In the summer of 2007, Sobieski Vodka launched its “Truth in Vodka” campaign, declaring that consumers don’t have to pay a king's ransom to get superb vodka.  They took a back-to-basics approach to marketing and focused on what goes in the bottle—tradition, heritage, authenticity and taste—is in marked contrast to competitors who rely on lavish packaging and gimmicky ad campaigns that have resulted in a deluge of overpriced vodkas. 

In fall 2007, Sobieski Vodka was ranked the #1 premium vodka in a blind-tasting of 108 vodkas, the largest review of vodkas in U.S. history from the Beverage Testing Institute and earned a Gold Medal and Best Buy Award.  It was also ranked #1 in a blind tasting conducted among 25 major vodka brands by one of France's top wine and spirits publication, La Revue du Vin de France.  Its suggested retail price is $10.99 for a 750 ml bottle and $19.99 for a 1.75 liter bottle.  For more information, please visit www.vodkasobieski.com.

About Imperial Brands, Inc.

Imperial Brands, Inc. is an importer and marketer of distinctive wines and spirits. Headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., it is a U.S. subsidiary of Belvédère S.A., one of Europe’s largest producers and distributors of white spirits and wines. Belvédère S.A. operates production and distribution units in Poland, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania and the United States and additionally owns subsidiaries in Russia, Canada, Spain, Scandinavia and Brazil. Belvédère S.A. purchased Marie Brizard & Roger International in July 2006.

Imperial Brands, Inc. also owns Florida Distillers Co., which has two production facilities located in Florida. This provides bottling capacity of 5 million (9-liter) cases of distilled spirits for the company and a base on which to coordinate its expansion across the U.S.  For more information, please visit: www.ibrandsinc.com.


Chester Brandes

President and CEO, Imperial Brands, Inc.

Chester Brandes is President and CEO of Imperial Brands, Inc., a spirits and wine import company that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Belvédère S.A.  His responsibilities include setting the strategic direction and vision of this fast-growing importer and marketer of fine wines and spirits and overseeing its growth.  Brandes is an industry veteran with 34 years of experience in both the U.S. domestic and international markets who brings passion, creativity and unparalleled commitment to his company’s success.

Brandes’ first goal is to successfully launch Sobieski Vodka, Poland’s #1 premium vodka, in the American market and make it the fastest new vodka brand to achieve sales of one million cases in the U.S.

Until January 2007, Brandes was Vice President, International Markets at Cruzan, Ltd., where he conceived and executed the strategic plan for launching Cruzan Rum in the international marketplace over afive-year period.  Moreover, he initiated and was the architect of the Cruzan relationship with Vin & Sprit AB, which eventually led to V&S acquiring 100 percent of the brand and the company.

A significant portion of Brandes’ career (1988-2000) was spent working for the Altia Group, Helsinki, Finland, the owner of Finlandia Vodka.  He was appointed President and CEO of Finlandia Vodka Americas (Altia’s U.S. subsidiary) in 1989 and in addition to being accountable for all sales, marketing and brand profit in the Americas; Asia Pacific, Africa, Middle East and global Duty Free were added to the scope of the New York subsidiaries’ responsibilities in 1998.  In this position, he played a major role in initiating a joint venture with Brown-Forman, creating a strategic partnership between brand owner and importer that was unique in the spirits industry.  Brandes’ input into the innovative “Renaissance” program, which included the redesign of the Finlandia bottle, as well as the development of new image enhancing advertising, helped reposition Finlandia among the leading premium imported vodkas in the U.S. 

Previously, Brandes was Managing Director of Sempe USA, where he successfully launched Sempe Armagnac in the U.S. and made it the number one selling premium Armagnac in the country. In 1978, Brandes became Western Division Vice President for Glenmore Distilleries, where he contributed to the growth of Amaretto di Saronno and Remy Martin Cognacs.  Prior to his work at Glenmore, Brandes worked at Monsieur Henri Wines (PepsiCo) where, in 1975, he helped engineer the successful launch of Stolichnaya Vodka in the Midwest.  It was an era of strong anti-Communist sentiment, when all Soviet-themed products were taboo, but Brandes saw great potential in marketing this forbidden fruit; 10 years and one million cases later, he was proven correct.

Brandes nearly became an attorney, but during his first year in law school, he took a part-time job bartending at the University Faculty Club and became fascinated by the world of spirits and cocktails.  He subsequently left law school, found work as a district manager for Schenley Industries in St. Louis, Missouri and earned a reputation as a brand champion who was able to sell the impossible.

Brandes attended Emory University and received his B.A. in philosophy from Boston University in 1971.

Brandes is married, has a grown son and resides in Tequesta, Florida.  His hobbies include mountain climbing, skiing and tennis.  He is conversationally fluent in German and Spanish.  When in need of inspiration, he rereads the works of Ayn Rand, his favorite author.


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