The Malta Independent 18 January 2019, Friday

Kinnie – A success story

Malta Independent Monday, 4 October 2004, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

Mr Grech said that the brand Kinnie has established itself on the local beverage market since its introduction.

“Kinnie is unique and there have been no signs of reduction in popularity or availability”, he said, but argued that the company was still committed to continue investing in the product.

On whether he believes Maltese companies which just operate in Malta, rather than exporting their products, are cutting themselves off and will eventually fall behind, Mr Grech said: “I think all the local production companies have similar challenges like we have. On the one hand, Kinnie is already a leader on the Maltese beverage market, but on the other hand, it is important for us to look beyond our shores at the same time.”

Furthermore, he explained, there is a pressure to take up the challenge of export as the beverage market is changing quickly and continuously. In addition to that, Kinnie has to compete with many imported drinks, he said.

The whole development of Kinnie was described as a “success story” by Mr Grech: “Kinnie was originally created in 1952 by Simonds Farsons Cisk and was immediately available on the local beverage market. The Maltese consumers’ reaction was very enthusiastic as soon as it was presented in on the retail shelves for the first time.”

“After World War II there had already been an innumerable variety of colas and orange drinks, but the company’s intention was to fill the gap in the market between them,” he said, adding that, “Kinnie managed to fill the gap.”

He continued: “Contrary to abroad, Kinnie here is still a typical Maltese family thirst quencher because it is non-alcoholic and not too sweet.” Describing the company’s marketing strategy, he said: “We aim at all types of customers but especially at young adults. Kinnie mixes excellently with a number of spirits and alcohol because of its specific taste.” For this reason, he added, the company also offers recipes for Kinnie cocktails.

And the “success story” continues: “Packaging moved along with the times too, keeping Kinnie a market leader in the bitter-sweet beverage category and through the years, the brand became stronger and stronger.”

However, the beverage market already offers a great variety of goods and hardly a month passes without a new brand being launched by market leading companies.

Asked what changes and improvements for Kinnie are necessary to keep abreast with this development, or to become even more popular with Maltese and tourists from all over the world, Mr Grech replied: “We are always trying to get more and better marketing ideas and to create an image that is consistent to different markets.”

He said the company was focusing on packaging, yet it does not want to alter Kinnie as a drink, because it believes in its unique taste. Regarding design and packaging, Mr Grech said the company has just created a new long neck bottle for Kinnie positioned for bar trade consumers.

So is Simonds Farsons Cisk trying to get Kinnie ready for export? “We are looking for partners from all areas where Kinnie is presently not available and who believe in the product. It can be a beverage production company, a distributor, an importer or a financial partner,” Mr Grech replied.

“Whether it is a distribution agreement, contract packaging or franchise agreement, we will concede import and distribution rights on Kinnie. But we also give information about the product and provide assistance with design and give ideas for marketing the brand.”

A few people have actually taken up the challenge of trading the typical Maltese beverage abroad. “At the moment we cooperate with six to ten people, but we constantly receive requests from people interested in trading our product,” he said.

“Apart from Malta, Kinnie is presently consumed mostly in Sweden, bottled by a local

production company,” he said, commenting the economic development abroad.

“Australia ranks second after Sweden, because many Maltese emigrated to this country a few decades ago and they do not want to miss the typical taste of their home country,” he pointed out.

Kinnie is typical for Malta, agreed Hans-Werner Morawetz. Like most tourists, he tried the beverage during his first holiday in 1978. “In 1998, I started importing Kinnie and now I would like to enlarge the trade as it is an excellent product and many of my wine customers ask for it,” said the German who buys and sells different beverages, olive oil and wine.

He described himself as a “Malta fan” and therefore specialises in typical Maltese products. However he regrets that the transport takes about five days per lorry (express trailers) and about three to four weeks when Kinnie is imported by ship.

“A small sip from a paper cup after a two-hour-long guided information meeting – Kinnie was warm and decarbonated”, said Alf Sachssendahl remembering the first time he tasted Kinnie. A few months later, on New Year’s Eve 2001, he started selling Kinnie.

Mr Sachssendahl, the franchisee of Kinnie in Sweden, described the Maltese beverage as “unique”, adding that it is loved by many Swedes. “Our customers can get it from over 400 outlets and more than 60 superstores”, he said.

“Our consumers are ready for something new like Kinnie”, said Marcel Imanse, “therefore we started trading that beverage last year.” Supermarkets, petrol stations and wholesalers are very much interested in the new drink, he said and continued that he has both regular customers and people who just want to try Kinnie.

A distributor in the market of Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg believes in its taste which is “so different from all the other soft drinks”.

Colin Hore started importing Kinnie three years ago: “I was looking for a business opportunity and felt that Kinnie had potential in Australia.” He said that his customers are mainly Maltese people at the moment.

“Those people who have never tried Kinnie before, always react in the same way: ‘It is different’. They cannot decide whether they like it or not at first,” said the agent for the Australian market who has never been to Malta. Encouraged by his positive experience with Kinnie, Mr Hore hopes “to explore opportunities to import beer from Malta”.

As regards Simonds Farsons Cisk’s plans for the future, Mr Grech said: “We are always concentrating on packaging, but we will not alter the product itself as we believe in Kinnie as a brand and in its unique taste.”

Despite the rapid economic development in the beverage market, the strong competition across the traditional national borders and the increased focus on the world market, the general manager stressed that the local market is still in the centre of Simonds Farsons Cisk’s interest, adding that the company “highly appreciates the Maltese customers who made Kinnie the popular and established drink it is today.”

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