The Associated Press
Published: March 28, 2007
HAVANA: Cuba's Havana Club rum brand sold a record 2.6 million cases
last year, fueled by a 30 percent sales surge in the island's domestic
market, company officials said Wednesday.
Enrique Noste, Havana Club's director of marketing for Cuba, said the
company's rums now rank 34th out of the world's 100 top-selling spirits.
He did not provide overall sales figures for 2005, but said the company
topped the 2 million-case mark for the first time in 2004, while selling
barely 1 million in 1998 and just 460,000 in 1994.
Havana Club sells more rum in Cuba than anywhere else. Its sales on the
island reached 960,000 cases in 2006 and will top a million this year,
said Noste, who said the country's top-selling spirit has long been
cheap varieties of white rum.
"It's a sector that is very popular with the population," he said.
"Undoubtedly, it's a type of drink that has been a big hit with the
Cuban people and it's the base of growth for us. We have had growth in
other sectors, but it's the strongest."
Havana Club brands account for 40 percent of total sales in Cuba's
alcohol market, and Noste credited last year's surge in its popularity
on "continued loyalty," as well as dips in domestic sales of other
spirits. He also said government efforts to aggressively market and
distribute the brand on the island and abroad helped.
Alberto Rodriguez, a director of the Havana Club brand, said officials
have focused marketing efforts in recent years on bolstering sales of
the company's higher-priced, premium rums, including an anejo variety
aged 7 years.
He said the 7-year-old dark rum is the company's "strategic" product for
the future, answering an international trend toward using higher quality
rum in mixed drinks such as Cuba's famous mojitos.
The Cuban government has produced rum under the Havana Club label since
1960 and it has been available worldwide since 1993, when it partnered
with the French beverage company Pernod Ricard SA.
Italy is the brand's top overseas market, followed by Germany, Spain and
France. Washington's 45-year-old trade embargo against Cuba prohibits
the sale of Havana Club in the United States
A rum produced by Bacardi USA Inc., based on a Cuban recipe and sold as
Havana Club in the United States, hit shelves in August. Barely a week
later, Pernod Richard USA filed a federal complaint saying that Barcardi
did not have the right to use the Havana Club trademark.
Noste said Wednesday that "the company has begun actions to protect the