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Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level
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Sundsvall Vodka by V&S Vin & Sprit AB (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level.


The launch and failure of Sundsvall Vodka illustrate the difficulties of competing in the U.S. super-premium vodka segment. The product was launched by Seagram in 1997 to fight against the new premium brands that were cutting into sales of its Absolut brand.

Sundsvall was named after a town in northern Sweden where it was distilled in partnership with Absolut Vodka, because the company hoped that drinkers would identify with a folksy-sounding town connected to the vodka's origins. To ensure a separate identity for Sundsvall, Absolut Vodka took the brand's advertising account to Boston-based Arnold Communications, bypassing Absolut's long-time agency, TBWA Chiat/Day, and made no reference to Absolut anywhere in its marketing materials.

Sundsvall was positioned as a two-grain vodka with a two-tiered distillation process, coming from "a country with centuries of vodka-making experience." The vodka was launched with a series of VIP tastings. While other super-premiums were rolled out nationwide, the strategy for Sundsvall was to target eight trendsetting cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. The brand hosted dinners in the cities' restaurants known for their "upscale trendsetting" clientele from the worlds of art, philanthropy, business and government. Additionally, Seagram sent bottles of Sundsvall, along with a sipping glass, to 125 consumers in each of the eight markets.

Sundsvall made its debut in bars and restaurants in the Fall of 1998. The vodka was deemed quite good by many bartenders, but the bottle - a clear barrel with an orange shrink-wrapped top - was viewed by servers and distributors as too plain and "too discrete where it was competing." The brand was often behind its rivals in terms of getting the attention of media and opinion leaders. Moreover, Seagram failed to implement a comprehensive bartender education plan. Unable to leverage the Absolut connection, many Seagram sales reps found it difficult to promote the brand, as many retailers had never heard of Sundsvall. Because "in the U.S. you get one chance to succeed, not two", Sundsvall was pulled from the market in December 2000.













Source: Advertising Age (1998, Vol. 69, Issue 37).


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Post Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level 
Mods, please move this thread to FLAVORS & BOTTLE SIZE DISCUSSION ZONE, I accidentally posted it under Limited Edition Bottles. Thanks Okay


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Post Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level 
J-E-S-P-E-R wrote:
Mods, please move this thread to FLAVORS & BOTTLE SIZE DISCUSSION ZONE, I accidentally posted it under Limited Edition Bottles. Thanks Okay


Okay


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Post Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level 
J4man! wrote:

J-E-S-P-E-R wrote:
Mods, please move this thread to FLAVORS & BOTTLE SIZE DISCUSSION ZONE, I accidentally posted it under Limited Edition Bottles. Thanks Okay
Okay
That was fast, thanks Mr. Green

Wasn't initially sure whether I should post it here or under the "Collecting other Vodkas" thread, but since it ties in with how V&S Vin & Sprit AB and Seagram tried to launch a vodka in the super-premium segment (prior to the Level brand), I think we should keep it under this topic.

Cheers!


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Post Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level 
Looks great Jesper. Well done!

I remember when I wrote to you way back in October asking if you knew this bottle. You said you were not familiar with it, but it looks like things have changed. Okay

Here is picture of my bottle.



As you can see mine is open, at rare occasions I enjoy having a drink. I think it's a great vodka.


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Post Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level 
Ragnarsson wrote:

Looks great Jesper. Well done!

I remember when I wrote to you way back in October asking if you knew this bottle. You said you were not familiar with it, but it looks like things have changed. Okay

Here is picture of my bottle.

As you can see mine is open, at rare occasions I enjoy having a drink. I think it's a great vodka.

))thanks))smiley

I received an empty bottle from a former executive at Absolut, which intrigued me to do a little more research. Luckily I was able to track down two full bottles. Usually I buy extra ones (for drinking, of course), but I don't think I'll open them. I've heard very good things about this particular vodka... Tastings.com rated it at 96.

--------------------

Turns Into an Absolut Flop
Dec. 21, 2000

Four years ago, executives at Seagram Co. watched in dismay as a subtle shift took place in cocktail bars across the nation. The unmistakable bottles of Absolut vodka that the company distributed were losing pride of place on the top shelf to textured, cut-glass bottles with names such as Ketel One and Belvedere.

At bars such as Le Cirque 2000 in New York, the brand that had helped make vodka fashionable was being relegated to a spot with other common brands beneath the counter. "Being on our shelf is very, very premium," says Armando Rosario, Le Cirque's bar manager.

So in 1997, Seagram decided to carve out its own niche, launching a high-end vodka to compete with the new brands. The company called it Sundsvall, for the town in northern Sweden where it would be distilled in partnership with Absolut Vodka Co.

In the Sundsvall brand, Seagram envisioned a sort of super-Absolut, whose pedigree would make up for its late arrival and obliterate the rival upstarts which -- with sales of about 50,000 cases each -- were just gaining steam.

Three years later, many of those upstarts have become stalwarts of the martini set. But meanwhile, after millions spent on research and marketing, hundreds of hours logged in meetings on three continents, and bickering over everything from name to launch date to the bottle's design -- Sundsvall was deemed a washout and quietly pulled off the market.

This week Seagram, which was recently acquired by Vivendi SA of France, agreed to sell its spirits and wine business to Diageo and Pernod Ricard . That leaves Absolut's distribution rights up for grabs -- and invites renewed scrutiny of the Sundsvall experiment. Indeed, the brand's hard birth and rapid demise offer a window on the fast-changing liquor business, and on the difficulties that even established marketers confront in nurturing new products.

Absolut and Seagram decline to discuss whether Sundsvall's failure had any impact on their partnership, which expires as a result of this week's sale. But even as he sat in his company's Stockholm offices last spring, Absolut president Goran Lundqvist was calling Sundsvall a risky departure for Absolut. "Lightning never hits twice in the same place," he said.

From the start, Seagram and Absolut faced a perplexing question: How to launch a new vodka brand without undermining the original Absolut? Seagram felt pressure to move fast: By 1997, its sales staff had become alarmed at signs that some of Absolut's core fans -- called "early adopters" by liquor marketers -- were shifting allegiance to the new brands.

In fact, brands like Belvedere and Grey Goose were making a loud entrance, staging hundreds of bartender tastings and hosting primers on vodka vocabulary that had servers discussing charcoal-filtered this and champagne-limestone-filtered that. Marketers of the new brands, which are typically priced at $1 to $4 a glass more than Absolut, said their bottles would help boost bar sales and tips. Belvedere's Minneapolis-based importer, Millennium Import Co., sent freebies to entertainment moguls. Grey Goose's owner, Sidney Frank Importing Co., New Rochelle, N.Y., hit the charity scene, serving Grey Goose -- distilled in France -- in souvenir martini glasses and chartering the Concorde to treat food and beverage writers to a free trip to Bordeaux.

Ultimately, the pitches worked on customers such as George Papadis. Sampling a selection of vodkas at Manhattan's cavelike Pravda bar, the 26-year-old advertising consultant describes ordering Belvedere, which is distilled in Poland, as "a small indulgence, like having a good single-malt whiskey." His drink picks are dictated as much by mood and fashion as they are by taste: Selecting a luxury vodka, Mr. Papadis says, is not unlike choosing "what cologne I might wear."

This kind of attitude is the result of a sea change in vodka marketing. Through the early '90s, vodka -- a spirit without an inherent taste -- was primarily billed as something to mix in other drinks. Back then, brands such as Absolut, the country's top-selling vodka import, helped popularize cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan.

Subtle distinctions in the quality of the vodka itself, however, were never the main selling point. While many other liquor categories, such as scotch and whiskey, had developed a set of top-tier -- so-called superpremium -- brands, vodka had not. "No one had talked about how vodka was made," says William Eldien, president of Nolet Spirits USA, marketer of Ketel One, which is made in the Netherlands. "We took the opportunity to sell vodka more like a fine wine than a spirit."

Straight Up

Marketers began touting brands like Ketel One and Belvedere as something to be consumed straight up. Their frosted, etched and unusually tall bottles stood out on bar shelves, and the nuances of the liquid inside -- Belvedere's rye-based formula or Ketel One's copper-pot distillation process, for instance -- became key selling points. And slowly, in establishments like Le Cirque in New York and the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel in California, top-selling Absolut began to be nudged off the shelves behind the bar.

Seagram felt pressure to produce its own luxury brand. But in Sweden, Absolut executives balked, worried that they might be pouring money into a passing fad. Feedback from U.S. bartenders and consumers finally convinced Absolut that the "trend was increasing, and there was some pressure to get on the train," recalls Eva Kempe Forsberg, Absolut's vice president of marketing in Sweden. But Swedish executives remained adamant that the Absolut name be kept off Sundsvall marketing materials, for fear of overextending the Absolut line and becoming, as Mr. Lundqvist puts it, "the Baskin-Robbins of vodka."

Source


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Post Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level 
Im' not sure this thread is at his right place Jesper, the thread "Collecting other Vodkas" could be more appropriate i think.

V & S owned lot of brands, this bottle doesn't show any link to Absolut except V&S....


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2bcorti - Admin wrote:

Im' not sure this thread is at his right place Jesper, the thread "Collecting other Vodkas" could be more appropriate i think.

V & S owned lot of brands, this bottle doesn't show any link to Absolut except V&S....

Even though the product was never classified as Absolut Vodka (in fear of undermining the original brand and overextending the Absolut line), it was in fact launched to compete in the ultra-premium vodka segment that was threatening Absolut. Absolut wanted to get on board and compete, basically, but as Absolut's president Goran Lundqvist said, Sundsvall was a risky departure for Absolut (hence they kept the Absolut name off the product). Ultimately, it was pulled off the market... and later on, as you know, Level entered the picture with the Absolut branding behind it.

I'll leave it up to you where you want to file this topic, but I look at this product as the precursor to Level.

Razz


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Just my .02 cents ... 

I wouldn't keep it in the Absolut bottle thread and would put it in the "other vodkas" thread.
I understand that it was the precursor to Level , but the Level brand Vodka does directly relate to Absolut.  If you read the bottom of the Level bottle , it says "Spirit of Absolut" so they did want it to be associated with the Absolut brand. The Sundsvall doesn't have this and therefore it I consider this a "stand alone" product , not directly related to the Absolut Brand.


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Post Sundsvall Vodka (1997-2000) - the precursor to Absolut Level 
Absolut or not, its a nice bottle Okay

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eddietheman wrote:
Absolut or not, its a nice bottle Okay
Agreed Eddie ,...  looks beautiful !


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tonycor wrote:

Just my .02 cents ... 

I wouldn't keep it in the Absolut bottle thread and would put it in the "other vodkas" thread.
I understand that it was the precursor to Level , but the Level brand Vodka does directly relate to Absolut.  If you read the bottom of the Level bottle , it says "Spirit of Absolut" so they did want it to be associated with the Absolut brand. The Sundsvall doesn't have this and therefore it I consider this a "stand alone" product , not directly related to the Absolut Brand.
Like I said, I'm fine either way... I'll leave it up to you guys Okay


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J-E-S-P-E-R wrote:
tonycor wrote:
Just my .02 cents ... 
I wouldn't keep it in the Absolut bottle thread and would put it in the "other vodkas" thread.
I understand that it was the precursor to Level , but the Level brand Vodka does directly relate to Absolut.  If you read the bottom of the Level bottle , it says "Spirit of Absolut" so they did want it to be associated with the Absolut brand. The Sundsvall doesn't have this and therefore it I consider this a "stand alone" product , not directly related to the Absolut Brand.

Like I said, I'm fine either way... I'll leave it up to you guys Okay

Lets put it here for now.  If any members think that it should be moved back , give your opinion why and we can consider moving it again.


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Absolut On The Rocks
November 18, 2002

For the past few years, Teresa Duke ordered her martinis with Absolut vodka and plenty of olive juice to make them "dirty." "I like them so dirty they're almost kinky," says the 38-year-old physician's assistant from Cleveland. Lately, though, Duke's drinks have a new ingredient--Grey Goose vodka from France. At $10 a pop in her local tavern, a Grey Goose martini is twice the price of the Absolut version. But Duke says she can taste the difference and feels "cool and a little edgy" ordering the priciest vodka. "If you have a chance to drive a Porsche," she says, "you're not going to say, 'Oh, no, give me the Chevette'."

It seems like everybody is switching vodkas these days. Even James Bond is now ordering his shaken, not stirred, martinis with Finlandia instead of his old cold-war favorite, Smirnoff. More than 100 new vodkas have hit the market in the past four years and the tasteless alcohol is expected to surpass whisky this year to become America's hard liquor of choice. But there's a generational changing of the bottle going on in the $8.6 billion vodka business. For two decades trendy tipplers have called out for Absolut, with its stylish Swedish medicine bottle and clever ads. Now, upscale upstarts like Grey Goose, Ketel One and Belvedere are shoving Absolut off the top shelf and into the anonymity of the "well" beneath the bar.

At $30 a bottle, these new foreign elixirs don't come cheap, especially compared with Absolut at $18. But the martini crowd can't seem to spend enough on its favorite alcoholic indulgence, which drove up the high-end imported-vodka market nearly 50 percent in the past year, according to Information Resources Inc. "New drinkers are looking for a vodka they can call their own," says Havis Dawson, editor of Beverage World magazine. "Absolut has become their father's vodka."

The impact on Absolut has been sobering. Its share of the U.S. vodka market fell for the first time last year, to 11.7 percent from 12.2 percent in 2000. "There's a war going on," says Carl Horton, president of Absolut Spirits Co. "And when you're No. 1, people take shots at you." To battle back, Absolut is coming out with its own higher-priced hooch early next year. But Horton hasn't decided if it will carry the Absolut brand. The most remarkable change is a reformulation of Absolut's classic ads. New spots launching this week will tout Absolut's taste and quality, rather than just slyly working its distinctive bottle into objects like cabs and baseball bats. "We're not just a pretty bottle," says Horton.

But Absolut is late to the party with its new pitch. Ketel One, Grey Goose and others have already built a following by convincing people that straight vodka can have a taste--and a good one. Absolut has struggled with the recipe for ultra-premium vodka. Its upscale Sundsvall vodka, launched in 1997, flopped and was pulled from the market three years later. Before that, the Swedish distiller didn't see the need to go after big spenders. Michel Roux, who built the Absolut brand in America, couldn't persuade his Swedish bosses to introduce a "super-premium Absolut" in 1993. "They didn't believe anything could beat Absolut," recalls Roux, now chief of Carillon Importers, an upscale distiller. "But if you don't protect yourself at the top, other people will take away your prestige."

Discriminating swizzle-stickers know that image is as important as taste. That's why Grey Goose fashioned its soaring frosted-and-clear glass bottle on a Cezanne painting. And it's why Finlandia is spending untold millions to mix medium-dry martinis for 007. Bond doesn't actually order a Finlandia in his new movie, "Die Another Day." Instead, the tuxedoed secret agent sips martinis with his love interest Jinx (Halle Berry) in an ice palace. Behind them, the shelves of a sculpted ice bar are stocked only with Finlandia. Brrrr. Even 007 is giving Absolut the cold shoulder.

Source: Newsweek


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