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De Kuyper Family’s Royal Dutch Distillers Unit Markets High-End Spirits In U.S.

January 26, 2012

Best known in the United States for its namesake liqueur brand marketed by Beam Inc., the Netherlands-based De Kuyper family is busy developing a high-end portfolio—including Mandarine Napoléon orange liqueur and Rutte genever—through its own U.S. subsidiary, Royal Dutch Distillers.

De Kuyper acquired Mandarine Napoléon three years ago from the Fourcroy family of Belgium. Last year, it brought the brand under Florida-based Royal Dutch Distillers’ wing in the U.S. market, moving it from previous marketer Preiss Imports. The brand is available nationally at around $37 a 750-ml.—distributed mostly by Southern Wine & Spirits and RNDC—but is getting its heaviest focus in key on-premise areas including New York, California and Florida.

According to Marc de Kuyper, who represents the family’s 11th generation in the spirits business and is leading operations at Royal Dutch Distillers, Mandarine Napoléon sold around 150,000 actual cases in the U.S. in the mid-1990s but has fallen back markedly.

“We think we have the right price point—in between Grand Marnier and Cointreau—but we don’t need to cannibalize the category to grow,” he says. “Citrus is the most-used flavor in mixology and there’s still some stretch there, and not many high-end brands. In the early days it’s working—since taking over from Preiss in the middle of last year we’ve doubled our volume on a moving annual total basis.” This summer, Mandarine Napoléon XO ($300 a bottle), made with Grande Champagne Cognacs, will join the core brand. Some 900 bottles of the XO are produced biannually, with all of the most recent batch headed to the U.S.

Another De Kuyper acquisition of recent years, Rutte genever (the traditional Dutch white spirit)—produced in small batches at a distillery near De Kuyper’s Rotterdam headquarters—will see a soft U.S. launch this year, with a more substantial marketing investment slated for early 2013. The Rutte lineup includes 5-year-old, 12-year-old and Paradyswijn genevers ranging from roughly $25 to $55 a bottle. De Kuyper sees openings for genevers like Rutte, as well as Dutch competitor Bols, due to the rise of gin (which has a similar taste profile) in mixology circles.

The company also produces—and partially owns—the fast-rising ChocoVine chocolate wine brand now distributed in the U.S. by The Wine Group. De Kuyper says his family, which originally began producing ChocoVine for brand founder Clever Imports, took a “large equity stake” in the brand as it began its recent growth surge. ChocoVine, which sells for $13 a bottle and includes Original, Raspberry and Espresso flavors, jumped from 90,000 cases in 2009 to 450,000 cases in 2010. The Wine Group began distributing it last June through its Annuity Brands sales unit, and expected it to approach 1 million cases for the year.


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