Hite Jinro’s soju sales soar overseas

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Hite Jinro’s soju sales soar overseas


A Hite Jinro employee introduces soju at a festival in New York last October. [HITE JINRO]

Hite Jinro exported more than $50 million worth of soju last year, the company said Wednesday.

This is the first time the No. 1 soju manufacturer, who owns the brand Chamisul, has reached the milestone since 2013, when it sold $58 million worth of soju overseas. The figure plummeted down to $46.6 million the following year and remained at that level until 2017.

In 2018, the company made $53.8 million in soju exports, a 12.5 percent increase year on year. In most regions, export revenue showed double digit growth year on year.

An exception was Japan, where the company said the alcohol market has been slowing down in recent years. The fall in demand in the country was the main influence that sent Hite Jinro’s export figures down to the $40 million level in 2014.

For the next two years, Hite Jinro’s soju exports declined until 2016, when it embarked on large-scale efforts to expand its global business. It was that year that new offices were set up in Vietnam and the Philippines and strategies were revised to be more localized in China and the United States. The company also started sending its soju to new markets in Africa and Europe.

In its exports portfolio, Japan remains the No. 1 export country, but with a smaller share of 64 percent, followed by the Southeast Asia region and the United States. The greater China region - a term encompassing China, Taiwan and Hong Kong - as well as Europe and Africa grew a combined 36 percent on year by export revenue in 2018.

“Our internal assessment is that the ‘soju globalization’ initiative is coming to bear fruit starting with the Asia region,” said Hwang Jeong-ho, a senior executive in charge of foreign businesses at Hite Jinro.

According to the customs office, soju exports last year totaled $97.5 million, a 3 percent increase from 2017.

Lotte Liquor, manufacturer of No. 2 soju brand Chum Churum, saw sales in Vietnam alone rise 30 percent year on year in 2018.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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