An exclusive interview with Blu Lie Vodka Italiana’s CEO & Founder Francesco Minucci
Shaped by the Mediterranean waves, by Trieste’s katabatic wind and by the city’s different cultural influences that made it a symbol of cosmopolitan blending, Blu Lie Vodka Italiana’s bottle is the fruit of the creativity of Luca Nichetto, Internationally renowned Italian designer. Inspired by the sea, the beautiful lines and the hand drawn logo champion our country’s artistry and craftsmanship, while reminding us that Blu Lie Vodka Italiana has all the charm of the lies of the sea, keeping wonderful secrets and constantly evolving, like the elegant liquid when mixed by the creative talent of modern mixologists.
A little secret…try to look through the bottle: thanks to the beautiful curve, you will have the sensation of keeping your eyes wide open under water.
With over fifteen years of experience as an hospitality entrepreneur, with a particular focus on innovation, Francesco Minucci is well known in Trieste as the pioneer of the Via Torino phenomena, with successful openings like “La Cantina del Vescovo”, “Angry Diamond” and “Sticco Beach Club”. His deepest passion and personal mission of promoting Italian food & beverage excellences has led him to launch his last brainchild, Blu Lie Vodka Italiana: from its ideation, to the definitive market launch, the brand represents his desire to give life to an outstanding Premium vodka 100% made in Italy, able to amaze mixologists and consumers with its excellent flavour profile and a stylish marine look.
Before launching Blu Lie Vodka Italiana, you have been, and still are, a successful Hospitality entrepreneur, with a few unique and very different venues opened in your hometown, Trieste: La Cantina del Vescovo, Angry Diamond, and Sticco Mare Beach Club.
Which role does this experience play in your current position as a Spirit Brand Owner, and which skills have you developed over the years that make you as successful as you are now?
My different entrepreneurial experiences in the Food & Beverage industry helped me developing and enhancing my skills as an all rounded professional, with a special eye to the customers’ needs, which has finally led me to give life to a premium product like Blu Lie Vodka Italiana, which I have followed from the choice of the raw materials to the sophisticated distillation and purification processes.
It’s very important for a business man to have an overview on everything going on in the company you run: from the whole team to the accountant, the suppliers and of course your customers, the current ones, as well as the potential. When you manage properly all these aspects you are really able to open your mind in a different way, and this is exactly what has happened to me.
Blu Lie Vodka Italiana, launched two years ago, is now available in Italy, China, Hong Kong, Macao and UK, a very broad area for which you represent the primary link between the markets. In light of your role, how do you adapt your strategy, from a commercial and marketing point of you, in order to achieve your goals in such different countries?
Approaching the export markets is undoubtedly a very challenging situation, under many points of view (a fundamental step, for example, is studying the different local regulations, like the Chinese quarantine or the U.S. compliance system): also, there are many aspects to consider that don’t concern just the business, but also macroeconomic dynamics and healthy/sanitarian factors.
This is why is essential to carefully study the targeted market, taking into deep consideration the socioeconomic asset, as well as the competitors and the consumers taste.
In order to have a chance to succeed, the brand must not only have a strong identity and story telling, but also be able to invest the Marketing budget, even when limited, to communicate the company values and points of strength in a strategic way and with clear objectives.
I also find important to grow everyday in the Social Media channel, as today it is one of the few tools able to help you reaching people from all over the world in a timely, consistent and efficient manner.
In China, however, where Instagram and Facebook are blocked, we are planning a different Marketing strategy to amplify our presence.
Blu Lie Vodka Italiana is the result of your creativity and passion for quality. What does curiosity mean to you and which role does it play in your job?
Curiosity is the basis of every new project and idea, it’s the stimulus that creates, improves and brings forward every new challenge. Furthermore creativity allows us to keep up the times, giving a fresh image to our future; the world moves rapidly, it changes constantly and that’s the only way to keep up with needs and requests of customers who are always looking for news.
What makes you more proud of Blu Lie Vodka Italiana and why?
Certainly the awareness of having created a small brand that is growing organically, acquiring new markets and receiving International recognition thanks to its extreme quality, 100% Italian raw materials, pioneering packaging, and the support of a professional team of field experts.
What is also very important to me and that makes me even more proud is the opportunity to promote through Blu Lie Vodka Italiana my city, the wonderful Trieste.
What does “Made in Italy” mean to you and which kind of impact would you like to make with Blu Lie Vodka Italiana in your country’s beverage industry?
Made in Italy for me means belonging, it is a way of thinking and a passionate lifestyle approach that we have in our DNA, thanks to the culture and history of our country.
I firmly believe that although we are not a country well known for producing vodka, we have outstanding distillation traditions and knowledge, starting for instance with the grappa category, with the Nonino Distillery, not far from where I am from, which has recently been proclaimed the best distillery in the world and which makes our industry proud.
We are a country that has great curiosity and desire to experiment new challenges, and I see in Blu Lie a product of the highest quality that will not be missing in the bars selections in the future because it represents something more than a spirit, but a whole culture, history and way of life typical of the Bel Paese.
How do you see the Vodka category evolving in the next five years?
We all know very well that vodka has been there, it is and always will be, regardless of what is said by virtue of the fashions of the moment. Vodka is the spirit most used in international drinks, it is the spirit most drunk in clubs and discos, it is the best known.
In the future, in my opinion and as it happened for other categories, the small and craft vodka producers will gain some market share, because of the simple need and curiosity of the decision makers to try and work with something new, something that can arouse new appeal and attention from the final consumer. Here, quality niche brands with a fresh design will emerge.
Blu Lie Vodka Italiana is now available in different markets and is currently enlarging its distribution reach. Which key export markets will you approach next and why?
We are in a very important moment for the brand, with several negotiations underway to enter in new markets, to which we give the right focus, in order to give life to long term partnerships. The important work done so far is slowly paying off and the product is really arousing much interest in many markets. Our focus for the near future, among others, will be exporting in the United States, because of the opportunities that this market will represent.
From the right temperature to the correct glass, educating people about the best way to enjoy vodka can be quite challenging. How do you overcome this? Is your team running educational trade programs?
Absolutely yes, I’m very lucky to be able to work with a young team, but with great professionals that don’t leave anything for granted. You cannot think to sell a product to importers and distributors and then leaving them alone in the market, but they must be helped and supported in the interest of the brand, with activities of various types, through accounts visits with the sales agents, trainings, master classes, guest bartending and with high quality POS material.
Without this support it becomes impossible to enter a new market.
How important is exhibiting at trade shows and how do you judge the success of your participation? To which trade shows will your brand participate in 2020?
Trade Shows are the only way to let the brand be better known abroad and for the local players to start approaching the company values. Otherwise it’s impossible to be discovered from the industry. I’m thinking a lot about which trade shows are correct for Blu Lie, not only for the product itself but even for its life period; it’s very important to select the right trade shows because investments are very high to participate and it is fundamental to choose carefully.
From distillery to consumer the way is very long and branched, with different layers making distribution very complex. How do you keep track of every step and which one do you find the most challenging for your brand?
Such a situation mainly depends on the geographical distance between the distillery and the end customer. Clearly, something can be done in countries like China, such as Hong Kong and Macau, but relations depend mainly on the importer.In Italy and neighboring countries it’s different, as it is easier for us to monitor the dynamics, to have a Brand Ambassador on site, as well as to follow the whole chain directly through constant reports and meetings, in addition to visits to the different accounts.
How important is to collaborate with key industry influencers? Is there any recent successful partnership you would like to share?
In a world where communication is mainly through the web and social networks, having professional relationships with influential subjects is essential to obtain greater visibility and brand awareness. We have a collaboration with Marian Beke, one of the most influential and famous bartenders in the world, owner of The Gibson in London, where you can find the Italian Blue Lie Vodka in the 2020 cocktail menu.
How important is collaborating with other brands and why?
This is one of the aspects most important for me, for many reasons. I believe it is essential to collaborate with other brands from different categories and preferably with the same origin: for example, there are importers that have a focus on Made in Italy, which allow us to share some costs, as well as amplify our exposure for certain activities. Something we often do is also include brand partners in our signature cocktails, in order to support the importer and to increase visibility. So associating multiple brands has multiple positive aspects, even just thinking about sharing a photo on a multi profile, obviously it will have a different spread.
Vodka is often considered a lifestyle and it is associated with fun and entertainment, especially because of its large consume in clubs and high volumes accounts. Since the launch, Blu Lie Vodka Italiana has chosen to promote itself as a premium tool for high end mixology bars, as well as a great food pairing option to be enjoyed neat. What have you planned for 2020 to continue communicating your strategy?
In 2020 there will be some big news that cannot yet be fully revealed, but the brand is ready to come out with two new products that will expand the range. After the market launch, the communication strategies will follow every single product on the market according to the needs of each.
What is your favourite way to consume Blu Lie Vodka Italiana?
Blu Lie is innovation with respect to the tradition so I say that neat is its higher way of enjoying it, but it depends on the situation, a versatile product can be drunk in many ways.
Blu Lie Vodka Italiana is available in the following countries:
UK: Strongwells Ltd
Italy: Ferro Distribuzione
China: Inalca China – Cremonini Group
Hong Kong: BrightView
Online: The Whisky Exchange
Director of Sales and Marketing