THERE is a new spirit of enterprise in Singapore, fuelled by the 21st-century consumer’s thirst for adventure and innovation. And the thirst is very real in the increasingly crowded alcohol industry in Singapore.
Alan Wong, Managing Director of Midas Beverages and Richfield Brands, is no newcomer to the market. Already a 30-year veteran of the wine trade here, he is now introducing a new brandy under his new Five X.P. label.
Five X.P. has turned traditional brandy making methods on its head to create a differentiated drinking experience. Conventionally, brandies are made with the ugni blanc grape and distilled at high temperatures.
Five X.P., made in Germany, uses the well-loved Riesling grape and is distilled at just 28°C using a special vacuum distillation process. Wong promises that this gives it a smooth, light and elegant feel, one that is almost closely related to that of a fine wine. In a very traditional industry where production is so often governed by many rules, Wong predicts that his spark of innovation will garner him the limelight.
Leveraging on his knowledge of the wine industry and looking for a new target for his drink, he hopes to carve out a niche for his innovative brandy where there was none before. “We are targeting wine enthusiasts. We have an open opportunity to bring this product to them because they are already our customer!” he exclaims.
Coming into a market that is already bursting with many well-established brands and trying to offer a new product is no easy task — especially one that has already been cornered by brands like Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell, and Remy Martin. Wong is however under no illusions that these brands can be challenged. Instead, he wants to capitalise on the consumer demand for artisanal new products. “We are targeting people who lead the trends, not follow them.” He also aims to exploit the hangover from the past decade’s binge on premium scotch whiskies. “There is a gap in the market there, and we think our product can plug that.”
Singapore, he says, is only the first step. Wong intends to spread out the first batch of 10,000 bottles to markets in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. But making an impression in Singapore remains key to future success. “It might be a crowded marketplace but it is an important showcase for any serious brand,” he points out.
Wong is looking to capture the inquisitive and open-minded local customer on the hunt for their next drink. “People want to be different — they are willing to pay a price for quality.” At $300 for a just a 500ml of this caramel-amber liquid, it is indeed a pretty penny to pay to be different, though.