Scotch Malt Whisky Society toasts inaugural franchise agreement in Asia’s fourth largest economy

Scotch Malt Whisky Society owner Artisanal Spirits Company has signed an inaugural franchise agreement in South Korea, Asia’s fourth largest economy.
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The Edinburgh-based group said it had a “long-term, sustainable, global growth opportunity”, with the new franchise helping to further expand the group’s commercial business potential. South Korea is the tenth largest market within the global “ultra-premium” malt whisky sector, based on value, and was estimated to be worth some $161 million (£143m) in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 65 per cent. This represents an entirely new market for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) which has not had a presence in South Korea to date.

Bosses noted that FJ Korea (FKJ) is the fourth largest liquor distributor in South Korea with a strong presence at more than 2,000 on-trade venues and a wide national network base in key locations such as the capital Seoul. In association with FJK, SMWS plans to recruit new members in the region through its website, digital marketing and social media activity, as well as physical, in person partner bar and live marketing initiatives such as whisky festivals and tasting events.

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The firm noted: “South Korea’s whisky market is well positioned for increased premiumisation and e-commerce growth, demonstrating similar consumer trends to other global markets in which Artisanal Spirits Company operates, as consumers increasingly seek limited edition products and bespoke experiences. This is combined with a growing number of local whisky enthusiasts on social media and an emerging cohort of younger consumers.”

The latest deal follows the group’s recent entry into Mexico and South Africa through franchise agreements in those respective geographies, as ASC continues to expand its global footprint into new growth markets.

David Ridley, managing director of Artisanal Spirits Company, said: “ASC continues to progress its strategy to expand its presence in key international whisky markets, adding South Korea to our growing footprint. This further establishes our operations in Asia - one of the fastest growing whisky regions in the world.

“We look forward to collaborating with FJ Korea whose existing brand portfolio is highly complementary to SMWS’ premium whiskies. FJK has committed to grow the SMWS brand for the long term, pledging a dedicated team to focus on our brands and member recruitment in this new market. This further underpins our approach to seeding and expanding our growing presence in key international markets and the exciting potential we believe the Asia region continues to represent for ASC within the context of our international growth plan.”

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In September, the group said it had seen “significant” membership growth, putting it on track to hit its ambitious revenue goal. The firm said membership now stood at just over 36,000, after seeing a return to growth in China and an acceleration in growth in the US - both of which are key markets. The value of US shipments in the third quarter of this year is likely to exceed the £1.6m achieved in the whole of the second half of 2021, it noted. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was established in 1983.

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