Russians, stereotypically, love to drink vodka. And recently, it seems they’ve been enjoying a good deal of Grey Goose in particular.
Bacardi—perhaps best known for its namesake rum, but also the parent company for Grey Goose vodka—has been importing millions of dollars of spirits into Russia in the past year, leading to a rise in its revenue and profits in the country, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. This comes even though many businesses, whether focused on alcohol or another product, pulled out of Russia in response to Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. (Bacardi did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.)
“The departure of several leading international brand owners from the alcohol market has reduced competition and has created an opportunity for the ones that have remained as well as for local companies,” Ivan Kolarov, an analyst at the drinks-industry tracker IWSR, told the WSJ.
In the 12 months ending June 30, Bacardi Rus, the company’s Russian arm, imported $169 million of products, including Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, Patrón tequila, and Dewar’s Scotch whisky. In 2022, its annual revenue jumped 8.5 percent to 30 billion rubles ($314 million), while profits reached 4.7 billion rubles (about $48 million), up from just 1.5 billion rubles ($15 million) in 2021.
After Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Bacardi said that it had paused exports to Russia and stopped advertising in the country. The Wall Street Journal noted that its website said as much through most of last year, but that language has since been removed. In addition, the company has continued hiring for its Russia team since the war began, and it promotes new roles locally as well as on LinkedIn.
Spirits companies have had a rough time navigating the Russian market over the past year or so. Those that have pulled out of the country or ceased operating there have felt the impact financially: Diageo, for example, had a loss of 122 million rubles ($1.3 million) in 2022, compared with a profit of 325 million rubles ($3.3 million) in 2021. Meanwhile, those that have tried to stay, such as Pernod Ricard, have faced backlash from Western critics.
Trying to do any—or no—alcohol business in Russia, then, seems like a losing proposition.