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Jamaica's Changing Rum Market

Jamaica's Changing Rum Market

Posted by Shanelle Weir on June 14, 2014

Rum is a centuries-old business in Jamaica - and one producer has been around to see most of that history and to see the demise of its competitors.

J. Wray & Nephew Limited, owner of the Appleton and Wray & Nephew brands, is the oldest and by far the largest producer of rum for the Jamaican market. The company can trace its rum-producing roots back to Appleton Estate in 1749. That makes it the world's second-oldest rum producer, after Barbados' Mount Gay distilleries (1703) and ahead of Martinique's StJames rum (1765).

The Jamaican producer's two leading brands are J. Wray & Nephew White Overproof and Appleton. But the company has many more rum brands on the Jamaican market, including Edwin Charley, Coruba, its local version of the Captain Morgan brand, Rum Finzis, Conquering Lion, JBW Estate and Cocomania.

While outliving many other Jamaican brands, the company even outlived some of its own brands - including the previously well-known One Dagger, Two Dagger and Three Dagger rums which went out in the 1950s, and more recently C.J. Wray Dry Rum, which had its heyday after its launch in the early 1990s.

Market Newcomers

But there has been a resurgence of new Jamaican rum brands, unattached to the Appleton behemoth, in recent years, as newcomers try to chip or sip away at Wray's predominance, which is cemented around 70 per cent market share. The other producers are fighting for position in both the local and export markets. Four of the largest other brands include Rum-Bar, Monymusk, Port Royal and Rum Fire. Others include Blackwell, Lion Pride, Smatt's and Royal Jamaica.

Of all the other brands, "Rum-Bar has made some gains," and comes in second place, Lloyd Forbes, director of the Spirits Pool Association, told the Financial Gleaner.

Rum-Bar, which has been on the market since 2007, is owned by Worthy Park Estates and produces a white overproof rum, a rum cream and two vodkas under the Rum-Bar name, as well as a selection of aged rums under the Worthy Gold brand.

Monymusk rums, produced by National Rums of Jamaica (NRJ), comes third, Forbes said. National Rums traditionally produces bulk rums for overseas customers, but recently created its own brand for the local market.

"We have been doubling our sales annually," said National Rums' general manager, Earl Patrick, of the Monymusk brand.

On the market since November 2011, Monymusk has products for each of the segments now controlled by J. Wray & Nephew and its Appleton brand, including white, gold and aged. In December, it introduced its Special Reserve product to compete in the premium-aged segment.

National Rums exports 98 per cent of its output as bulk rum, Patrick said. One of its largest customers is Diageo, producer of the international (as opposed to the local) Captain Morgan brand - leaving only two per cent for its own brand and the local market.

National Rum's strategic objective is to move towards a 50/50 split long term, with an increase in sales both locally and internationally, Patrick said.

In an effort to win over Jamaica's diehard Appleton drinkers, Monymusk has a price point that is "just a touch under Appleton," Patrick said.

"We've got to give them more than one reason to switch," he said.

Port Royal and other rums fall a "far distance" behind, Forbes told the Financial Gleaner.

Duncan Messado from KRB Lea, producers of Port Royal Rum, puts his brand in third place, with

Rum Fire as its closest competitor. KRB Lea does not have its own estate, and like many of the other smaller brands sources its rum from one of the big distilleries - in this case National Rums.The company gets its gold rum from the NRJ distillery at Long Pond in Trelawny and its white rum from NRJ's Monymusk distillery.

KRB Lea used to produce rum under its own name in the 1990s, Messado said, but changed to the Port Royal brand in 2007. While the majority of its market is in Jamaica, KRB Lea exported 1,200 cases to Korea last year, and will start exporting to Russia later this year.

Other rums on the Jamaican market include Red Stripe's D&G overproof rum and Gold Label. Red Stripe is owned by Diageo, which is one of the world's leading rum producers. For legal reasons, the company can't sell its leading Captain Morgan brand in Jamaica. Despite that, it still has a small segment of the local rum market via its Red Stripe rum brands, as well as Myers and its Ron Zacapa from Guatemala,

Another independent brand is Lion Pride overproof. The brand is better known for its condoms and rolling papers, but Lion Pride rum has a market in rural areas such as Linstead and Ewarton in St Catherine.

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