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Sustainable practices, online sales are game changers for the alcohol industry, says Rodney Williams, CEO, Belvedere Vodka

Ruhi Gilder
A vodka brand that is synonymous with luxury and quality, Belvedere strengthens its position as an all-natural, eco-conscious company. Rodney Williams, President & CEO Belvedere Vodka leads the global launch and implementation of a new brand platform, Made With Nature. It captures the essence of Belvedere’s story of Polish rye, purified water and distilled by fire. Belvedere will soon install a new biomass energy plant, and by end of 2022, it will generate 100% green energy for all of distillery’s operations. LuxeBook talks to Williams about everything from drinking trends to the future of the Indian alcohol market.
What exactly is the new ‘Made with Nature’ platform? 
Our Made With Nature platform consists of three elements. First, it beautifully captures our philosophy with a creative campaign illustrating who we are and what we do. Many consumers are surprised to learn that Belvedere has always been made with natural ingredients. 
Second, Made With Nature frames our latest innovation, Belvedere Heritage 176. This is a malted rye spirit wherein the rye is heated in kilns up to 176 °F to draw out rich and complex flavours. 
Finally, the platform highlights our CSR practices. We will be releasing a series of declarations, and work towards commitment on CO2 reduction, something that Belvedere has been focused on since 2012. 
Can you elaborate on the sustainable packaging goals for Belvedere? 
We stopped the use of plastic straws, acid-etching of glassware and have begun eliminating plastic bags from our shipping. We implemented an eco-design for new products, using less quantity of secondary and packaging material. By 2025, we are committed to reducing the use of plastic by 50% and use up to 100% of recyclable plastic and only recycled glass. In addition, we are actively auditing supply chain vendors to abide by a 100% green code of conduct. 
Belvedere Vodka - Distillery image
Belvedere Vodka – Distillery image
Can you tell us about Belvedere’s commitment to the local community? 
At Belvedere, we are proud of our long history in supporting the Polish community with various sustainability initiatives. The Belvedere distillery co-founded the Foundation for Local Environmental Protection. Our Polish rye grains are sourced from local farmers only. The Raw Spirit Program was also established by our distillery, which launched in partnership with the Technical University of Lodz to promote the sustainable growth of Polska Rye. Furthermore, Belvedere reduced CO2 emissions by 42% from 2012-2017. Belvedere was the first spirits distillery to receive a grant from the European Commission to help pilot an aggressive energy project that will reduce CO2 by 80% in the next two years. 
Of course, by “local” you could also ask what an international brand like Belvedere is doing within India.  We are leveraging learnings gleaned from our work with Polish farmers to inform a new initiative for next year called Extraordinary Lands. In this initiative, Belvedere will partner with farmers around the world to share and support regenerative agriculture approaches and the latest organic farming strategies.  
Belvedere Vodka - Distillery image
Belvedere Vodka – Distillery
Has the pandemic affected the implementation of the goals of Made With Nature? 
As the campaign launched during the global pandemic, we have not been able to host any in-person events. We usually have media and consumer events where we bring the campaign to life and offer in-person tasting experiences. This, of course, hasn’t been happening for the past year, so we’ve leaned heavily on digital marketing and virtual events. We did not postpone the launch of Made With Nature as we see a big trend among consumers wanting naturally made products.
What is special about Belvedere Heritage 176, the new spirit drink launched in conjunction with Made With Nature? 
Heritage 176 delivers a new and distinctive taste experience, achieved through the centuries-old technique of malting. The rye is heated to 176°F to reveal its unexpectedly rich and complex flavours. In the past, vodka-makers regularly malted grains for rich flavour before tastes shifted toward a preference for neutrality. Our master rye distillers have revived this traditional malting technique to create a full-bodied, rich and complex rye spirit. 

Do you foresee sustainability take cantre stage in the overall alcohol industry?
I certainly hope so. Consumers expect brands to step up and create real, long-lasting changes that positively impact the earth, while also making better products. 
What potential do you see in the premium vodka sector in India in the current pandemic/recovery scenario? 
Super-premium vodka is forecasted to grow steadily because consumers are drinking better. They are conscious about what they consume and look for substance-forward brands that are in line with their values. The pandemic has made the world reconsider many lifestyle choices. The notion of mindful drinking, to savour and enjoy in moderation, fits well with Belvedere.  
What product innovation is in the works at Belvedere? 
We have been working on a new innovation called Belvedere Organic Infusions. This will be our first organic vodka made with organic Polish rye, and organic fruits, herbs and botanicals. They are distinctive, pleasing and highly assessable flavours, without added sugar. The range has three flavour combinations, Blackberry with Lemongrass, Lemon with Basil, and Pear with Ginger. 
What are the five global drinking trends currently?
– Online shopping
Home consumption is still on the rise. People feel more confident in making craft cocktails at home and exploring different cocktails and spirits.
– Brand heritage and values
Consumers are conscious about brands they support. They expect transparency and seek authenticity and distinctive experiences from brands. 
– Ready to Drink (RTD) cocktails
These cocktails have seemed to hit a breakthrough performance in the past year. We’re seeing a range of offerings from traditional cocktails to hard seltzers for consumers to choose from. 
– Health conscious
Consumers are interested in knowing how and where products are made, and how their production impacts the earth and the environment. Using fresh, seasonal ingredients is another trend that we love to see. 
– Brands with purpose
Consumers expect brands to stand for something and follow it through with actions. 
Belvedere Vodka - Old Town Fizz
Belvedere Vodka – Old Town Fizz
What has been the impact of the pandemic on the alcohol industry? 
Consumers are mindful about what they put in their bodies and how it impacts the environment. They are interested in drinking less, but better. They search for facts, consumption options and want to be inspired by the brands they favour. At the same time, consumers across the globe are also carefully following how brands react, give back, and operate especially during hard times. The quality movement is in, and it continues to influence new trends in vodka and spirits in general. 
How much has the alcohol industry suffered in the pandemic and when will it be back to pre-Covid days? 
It’s hard to say when things will be back to pre-COVID days, if ever. Nightlife, bars, restaurants and the hospitality sector took a hit. With the decline of footfalls some have shut down completely. Home consumption and delivery have held steady, so we can remain hopeful things will go back to normal sooner than later. Places like China and several other parts of Asia that have recovered from the pandemic see consumers flocking back to restaurants, bars and nightclubs. In particular, younger consumers who feel a desire to make up for the time lost in isolation and want to reconnect with others.  

Note: Belvedere Heritage 176 has not launched in India yet. 
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