Interview: Jägermeister’s CEO On The Future Of The Brand

The more things change for Jägermeister, the more they stay the same. Despite a new bottle and newly named U.S. importer for the world’s eighth best-selling premium spirit, Jägermeister’s 56-ingriedient recipe remains unaltered since 1935.

In 2015 the spirit’s producer, Mast-Jägermeister, purchased its U.S. importer, Sidney Frank Importing Company. Last October Jägermeister rolled out a modernized bottle that highlighted its ingredients and heritage. Then in March the U.S. importer changed its name to Mast-Jägermeister US.

Overseeing all this was Jeff Popkin, who in October of 2015 became CEO of Jägermeister. We recently spoke with Popkin about what’s new and what’s next.

CH: What was the goal with the Sidney Frank acquisition?

Jeff Popkin: The aim was to become an integrated company with a global footprint. The legacy left by founder Sidney Frank was one of innovation and entrepreneurship. We wanted to build the new global entity around that.

We reorganized recently and established the position of Director of Entrepreneurship. This will help drive innovation throughout the company. That means having a willingness to take risks and miss, but when we hit, to go all in. Expect to see some major innovations from us in 2018.

Jager_Front_Straight

Last October Jägermeister revealed a new bottle.

CH: Jägermeister has embraced a craft angle in recent years.

JP: Incrediblythe story of its quality has never been told before in the U.S. We started telling it here just last year: about the 383 quality checks that go into making the spirit, about how it’s all made in Germany with the same German perfection in engineering that goes into the country’s automobiles.

I know this story has never been told in the U.S. because whenever I talk to someone about it — consumers, distributors, whoever’s sitting next to me on a plane — they act surprised.

CH: Will marketing remain focused on shots?

JP: We’re the premium shot brand. That’s still our leading message. But we’re getting more into mixology.

The nice thing about Jägermeister is that it can mix with anything thanks to its complexity of flavors. We’ve been educating distributors about that. Eleven of its 56 ingredients that are publically known include clove, anise, ginseng, and sweet orange peel. These are all things you can bring to life through different mixology techniques.

And the fact that the ingredients are all-natural, and cold-macerated for days and then aged in German oak barrels — when you start telling this to mixologists they really light up thinking about all the possibilities.

CH: What’s next for Jägermeister?

JP: In 2017 we’re going to engage the consumer around a multi-year, multi-platform campaign called ‘Be The Meister’.

You can break Jägermeister into two words. ‘Jäger’ means ‘wild side’, ‘irreverent’, ‘hunter’. ‘Meister’ is ‘master’. There’s a little bit of both in our DNA. That’s the alchemy to bringing together 56 ingredients into one shot.

To “Be The Meister” means to do whatever you do, whatever’s your passion, to the best of your ability. Be the master of it. If you can do that, then you can have more swagger, and be in a better position to enjoy life on your terms.

We’re going to have point-of-consumption marketing. In years two and three of this there will be more emotional marketing content.

We’re also testing out Manifest, a limited-edition Jägermeister-brand liqueur that has a lot of the same properties as brown spirits. It has Jägermeister on the nose and upfront, but finishes like a whiskey. That’s just in Europe for now, and could come to the U.S. market in 2018.

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Cheers. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece 7 Trends Shaping The Alcohol Industry in 2016-17.

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