Branding Nepali alcoholic drinksCreating the right set of infrastructure is one of the critical aspects of branding any product.
An alcoholic drink named Pure Kodoko Rakshi was launched recently by Kodoko Ltd of the United Kingdom. As per the product specifications cited on its official website, the liquor is carefully made in copper stills to preserve its authentic taste and flavour. This niche product is an indigenous drink brewed from the fourth major crop in Nepal—finger millet (kodo)—that aptly connects the product to indigenous communities in Nepal who are involved in brewing it, namely Rai, Gurung, Limbu and others. Finger Millet Spirit is featured among the world's 50 most delicious drinks by CNN Travel. The fact that the drink is cited as hailing originally from Nepal is undoubtedly a huge feather in its cap. The two variants of the drink, Pure Kodoko Rakshi and Tinpane Kodoko Rakshi, are priced at £25.99 and £12.99 respectively.
Promoting ethnic fermented food and drinks by displaying the brewing process and demonstrating its authenticity on social media can be considered as one of the surest ways to marketplace success. As the Nepali traditional fermentation process is very popular among connoisseurs, the message of brewing purity and the associated beauty can be conveyed effectively. Other popular local drinks of Nepal such as chhyang, ayla and tongba have the potential to get branded on similar ethnic lines. For instance, kodoko jaand is also popular as the king of jaands. Such local beverages produced through fermentation are an integral part of the culture and tradition of many ethnic communities in Nepal. Traditionally, they adopted an inexpensive technique for preserving food and enhancing its nutritional and sensory value. Brandy made using Mustang apples and wines from grapes that are popularly grown in local vineyards in Nepal are a case in point.
Creating the right set of infrastructural facilities is one of the critical aspects of branding any product or service. No initiative in this direction can afford to ignore or undermine the key elements of its overall ecosystem. Branding rakshi at the international level calls for considering producing it on a scale that is commercially viable. While a chemically brewed system can aid in large-scale production, organic or home brewing alone will be more relevant for retaining the authenticity of the brand. Distillation of traditional Nepali alcoholic beverages in the form of a cottage industry has huge potential to provide employment to locals, especially those hailing from communities mentioned earlier. But to make it legal, the state needs to formulate and announce policy in this regard.
Each of these local drinks has its own unique flavour and aura, and is uniquely related to the ethnic communities. Keeping this basic fact, all branding strategies need to be carefully crafted in perfect unison and meticulously executed. Traditional alcoholic beverages have special human connectivity that relates deeply with the traditions, beliefs, values and ethos of the local community. It would be foolhardy to overlook these special considerations in branding exercises of any kind for these products. One should be reminded of how Goans in India became renowned for brewing Feni and how brewers of African Kaffir Beer stepped up their production from small to large scale.
Branding of kodo as a major source of good nutrition can be strongly considered. Some indigenous communities in Nepal are found to be using jackal meat as medicinal liquid for arthritis treatment. Of course, there is no established rationale behind the beliefs and values for such a traditional treatment nor are there any proven positive outcomes. However, it does point to the necessity of examining ethical aspects of the indigenous practices of using animals and animal products while treating different kinds of ailments. While keeping legal and policy aspects in consideration, it is also worth taking a cue from this before branding local beverages strictly on medicinal lines. Khukuri rum, used for cold and cough ailments, shot to fame not only for its impeccable quality but also for its curative value. The brand is known for its own unique heritage, values and blends. Befittingly, brand promotion on the official website and also on social media talk about how it could retain its heritage as an inimitable blend due to the distinct taste and imagery that it has created in the minds of consumers.
Currently, most locally brewed beverages and other ethnic products have only museum and exhibition value. The time is ripe for the state machinery to come up with a classification of these products and give a fillip to all the domestic entrepreneurial initiatives by providing them industry status by enacting explicit laws that are woefully absent as of date.
Initiatives of this kind can be promoted on a commercial scale by distilling such local alcoholic beverages on a sustainable basis. This calls for creating an enabling infrastructure having proper backward and forward linkages. Supporting millet farmers exemplifies such a linkage here. To communicate a quality image among consumers that it is produced using home-based processing, branding of such local beverages needs to consider sanitary conditions, processing mechanisms, bottling, packaging and shelf life. Local beverages served in traditional style would definitely add to the value of such offerings. For instance, ayla is poured from the traditional jug anti that not only adds aesthetic value, but also arouses consumers by the very essence of the liquor.
Considering Nepal’s huge potential, the Make in Nepal initiative can successfully address the current bottlenecks and effectively brand all alcoholic beverages having meaningful associations as local niche products. Should we fail in protecting them, there is every possibility that they may get processed and branded by international companies. Such a failure would be inimical to interests of the Nepali economy as it would miss out on opportunities for generating employment and also empowering its secondary and tertiary sectors.