Absolute Halts Vodka Exports to Russia, but the Country Prefers Beer

  • Absolut halted exports of its vodka to Russia on Tuesday.
  • The company faced backlash in its native Sweden earlier in April after it resumed exports to Russia.
  • Absolut Vodka made up just a tiny share of the Russian market. But Russians now prefer beer anyway.

Sweden’s Absolut Company halted exports of Absolut Vodka to Russia on Tuesday — but Russians might not be missing the drink all that much.

Pernod Ricard, the French parent company of Absolut Company, stopped exporting the beverage to Russia after it drew flak and faced a wave of calls for boycott in Sweden, the world’s top vodka exporter, for resuming shipments earlier in April.

“The reaction over the recent days is clearly reflective of the role Absolut plays for its extended community in Sweden,” Stephanie Durroux, the CEO of Absolut Company, said in a Tuesday statement. “Acknowledging also the duty of care towards our employees and partners, we cannot expose them to massive criticism in all forms.” 

She added that the company had massively reduced its business activities since March 2022 to comply with sanctions and protect its local team from accusations of criminal liability with regard to “intentional bankruptcy.” 

Pernod Ricard derived 3% of its overall sales from the Russian market before the war, per the Financial Times.

‘We have long been a beer country, not a vodka country,’ says alcohol research center head.

But, as it turns out, Absolut may not be missed all that much in Russia.

Igor Kosarev, the president of the producers of alcoholic products union, told TASS state news agency on Tuesday that Absolut Vodka represents just 0.01% — or 10,000 decaliters per year — of the country’s total vodka consumption of 80 million decaliters per year.

And while vodka is strongly associated with Russia, it isn’t the country’s favorite alcohol. Beer has long been the favorite, state-owned RIA Novosti media outlet reported on February 5.

“We have long been a beer country, not a vodka country, although these myths continue,” Vadim Drobiz, the director of the federal and regional alcohol markets research center, told RIA. 

Drobiz told RIA beer production and consumption started increasing from 1995 onwards and grew over five times in the 12 years to 2007.

Since then, beer has been the favorite alcohol among Russians. In January 2023, beer accounted for more than half of the alcohol purchased in Russia, RIA reported, citing data from Kontur.Market. In comparison, vodka accounted for just 20% of the alcohol sold.

Daria Zhigalina, a Kontur.Market analyst, told RIA that lighter alcohol such as beer can be consumed for all occasions, while stronger alcohol like vodka is usually reserved for special occasions.

More so, Russia — known for being a nation of heavy drinkers — has become increasingly sober over the years. Alcohol consumption fell 43% from 2003 to 2016, according to a World Health Organization report published in 2019.

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