Cuban rum could soon hit US shores after more than a half-century of embargo

French liquor behemoth Pernod Ricard could soon be the first to sell Cuban-made rum in the US after more than a half-century of being banned from doing so due to the trade embargo.

With relations improving between the US and Cuba, Pernod’s spiced Caribbean libation could soon come to US liquor stores and bars, and possibly challenge Bacardi International, which actually was founded in Cuba.

Pernod’s CEO has indicated that the company has grand plans should the embargo be lifted and would focus on more than just familiar Cuban markets in south Florida.

“If the embargo is lifted, we could gain access to an enormous market and a substantial growth booster for the coming years,” Jerome Cottin-Bizonne, CEO of Pernod Ricard’s Havana Club, told Reuters.

Mr Cottin-Bizonne estimates that the US market could increase sales by as much as 20 million bottles per years, or 1.7 million cases, about a 50 per cent increase in current sales. For comparison, Bacardi sells about 9 million cases of its white rum in the US and Pernod’s own Malibu brand sells about 1.9 million cases.

In Cuba, Pernod’s rum brand is called “Havana Club”, but it would have to change its name in the US, as Bacardi already has the US rights to “Havana Club”. The company has said it will call itself “Havanista”.

While relations between the US and Cuba have been improving over the past few months, it is not clear if and when the embargo will be lifted.

By Payton Guion, The Independent

May 19, 2015

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