Bison Grass Vodka, a hit in Western European countries and Japan, has begun appearing outside Poland in the new packaging the company adopted for the domestic market.The aim is to create a larger export market for Zubrowka, as it is called in Poland.In addition to the new packaging, the company is revamping its web site to try to gain a foothold in the U.S., where sales have been minimal.The new packaging hit Polish store shelves in April.
The brand’s owner, the Warsaw-based Central European Distribution Corporation, decided it would be good for the export market, too, because it underscores the product’s unique character, Polish roots and premium vodka position,The old label had an old-fashioned look and did not communicate any attributes of the product to customers. The new label has a modern look. It’s also designed so that when light goes through the bottle it looks as if the sun is shining across the trees and the pasturing bison on the label.In addition to a new label, the bottle has a new cap and carries the Zubrowka name, as opposed to the name of the manufacturer, as in the past.Bison Grass has become recognized worldwide in the decade and a half since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has a rye base but gets its unusual flavor from the “sweet grass” of Bialowieza Forest.
The forest, about 190 kilometers northeast of Warsaw, is pristine. In fact, it’s so untouched that it’s part of the forested areas that collectively are known as The Green Lungs of Poland. Polmos Bialystok, the company that makes Bison Grass on contract for the Central European Distribution Corporation, adds 1 or 2 kilograms of sweet grass per thousand liters of vodka.It completes the mixing process by putting a long blade of the grass in each bottle. The grass is the reason for the vodka’s sweet herbal taste, pleasant aroma and greenish-yellow color.Zubrowka, which is 40 percent alcohol, dates to the 8th Century. Experts believe it probably evolved by accident when someone combined alcohol with medicinal herbs.
Since the 16th Century it has been manufactured in Bialystok, near the Belarus border, which is the largest city in northeastern Poland. During Communist times Zubrowka was a luxury Polish export product. In the post-Cold War era sales have jumped as more Western and Japanese consumers developed a taste for it.The company is upgrading its web site, www.zubrowka.com, to attract more international customers.A Warsaw based web-design company, OS3 Multimedia, is directing the site toward potential U.S. consumers.”Zubrowka is exceptional vodka,” said Marcin Maj, OS3 multimedia managing director.”For this reason, we decided that its Internet relaunch will not only be exceptional but also innovative.” Visitors to the web site enter a virtual world where they learn about the Zubrowka tradition, the role the Bialo-wieza Forest plays in its taste and what the forest has meant to Poland.The site includes recipes for a range of the most popular drinks that can be made from Bison Grass. Silhouettes of people of various nationalities and ethnicities underscore the multicultural makeup of the vodka’s consumers.Bison Grass is one of the leading premium brands in Great Britain, France and Japan. Sales are also rising in Ireland, Belgium and Spain. Zubrowka is also exported to Australia, Canada and Mexico. Zubrowka can be taken straight, with ice or mixed with ginger ale, apple juice or other soft drinks or juices.