Belvedere, the French drinks group, has increased its investment in the Polish market following the acquisition of Polmos Krakow, one of the 16 or so former state-owned distilleries put up for sale by the Warsaw authorities.
Belvedere has acquired a 66.57 per cent stake in the distillery for €4.5 million, adding two production facilities and a handful of brands to its existing Polish operations.
For if Belvedere is just one of several western companies buying up Polish distilleries - the most notable of which is Pernod Ricard, which owns Polmos Poznan and its market leading Wyborowa brand - it is one of the few companies which has been active in Poland for some time.
For many years it was the marketer of two premium Polish vodkas, Belvedere and Chopin, and was in no small part responsible for their international success after investing heavily in packaging in particular. But a lengthy and acrimonious legal battle with Philips Millennium, the company which bought the distillery producing the brands, resulted in the loss of the marketing rights and Belvedere looking for other Polish investment possibilities.
These came along in the form of the Starograd Gdanski distillery and its Sobieski and Zawisza vodka brands, which Belvedere bought in 2001 and which have already helped improve the company's financial performance.
With the Polmos Krakow deal, Belvedere has acquired two production plants in Krakow and Biezanow, and focusing on the distilling, cutting, ageing and bottling of vodka, as well as a highly efficient production facility which makes yeast for the bakery industry.
In addition, the French group will relaunch the Krakow vodka brands - Przepalanka, Cymes, Krakowska Czysta and the well known Cracovia - giving it a total share of the Polish market of around 15 per cent, up 3 per cent on its current position. The company said that these brands had had a 6 per cent share of the Polish market as recently as the 1990s and that it was setting itself this target for future growth.
Belvedere, which in addition to its Polish vodka brands now produces or markets spirits from China, Japan, Greece, Mexico, the Caribbean, Chile and the Middle East, and wines from Central Europe, has also reported nine month sales up 48.5 per cent to €145.5 million, of which Poland alone accounted for 90 per cent.