First Drinks is adding Central European Distribution Corporation’s (CEDC) vodka brands Green Mark and Żubrόwka to its portfolio this year.
The company is also taking on distribution duties for ultra-premium vodka brand Kauffman.
The news follows the announcement that Marblehead is to end its UK distribution partnership with CEDC on 1 July.
Green Mark is the biggest-selling vodka brand in the Russian market and one of the top vodka brands in the world, with annual sales of approximately 10 million nine litre cases worldwide.
Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka is CEDC’s flagship export brand. Its flavour and green hue is derived from bison grass, an aromatic plant found in Bialowieża in north-east Poland in the last primeval forest in Europe.
Żubrówka is sold in over 50 countries and sold approximately 1m nine litre cases globally in 2010.
Chris Mason, managing director of First Drinks, said: “We are delighted to be working with CEDC, one of the world’s leading vodka producers and we look forward to a long term partnership to achieve our ambitious mutual goals.
“The new vodkas are an excellent fit within our existing portfolio, complementing our current brands.
“We have a strong track record of building premium brands and have big ambitions for 2012 to be in the position to offer our customers the most desired portfolio of authentic vodka brands of any UK distributor.
“As industry leaders in the UK premium spirits market, our strategy is to build on our reputation as premium brand builders and have a full range of authentic vodkas relevant to both the on and off-trade.”
First Drinks has been actively seeking a new vodka brand for its portfolio after its UK distribution deal with Russian Standard expired at the end of 2011.
William Carey, president and CEO of CEDC, added: “We believe First Drinks Brands will contribute to further expansion of Green Mark which, as an authentic, high quality vodka from Russia has great sales potential in the UK, where vodka is the largest spirits category.
“We have been very successful in expanding Green Mark’s export in 2011 and we will continue to build this brand’s international presence.
“We also look forward to strengthening the position of Żubrówka which is our key export brand and has already won recognition in the UK market”.
In addition to Green Mark and Żubrόwka, CEDC’s Kauffman, an ultra-premium vodka brand and the first vintage vodka in the world, will also be joining the First Drinks portfolio in 2012.
In the UK on-trade, vodka growth is up 7% year-on-year, according to Nielsen, while in the off-trade the category has witnessed 10% growth.
First Drinks Brands will be distributing Green Mark and Kauffman vodka starting from the first quarter of 2012 and Żubrówka from the third quarter.
First Drinks is wholly owned by William Grant & Sons, which has entered into an international alliance with CEDC of Poland.
CEDC already represents the William Grant & Sons portfolio in Poland and Hungary.