Sake is all about ‘brand recognition’

Michael Campion, the newly appointed managing director of premium sake, Four Fox Sake has said that much of the category’s popularity lies in the branding.

Michael Campion on the right, with Four Fox co-founder, Neil Hosie

Michael Campion on the right, with Four Fox co-founder, Neil Hosie

Campion joined the Four Fox team recently as managing director after hanging up his boots as a midfielder for South China last year and working for a time at Northeast Wine & Spirits wine importers in Hong Kong.

His main focus will be to ‘expand Four Fox’s footprint’ in Hong Kong and elsewhere across Asia, with Macau, South Korea, Singapore and then Shanghai and Las Vegas in his sights.

Four Fox is already available in Hong Kong’s high end venues of Boujis, Ce La Vi, Zuma, Foxglove and the Mandarin Oriental but as Campion says, “It’s the Hong Kong nature to want everything now but to build a brand successfully you have to be patient.”

Born “out of a passion to revitalize the category,” Four Fox Sake hails from Niigata Prefecture in the northwest of Japan’s main island of Honshu and was founded by sake enthusiasts, Neil Hosie, David Innerdale and Andrew Rizkalla along with Tsubasa Nishitani who heads up the Japan operations. The brewery is 150 years old and last year’s Four Fox Sake bottled at 10,000. This year, Campion hopes to ramp up to 50,000.

Niigata is one of Japan’s snowiest regions and Four Fox uses pure meltwater and highly milled Gohyakumangoku rice to rank Four Fox with sake’s official highest grade of Junmai Daiginjo.

Hong Kong is a plum market for sake, with a plethora of high end Japanese restaurants and specialist sake bars, such as Zuma, Godenya and Jinn, but Campion says that the majority of sake’s success lies with right branding – fortunate, perhaps that Four Fox comes in an extremely visible silver light-up bottle.

“It’s a beautiful drink, it’s not as strong as vodka or gin and much more expressive,” he said. “But it needs to be branded correctly and eye-catching in order for people to notice it in such as competitive environment [as Hong Kong].”

Four Fox did catch the attention of Hong Kong’s renowned bartender, Antonio Lai who went on to create the ‘Foxtails’ cocktail series, including the ‘MoFo’ mojito, mixing lime juice, elderflower syrup, cucumber, mint leaves and soda water.

Lai said at the time, “From the bottle design to the product, it’s all about attention to detail. Four Fox Saké is created for those who are passionate about saké. I believe that making cocktails is an art which involves combining art and science to achieve the perfect tasting notes – rich, balanced and crisp and four fox embodies the true art form of sake making.”

Campion finished off, “Drinkers can have this [Four Fox Sake] in a club or bar, late at night, or treat it like white wine in a wine glass on a hot day. Sake is extremely versatile but it’ll be the brand that people remember the most.”

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