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Don Papa’s sweet dreams

The rum brand celebrated its 10th year just before the shock announcement of its acquisition by Diageo

DON PAPA pulled out all the stops for its 10th anniversary celebration on Jan. 14. Not a week later, global spirits giant Diageo (which is behind Johnnie Walker, among others) announced their acquisition of Don Papa.

“The upfront consideration is €260 million with a further potential consideration of up to €177.5 million through to 2028 subject to performance, reflecting the brand’s current growth potential,” said a statement from Diageo about the price it paid for Don Papa. That amounts to P15.475 billion, relying on current exchange rates.

The brand was launched in 2012 by entrepreneur Stephen Carroll, together with Andrew John Garcia. Mr. Garcia’s spouse, Don Papa Communications Director and co-founder Monica Llamas Garcia, told BusinessWorld in an interview on Jan. 14 (prior to the acquisition announcement) how they managed to reach 10 years as a niche brand existing in a country ruled by spirits giants. “I think we were just very single-minded about what we wanted to present, and we were very consistent about it. We wanted to showcase a genuine Philippine premium rum,” she said.

“We’re just happy that not only were we able to introduce our brand, but then we were able to introduce them also to a world that was maybe different, unique, interesting,” said Ms. Llamas Garcia. “How we got here, 10 years? Sometimes, time just flies by.”

Since the launch in 2012, Don Papa has managed to reach about 30 countries around the world, from the USA to Germany. With the Diageo acquisition, it will reach even more markets.

“When we started, it was all about really presenting our products to new distributors. After a while, it became the reverse. Distributors began knocking on our door,” said Ms. Llamas Garcia.

“You do the work first of proving yourself as a product, as a brand… and then just be consistent about that,” she said. “We were able to connect with our market, in every market. There was always something that we offered that resonated.”

“When you get into any industry, it’s also about networking,” she said, citing attending trade shows around the world as a key practice. “That’s how a lot of distributors discover us.”

“You have to get in there, also getting into the right places. Have a little bit of knowledge on the industry as well,” she said as her advice to brands aspiring to get Don Papa’s global reach.

In building a brand, one doesn’t just sell a product, but a dream. Ms. Llamas Garcia said, “For me, it’s like an escape. Especially in Europe, a lot of them are in cold countries. The whole concept of Sugarlandia, this tropical place that’s lush and fertile — it’s just something to them, right?”

When asked about what was next for Don Papa, she said, “We are in 30 countries, but then, some markets are still what you would consider small. It’s really volume. To be able to sell more rum. Drive more volume. Figuring that out: how to get the product to more people.”

Still not knowing about the Jan. 18 acquisition at the time, we asked Ms. Llamas Garcia about Don Papa’s future plans: “You will find out… it’s all in the works. You’ll know when you know,” she said with laughter. — Joseph L. Garcia

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