SIP BY SIP

Mexico 2016 | AGRICULTURE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Manuel García Villegas, General Director of Tequilas del Señor, on introducing tequila to new countries and remaining small to ensure quality.

How did Tequilas del Señor get started as a company?

The story started in 1926 when my father came to Mexico from Spain at the age of 16, and he began to work for his uncles in the liqueur industry. The business produced a variety of liquors, including rum, habanero, rompope, tequila, mezcal, and vermouth, and was established in Mexico City. In 1943, my father and his uncles came to Guadalajara and co-founded the distilling operation here with Ana Rosales and her son Carlos Cuervo. In 1957, we began exporting tequila to the US, where the popularity of it and the margarita cocktail were growing. By this time, we were exporting tequila in wooden barrels sent by trucks, and was an important volume for us. In 1968, I moved to Guadalajara, from where I started traveling extensively to call on all of our customers in the US in order to forge relationships with them and promote our tequila. Our aim has always been to make the best quality product that we can, and we put considerable effort into doing that. By 1973, we were the second largest bulk exporter of tequila to the US, after the Cuervo brand. We later broke through to the European market via Spain and Germany to expand our markets, where we had to educate the consumers because tequila was a new drink for Europe. Tequilas del Señor then began working on the South American, east European, and Asian markets teaching consumers the different ways of enjoying this elixir and the couture that is behind it. People are always surprised by the labor that surrounds tequila.

Can you talk about the branding process for your products?

Each of our brands has its own history. Some of them started with the distillery, while some others have been created or acquired over the years. I also decided to change the name of the company from Rio de Plata to Tequilas del Patrón, and later to Tequilas del Señor, though I kept the name for our distillery as Rio de Plata, which was the original name from when my father set up the business. To help promote Reserva del Patrón, we personalized the labels, which was the first tequila for which we did that. The Sombrero Negro label has a Mexican Charro and Mariachi hat on it and is instantly recognized worldwide, as the emblem is excellent for representing both Mexico and tequila. It is also the brand that we sell most of in different markets around the world. I also sold the rights to the name Patrón to Patrón Spirits, and we then began using the name Tequilas del Señor instead.

You are exporting to China and other Asian countries now. Have you adjusted your brand to make it more suitable for those markets?

We do both. The Sombrero Negro brand sells well in China and the Philippines. We also have additional brands in China for different sectors, and we even created new labels for China. We use Mexican images but adapted to a Chinese style to suit the market there.

What challenges have you faced entering the Asian market?

We are one of around 11 Mexican companies that have established their products in China. We started with Casa del Tequila, which we are part of, but we had our merchandise available before many others did. The challenge is to give the Chinese people a quality product and tastes that they are happy with, as well as to teach them how to drink it—tequila is drunk sip by sip, rather than drinking a large glass in one go and then not drinking any more. It is a different culture, and therefore we have to work to make our brand stand out in this market.

What do you think makes the Tequilas del Señor brands different from the larger international brands on the market today?

We do not deliver the same volume as the larger brands, and this gives us a different position in the markets we reach. We only produce between 2 million to 3 million liters each year, while the larger brands distribute 30 million or 40 million liters per year. We aim to produce the best product that we can and maintain quality. Our competitors have good quality and good products, but we try to be better than them while attending to all the parts of the production and sales process with passion and care. This is why we are in a different position in the global market. It is crucial that we have strong communication with our customers. Behind our customer there is another customer, and we are interested in how our product is received by that final consumer.