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Clique extends reach from Strip to new markets in U.S., India

| Monday, May 28, 2012, 6:36 p.m.
Noah Cohen (front), CEO of Premier Innovations Group a Strip District importer and marketer of Clique Vodka and a tequila, with the company's officers (from left) Pat Hanavan, vice president of social media and brand management,Jimi Romanus, vice president of sales, Joel Kamensky, vice president of graphic design,Frank Bachurski, vice president of marketing and promotions in the company's offices on Thursday May 17, 2012.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Noah Cohen (front), CEO of Premier Innovations Group a Strip District importer and marketer of Clique Vodka and a tequila, with the company's officers (from left) Pat Hanavan, vice president of social media and brand management,Jimi Romanus, vice president of sales, Joel Kamensky, vice president of graphic design,Frank Bachurski, vice president of marketing and promotions in the company's offices on Thursday May 17, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Noah Cohen, CEO of Premier Innovations Group a Strip District importer and marketer of Clique Vodka and a tequila, in the company's offices on Thursday May 17, 2012.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Noah Cohen, CEO of Premier Innovations Group a Strip District importer and marketer of Clique Vodka and a tequila, in the company's offices on Thursday May 17, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Noah Cohen, CEO of Premier Innovations Group a Strip District importer and marketer of Clique Vodka and a tequila, in the company's offices on Thursday May 17, 2012.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Noah Cohen, CEO of Premier Innovations Group a Strip District importer and marketer of Clique Vodka and a tequila, in the company's offices on Thursday May 17, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Clique vodka, developed by a Strip District company, is poised for a major expansion.

Distributed in four states and in its second full year of sales, Clique will be available to consumers in a dozen more states by the end of the summer, said Noah Cohen, 31, CEO and founder of Premier Innovations Group.

The company cut a deal with Total Wine & More, a Potomac, Md., retailer, to place Clique in 80 Total Wine & More stores in 12 states, where its hopes the brand will appeal to drinkers in their 20s. Premier lined up deals with distributors in Puerto Rico and India and expects Clique to sell in those countries by the end of this year, Cohen said.

"We make a mid-shelf vodka while everyone else is doing premium," he said. "We're chasing a younger demographic."

Clique began selling in Pennsylvania in 2010. Premier began selling the vodka in 2011 in Tennessee and this year in Ohio and West Virginia.

Vodkas took the largest share of America's liquor market last year, with about 30 percent of alcohol sales by volume, according to Technomic, a consulting and research firm to the food and beverage industry. Total sales last year were 64.2 million cases, up 7 percent from 60.1 million in 2010.

It's a popular space to debut products. Ninety-nine vodka brands were introduced last year, the highest of all spirits categories, said Donna Hood Crecca, a spokeswoman for Technomic.

And Vodka sales are on track to total about $1.9 billion in 2012, according to research firm IBISWorld Inc.

Cohen said Clique is a high-quality but reasonably priced import that sells well with 21- to 35-year-olds. This month it won a Silver Medal for Taste in the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

"They make a good product," said Ed Cooper, spokesman for Total Wine & More. The deal with Total "will provide (Clique) with an unparalleled market of consumers of fine vodka."

There are two craft distilleries in the region, Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries LLC, which makes Boyd & Blair potato-based vodka in Shaler, and Wigle Whiskey, a small distillery in the Strip District.

Clique vodka, imported from Latvia, follows a different model. A commercial distillery makes the liquor following an exclusive formulation. Cohen's team at Premier developed the label design and marketing, and carry out its promotion and sales.

Cohen compares what Premier is doing with Clique to the experience of the late Sidney Frank and Grey Goose vodka. In 2004, Frank sold Grey Goose to Bacardi for about $2 billion, only eight years after conceiving an ultra-premium vodka that would be made in France instead of Russia.

Like Premier, Frank's company didn't make Grey Goose; it did an excellent job of marketing it. But unlike Grey Goose, Clique is marketing itself as a high-quality, mid-priced brand.

Cohen is betting that 20-somethings are looking for a quality vodka they can afford.

"Older companies, they control the whole market," Cohen said. "My guys are all in their 20s. ... We're in that generation and that's what makes our company different."

Though Premier won't disclose current sales figures, he's hoping publicity from the silver medal and the deal with Total will boost revenue. The company projects sales of $2 million in 2013 and $4 million the year after that, Cohen said.

The company is developing other brands of liquor, which Cohen declined to discuss.

"We know where the trends are," he said.

Premier Innovations Group

What: Parent of companies that develop, market, distribute and promote Clique vodka and Don Pantaleon tequila

Where: Penn Rose Building, Strip District

Employees: 10 full time, 40 part time

Sales: Would not disclose

Founded: 2007

Executives: Noah Cohen, CEO and founder; Joel Kamensky, vice president of graphic design; Pat Hanavan, vice president of social media and branding; Frank Bachurski, vice president of marketing and brand development; Jimi Romanus, vice president of sales

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