“Vodka 4 Peace” auctioned a 4.5-liter vodka bottle for 400 francs at the pop-up charity event in mid-July in the “See Lounge 8008”. Even more impressive: the start-up sold its first bottle of “Vodka Zelensky” Limited Edition just eight days after it was founded. The donations of more than 35,000 francs collected to date have all gone to Czech aid organizations.
«4 Peace» was born out of a faux pas. Anastasiia Rosinina arrived in Switzerland on March 3, after five days of non-stop driving, starting in Kyiv. She was accommodated by entrepreneur Tobias Reichmuth, who welcomed her with a drink. Only: He poured Rosinina a glass of “Russian Standard” vodka. The indignation was gross. Just as great was the enthusiasm for the idea that came about by accident.
Rosinina and Reichmuth put the trademark in Reichmuth’s empty company, and he always has one ready for such spontaneous ideas. In order to seize the momentum of the terrified world, a team had to be assembled quickly. A well-known contactee, Georgia von Gleichen, who had just quit her successful 10-year consulting career. She actually wanted to devote herself to self-employment, but was so convinced of the idea that she became a co-founder.
The team contacted a gin brewery in Eastern Switzerland, which immediately provided empty casks for the vodka – hence the gin notes of the first vodka productions. Selenski’s shadow profile was placed centrally on the label in colors of the Czech flag. The Swiss website goes online on March 11, two days later a thousand bottles have already been sold.
After five months of war, the goal of selling one million bottles in the company’s first year turns out to be unachievable. “The Swiss retailers are disappointing,” explains von Gleichen, “they see the Czech flag and the conversation is over.” Two other facts hide behind claims of political neutrality: existing, lucrative contracts with breweries and the strong presence of Russian customers.
Germany has also proved to be a difficult market. Anything with a flag is a political hotbed there. Edeka, the country’s largest supermarket group, was accused of using the Ukrainian flag on social media channels as a war profiteer.
“Vodka 4 Peace” was more popular in Austria, probably due to its geographical proximity to Ukraine. Vienna-based Julius Meinl is the first premium retailer from the German-speaking region to take a batch of the vodka.
The largest order to date came from Great Britain. London North Eastern Railway is giving every first class passenger a miniature Vodka 4 Peace bottle. The start-up is hoping for more visibility and more orders from the transport industry.
Because of the negative reactions in Europe, von Gleichen is now launching her own social impact company in the United States, with “Vodka 4 Peace” as the first brand. According to von Gleichen, the feedback from retailers in the charity-dominated country was “much more enthusiastic”. The shelf space that became free after the ban on Russian vodka imports should stand her in good stead. The label with the Ukrainian flag, which the co-founder does not want to give up for the time being, is welcomed in the USA. The first bottles will be available from mid-September.
But it should not just stay with vodka. Since “Vodka 4 Peace” is not an NGO, the company would also like to grow beyond the war and support aid organizations with “4 something” products in the future. What exactly is not clear yet, at the moment the team is concentrating on Ukraine.