Since learning to cook over the lockdowns, I’ve come to realise how frequently alcoholic beverages are used in Asian dishes. For example, rice wine can be added into soup noodles or seafood as a flavour enhancer, while sake is incorporated in many Japanese dishes.
On the baking end, some of the more common ones used are either rum for fruit cakes or Kahlúa (a popular brand of coffee liqueur) in tiramisu.
A few weeks ago, our home baker and coffee drinking colleagues expressed their excitement when they found out that Malaysia had its own locally made “Kahlúa” that they could use.
It’s produced by a 5-year-old brand, ReissJaden, which is under a parent company that’s been producing wines for European brands for over 20 years.
Using Malaysia’s natural resources
Other than its coffee liqueur—which happens to be ReissJaden’s best seller—the company primarily makes and sells fruit wines with ingredients like pineapples and Bentong ginger. Though this can sound foreign and unpalatable to some, fruit wines aren’t necessarily new in the global market.
For years, wines have been known to be made from grapes. Outside of Europe though, Asian countries have been creating plum, banana, and even pineapple wines.
According to ReissJaden’s website, Europeans hopped onto this bandwagon to start creating their own fruit wines just a couple of decades ago. And the brand’s parent company, Connoisseur Ambiance Products Marketing which produces wines for foreign labels, took notice of this.
Realising that Malaysia was abundant in tropical fruits, the company began R&D for its own fruit wines and eventually launched ReissJaden in 2015, led by the family’s 2nd generation, Dato’ Reiss Tiara.
“My dad, being a chemistry graduate, was very motivated to get into research to produce our own wine specifically with Malaysian local fruits. My parents felt that Malaysian fruit wines were generally quite underrepresented and wanted to present Malaysian fruits in a different light,” Dato’ Reiss Tiara shared about the brand’s intentions.
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But that didn’t come without some doubts
Since the family has been a wine manufacturer for years, there was little to no issue expanding their production to also create fruit wines. However, ReissJaden’s biggest hurdle came from the public’s perception.
Dato’ Reiss Tiara shared that the brand was originally challenged with convincing sceptical consumers to adopt its products.
“The public isn’t that used to fruit wines specifically when we talk about Malaysian fruits. We use Josephine pineapple from Johor and ginger from Bentong, Pahang. These fruits are popular on their own, however, the introduction of wines made of these fruits are quite challenging as these are new markets and areas of interest,” she shared.
Thus, plenty of marketing was employed through road shows, wine tasting events, and collaborations with other alcohol brands like Montblanc.
Likely targeting a more premium market first, especially with Dato’ Reiss Tiara’s connections as a socialite and celebrity ambassador for a beauty pageant, events held by ReissJaden included yacht parties, fishing competitions, beauty pageant events, and more.
Most attendees who got to taste the wines were usually surprised that a Malaysian brand could produce them.
Though the team didn’t share specifics on how much was spent on marketing, they did state that the return of investment has been satisfactory to date.
Expanding the target market
Upon gaining customer acceptance, ReissJaden expanded its fruit wines to also include coffee liqueur. This came after a realisation that there was a high market demand for such a product.
To capture a larger market, ReissJaden is planning to produce sparkling fruit wines in the future to engage with younger audiences. This would be strategic, as ReissJaden would be opening its products up to those who don’t consume alcohol but are looking for a more premium beverage at parties.
Dato’ Reiss Tiara reported that thus far, its customers are inclusive of those in the younger and older generations. The former like ReissJaden’s pineapple and lemon wines, while the latter prefer the ginger options.
“We were told that some customers even drink a sip before bed due to its health benefits. Some customers also purchase ginger wine for cooking although not the majority,” said Dato’ Reiss Tiara, who added that the brand’s current market segmentation is in line with their predictions.
ReissJaden’s beverages are best served chilled between 7 and 10°C, or on the rocks. The fruit wines have an alcoholic content of 14.5% in each 700ml bottle, whilst its coffee liqueur has 40%. Prices range between RM63 to RM83, depending on the variant.
Despite the recent MCO halting the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages, ReissJaden shared that its sales have remained consistent along with the rates of returning customers.
In the long term, ReissJaden plans to bring their products to the global market while hopefully raising awareness for Malaysian made fruit wines.