CANADIAN HOPES NEW ICEBERG VODKA WILL FLOE INTO U.S.

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A Newfoundland company plans to make vodka from 12,000-year-old icebergs floating off its coast.

The first shipments of Iceberg vodka could begin to flow into the Canadian and U.S. markets by June. The vodka will be sold in distinctive blue bottles resembling the ice contained in the liquor.

The idea of making vodka fromicebergs came to Ron Stamp a few years ago.

"I just wanted to do something with icebergs, because the water is extremely pure, and 60% of vodka is water," said the founder and managing director of Canadian Iceberg Vodka Corp., St. John's, Newfoundland. "Our vodka will be made from the purest water in the world, because there were no man-made pollutants 12,000 years ago."

Mr. Stamp, an independent entrepreneur with no previous experience in liquor marketing, and his company will be responsible for collecting, crushing and storing the ice while the Newfoundland Liquor Corp. will transform it into vodka. The brand will retail for about $13.95 per 750-milliliter bottle, or slightly less than competitor Absolut.

A contract to distribute a minimum of 35,000 cases in the U.S. in the first year has been signed by Cabo Distributing Co., Chicago.

"It's a rather interesting concept that they approached us with. Originally, the project started with bottled water, then subsequently turned into vodka," said Meyer Moussa, Cabo's VP-marketing. "In my opinion, Iceberg vodka is literally fail-safe. It could be the next big premium vodka."

While Iceberg is priced to compete with Absolut, Mr. Moussa doesn't think the two will go head to head.

"I think it will bring more people into the category rather than take away share from existing brands," he said.

The 35,000 figure is fairly conservative in a North American market that sells an estimated 44 million cases of vodka a year, including 3.4 million cases of premium brands. Mr. Moussa expects to "greatly exceed" his target and double it next year.

Mr. Stamp expects to spend about 10% of revenue on advertising but will rely heavily on public relations to initially promote his product.

As a result, the company said it has been approached by about a dozen ad agencies from across North America eager to handle the account. Mr. Stamp has narrowed the list to about six, which he wouldn't identify.

In the meantime, the company is working on a few slogans, including: "More than 12,000 years in the making"; "Iceberg vodka. More than just the tip"; and "1995. The new Ice Age."

Mr. Stamp is also toying with the idea of offering bottled iceberg water called Canada Ice.

"My idea of the purest drink would be Iceberg vodka mixed with Canada Ice water served with iceberg ice cubes," he said. "I'd call it a Frozen Ghost."

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