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She who dares to go it alone

After a major focus on the domestic markets, Rhuby, the all natural rhubarb liqueur founded by Swedish born entrepreneur Ylva Binder, has entered travel retail with Nuance in Sweden

Ylva Binder Rhuby

Ylva Binder first introduced her Rhuby liqueur to the travel retail sector at TFWA Cannes in 2011, but she faced a few trademark challenges at the time by a larger player. Luckily this has all come good and Rhuby remains the brandname worldwide for the Swedish born founder.

You may recall her name (nee Persson) having headed global travel retail with William Grant’s and Son or as the marketing director for the global Bacardi portfolio over many years. Now, after almost 25 years in the industry, she is running Rhuby, as founder and owner, out of Sweden.

She comments: “The launch into the travel channel has only been possible today. Firstly, I needed to get home base safe, generate other market interest to gain enough cash flow, and be ‘big enough’ to cope with the margin requirements of duty free and travel retail. Although having been away from the travel retail scene, I feel welcome back and people have their usual friendly faces.

“The domestic market for spirits does not offer the same premium trading environment the travel retial industry takes for granted. The mood of the consumers allows for differentiation. I am a firm believer in the channel’s ability to create brands with global cache. Having preached innovation, luxury and premiumisation for the channel for years - Rhuby is my response with all the intricacies and innovation, lending itself to gifting and that special occasion travellers seek.

“I was often quoted comparing the cosmetics and fragrance business to spirits, meaning the spirits category had stagnated. I hope Rhuby proves otherwise and breaks out of this mould.”

Now a mother of twins and an entrepreneur having previously been used to the blue-chip corporate – the everyday is different.

She remembers: “We launched grey goose in the presidential suite at Burj al Arab, Dubai, arriving via helicopter. A few weeks back I found myself carrying 40kg of samples on the underground in NY – having met 160 different outlets in three weeks.

“The beauty is the network and experience I have built up over the years. I call them angels. People spanning across 20+ years of my career having helped enormously and opened doors that I would otherwise not been able to open up. I find guest rooms along the way and the low-cost airlines make it possible to be international, ensuring costs are kept at a minimum and all my efforts are placed on building Rhuby.

“I am lucky. My family has had belief and trust in what I do and we now permanently live in Sweden, having relocated last summer. I have lived outside of the Swedish borders for almost 25 years and coming back home to my birth town with less than 3,000 people is different to the life we used to have.

“The most liberating feeling when stepping out alone is the freedom of taking decisions about the business in seconds and getting on with the agreed imminently after. Having twin-boys aged 3.5 years and running your own business has made me efficient. Prioritising and time-management is now part of my life vs. reading about it in management books.

“However success does not come without challenges. I tend to see these as mere obstacles to be overcome. Difficulties are placed in front of us to teach us something valuable for the future. With this mind-set there is nothing impossible and the important thing is to get up every day and continue with what you believe in and work with the people you respect and like.”

Rhuby supports the Pink Ribbon via the foundation set up by the Ylva ‘Pink your Drink’ running an all-female bartender competition every year and working in conjunction with retailers and on-trade to raise funds in small but frequent donations. More on this is found on

Ylva, having been one of the initial founders of WIT (women in travel) maintains the support for women in business. She is establishing which is a female only networking site and personally often speaks at conferences and universities to drive women to believe in themselves and dare to take the major positions, or go it alone.

“In Selfridges UK a woman came up to me and said – finally a great product for her. She continued stating the spirits market had so many products and variations for men. This is the first time she felt she could pick up something special with a mature flavour profile, making her feel adult, female and not needing a myriad of other things to make it great.”

Rhuby is enjoyed neat over the rocks as a good whisky – with low sugar content and the natural tartness of rhubarb, smoothened by bourbon bean vanilla. Ylva recommends you shake Rhuby over ice with a little basil in the shaker and pour straight into a Martini cup and decorate with a basil leaf. The martini glass is her personal favourite as you can “truly enjoy each sip and add elegance and respect to the liquid you consume – like an evening gown”.

The distinct tartness of rhubarb comes through mid-mouth, with an initial smoothness from the bourbon bean vanilla. The long silky finish lingers, highlighting sharpness from the natural rhubarb petioles. At 40 proof (20abv) the liquid surprises, offering a mature and elegant flavour profile. The low sugar content provides a light serve – enticing for a neat consumption.

Rhuby is hitting the domestic retail shelves nationwide in Sweden through Systembolaget in June. In the US, the liqueur will be available via Charmers Sunbelt, and in the UK via Coe Vintners.

Alexandre Binder, core category manager for the Swedish travel retailer Nuance,  concludes: “It is important for the airports to stock local products, making the assortments interesting for the travelling consumer. Rhuby fits the profile of gifting and the premium pack with its’ distinctive pink colour makes a statement on shelf, attracting a female audience into the liquor category.”

6 May 2013