A shot of modern Mexico

Mexico’s most iconic product, tequila, is seeing a surge in popularity. The spirit embodies the passion of the country, and Maersk Line is helping carry it to every corner of the world.

Shot Mexico
Tequila is exported to 120 countries. While the United States is the biggest market, China is the fastest growing.

Decades after it emerged on the global scene, tequila is undergoing a massive change.

The good old sprinkle of salt, quick and dirty shot, then chased by a wedge of lime, is becoming an ana­chronism. Instead, high-end artisanal, pure versions of the spirit are flourishing. With help from Maersk Line, the spirit is also reaching new markets in Sydney, Australia, Cape Town, South Africa and Tallin, Estonia.

“All the benefits of tequila have barely begun to be recognised,” says Eduardo Orendian, owner of the El Llanito tequila distillery in the town of Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico, which is the heart of tequila production.

The export value of tequila broke the USD 1 billion threshold in 2014. Tequila sales in the U.S., the world’s biggest importer, had grown by 63% in the previous decade. Premium tequila sales soared by a whopping 365%.

A unique spirit
In the past five years, Maersk Line has shipped one million bottles of the spirit worldwide.

“This is a beautiful example of the impact of enabling trade,” says Mario Veraldo, Managing Director of Maersk Line’s Middle America Cluster.

“On the one hand, you have a product that’s unique to a region, which nevertheless, anyone, anywhere in the world can experience. On the other hand, you’re also helping local communities position their products in much bigger market places, while creating jobs and improving social conditions locally.”

The numbers show the potential. In the U.S., the destination of 80% of the total exports, tequila barely has a 6% market penetration.


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Learn more about Mexico's tequila industry 3:40

Tequila received a Designation of Origin in 1974, which dictates that tequila can only be produced in Mexico, more specifically in the area surrounding the town of Tequila. Thus, the livelihood of the 70,000 people employed by the industry was secured.

Today, the Tequila area boasts 27 tequila distilleries.

“Tequila began as a spirit, but now it’s a way of living,” says Araceli Ramos at the La Rojeña distillery, the oldest tequila distillery in Tequila, with its production dating back to 1758.

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The world's biggest firms move to Mexico 3:21

Ramos, a director with José Cuervo, another tequila producer, has earned the title Doña Araceli, recognising her work, commitment and contribution to tequila and Mexico for more than two decades:

“These days we have tourism and a lot of events going on, but most importantly we have the roots, the tradition, the patience, the love and the passion for tequila,” she explains.

Tequila diplomacy
In 2013, China and Mexico signed a bilateral trade agreement dubbed the ‘Tequila Pact’ because the spirit is one of the major products Mexico will be exporting to China. Prior to this, pure tequila was banned in China, and the Asia Pacific has been identified as a key region for the future growth of tequila.

Eduardo Orendian, belongs to a fourth generation in the tequila business, and is a producer of premium tequila only. He has a simple plan to take tequila from strength to strength in coming years: Produce quality and tastings will win new palates and market share. After all, as he points out, there is room for so much more:

“The numbers show the potential. In the U.S., the destination of 80% of the total exports, tequila barely has a 6% market penetration. So even in our biggest market, there is great potential for growth – not to mention that in Europe, South America and Asia.”