Unloved elsewhere, how Trump Vodka immigrated to Israel
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Unloved elsewhere, how Trump Vodka immigrated to Israel

It was one of Donald Trump’s less successful business ventures. But his defunct vodka brand has enjoyed an unexpected afterlife... among Orthodox Jews, at this time of year in the Holy Land

Simona Weinglass is an investigative reporter at The Times of Israel.

Trump Vodka
Trump Vodka

Earlier this month, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sought to discredit the current Republican front-runner Donald Trump by mentioning several Trump-run businesses that had flopped.

“What ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.”

An article in Time describes some of Trump’s business misadventures, including Trump Vodka, which was introduced in 2006 under the tagline “success distilled,” and marketed as a premium vodka that would “demand the same respect and inspire the same awe as the international legacy and brand of Donald Trump himself.”

The brand was discontinued in 2011.

What few people know is that there is one country in the world where it has enjoyed an unexpected afterlife… in Israel, as the vodka of choice for Passover-observant drinkers.

“If you’re looking for Trump Vodka,” a shopkeeper at Yayin Ba’ir on Tel Aviv’s Ibn Gavirol Street told this reporter, “we should have it in a few weeks ahead of Passover. We don’t really keep it the rest of the year,” he added, “because it doesn’t sell that well.” (Passover starts on April 22 this year.)

A saleswoman in another store explained that Trump Vodka is made from potatoes as opposed to grain. As such is the only kosher-for-Passover option for those who observe the dietary restrictions of the holiday.

“But I don’t recommend it,” she cautioned. “It has a pungent flavor.”

Leftover merchandise: Trump Vodka on an Israeli supermarket shelf, March 18, 2016 (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)
Leftover merchandise: Trump Vodka on an Israeli supermarket shelf, March 18, 2016 (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

 

In 2011, according to Globes daily, Donald Trump learned from an employee who had travelled to Israel that a company called H. Pixel International Trade Ltd. was selling potato-based vodka in trademark Trump Vodka bottles that resemble skyscrapers, as well as using Donald Trump’s image to advertise the product. Trump’s original vodka, for the record, was not potato-based but rather distilled five times in Holland from “select European wheat.”

Marketing Trump Vodka in an Eilat nightclub in 2010 (Facebook)

In April 2011, Trump sued the Israeli company, despite the fact that the use of Trump’s name and trademark appeared to have been due to a misunderstanding. The Israeli company had received permission to produce its own vodka and carry out advertising campaigns from a US company that had the right to market the vodka in the United States. However, Trump claimed that he had revoked the license of the US company and that the firm’s transfer of rights to Pixel was unauthorized.

H. Pixel’s CEO Avi Eliyahu eventually settled the lawsuit and inked a deal with Trump to sell his own potato-based vodka under Trump’s by-then-defunct vodka brand. Israel’s financial daily Calcalist estimated the deal to be on the order of “tens of millions of shekels.”

A 2014 ad promises “Super-Premium Trump Vodka” + a six-pack of Blu + a Passover Haggadah for 99.90 shekels.

A press release dated September 20, 2011 said that the two sides “have come to an agreement to allow Pixel to exclusively manufacture, market, sell and distribute Trump branded vodka and energy drinks for the Israeli and the Palestinian Authority market.”

The statement also claimed that Israel is one of the world leaders in vodka consumption, with vodka being the best-selling spirit in the country.

Heli Edrai, an event planner and marketer in Eilat, has fond memories of a party she threw in a nightclub in 2010 to promote the beverage.

“Our target market was clubs and people who drink as well as people who keep kosher,” she recalled.

Despite the auspicious start, five years later, when contacted, Pixel CEO Avi Eliyahu said he is no longer producing Trump Vodka and does not wish to speak to the press.

Yossi Hertzberg, a former business associate of Eliyahu, told The Times of Israel that the contract with Trump ended a year and a half ago and was not renewed. But it will still be in the stores here ahead of next month’s Passover. “What you see coming into the stores is the inventory that’s left over,” Hertzberg explained.

Asked whether it might be good business to renew the contract should Trump become president, Hertzberg said, “Maybe. But if he becomes president, I don’t know if he’ll want to market vodka.”

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