New Drinks for Mongolia

What do Mongolian mint vodka, lemon beer and wild berry sparkling water have in common? All the flavours used are made by WILD Berlin, Germany’s oldest essence manufacturer. And all these innovative drinks were introduced by Mongolia’s leading beverage enterprise, APU, after employee Gerel Ganchimeg returned from the MP in Germany in 2015.

Ulaanbaatar. For over twenty years, mixed beer beverages have been a fixture of any supermarket or beverage store’s regular product range. They account for a significant share of beer sales, and new flavours spring up all the time in hopes of beguiling the bored palettes of spoiled customers. Since August 2016, Mongolians have also been enjoying new made-in-Mongolia beer blends. Trend-setting consumers in Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet and Darkhan can now wet their whistles with “Bliss”, beer mixed with lemon and lime, grapefruit and pineapple, or mango and peach. “Our beer and fruit mixes are absolutely novel here,” Gerel Ganchimeg says. She is Head of Quality and Innovation Management at APU and was directly involved in developing the special beverage line. As part of the MP, she had the opportunity to try out 18 different flavours at WILD Berlin and brought her six favourites back home. Some now give Bliss its unique taste.

The jury is still out on whether Bliss truly appeals to Mongolian taste buds. But, as Ganchimeg learned on a tour of ArcelorMittal, even if it is a flop, introducing innovative new products is an excellent and essential first step. ArcelorMittal opened its doors to MP participants at its company headquarters in Eisenhüttenstadt in Brandenburg, where the visiting executives gained insight into both the company’s steel plant and its corporate innovation model. “It takes a huge number of ideas to generate just a few hits. I’d never realised that before”, Ganchimeg says. She immediately adapted the innovation model for APU. Today every production unit has an innovation box for employees to submit their ideas. Every month the three best suggestions are selected, and all the ideas gathered are presented to the management board every six months. The board then decides which suggestions show the most potential and are worth pursuing. At Ganchimeg’s initiative, APU is also trying out flavoured sparkling water. The new beverage is marketed as Orgiluun and customers can choose between wild berry, watermelon and grapefruit. For something higher octane, the enterprise has also come up with a new line of vodkas. Taiga vodka flavours include lemon and cucumber and chili and honey. All the aromas used are also from the Berlin flavour specialists.

APU has a history of working with German firms that predates the MP. It produces Kaltenberg, a wheat-beer, under license for König Ludwig International. It is brewed in Mongolia in accordance with the German purity law and APU benefits from the fact that many of its brewers completed their training in Germany. Some of APU’s long-standing German partners were willing to offer MP participants an in-depth look into various departments and share their managerial experience. During a visit to Jägermeister, Ganchimeg learned a lot about quality management. “We were using around 80 raw materials in production, but we didn’t have any kind of register or rules in place”, she says. The 45-year-old food scientist set up a raw materials catalogue based on the Jägermeister model, which is now in use at APU. Ganchimeg’s overall assessment of the impact of the MP is positive: “During the programme, I realised that German SMEs can serve as good blueprints for Mongolian companies. A lot of their best practices transfer well, especially within a particular industry”.