Åsa Caap is best described as a force of nature – one of those people you come across from time to time who seems to have more hours in the day, more days in the week.
The 45-year-old Swede is the mastermind behind the Our/Vodka ‘local brand’ concept, which is backed by drinks giant Pernod Ricard. It started in Berlin in 2013, London opened recently and there are four more planned, all in the US, for 2016.
She first emerged in the drinks industry at Absolut, Pernod’s premium vodka brand, having previously studied marketing and then worked at advertising agency McCann in Sweden.
She’s an ideas person. She had two ideas – one for a tray with a sun shade and the other a device for tracking medication. She left the agency to start a distribution company for some international design brands, with the primary purpose of funding the development of those products.
“I get these ideas in my mind and I have to get rid of them. I never like to keep the status quo, I like to keep pushing and get things turning.”
Caap’s husband is a CFO for the big Swedish clothing retailer, Tiger. With all this going on, they have still managed to raise three children.
Then in 2010, Caap got a call from a headhunter. He asked if she knew anyone who would be interested in joining Absolut’s marketing team and, by the way, was she interested?
“I was like… (she makes a face as if shying away from a nasty smell), but it was Absolut, the pride of Sweden, a global brand. I was, like, super-tempted. But the idea of being ‘employed’ and having to go to the office every day…” That was not Caap’s cup of tea or coffee, let alone vodka.
“Then I was offered the job. It was a big chance, it was a wild card. It was so different. I did not know ‘employment’.”
Caap joined Absolut and discovered it had an innovations department. It was like a magnet to this Swedish inventor/entrepreneur.
“We had a smorgåsbord of possibilities. We were using the best agencies, everything was there. It was like heaven,” she says.
It was during this time that ‘local’ hit her. “Everything was about local. It was so…(she sighs). I had to put it to one side. It was not something for Absolut. But I started to think of a global brand truly relevant to local senses. You cannot cheat on local.”
Caap’s simple idea was to develop a local vodka brand, using local ingredients and involving local entrepreneurs so that it is grounded in its environs. The problem was seed investment.
She developed the Our/Vodka concept with co-founders Kalle Söderqvist and Mattia Nyström. “I met Kalle at a workshop and we just ‘clicked’. He was an art director and Mattia was at the same agency. Then he came on board.