Why This Popular Vodka Brand Just Changed Its Name

Many large retail brands have taken immediate action since Russia invaded Ukraine. According to Retail Dive, these include Apple stopping selling its namesake products in Russia, Ikea closing its stores in Russia and stopping shipping goods to Russia and Belarus, and Under Armour stopping sending goods to Russia. Meanwhile, Sainsbury's in the U.K. has rebranded its chicken Kiev to chicken Kyiv — changing the spelling from Russian to Ukrainian — per Ad Age.

One of the most popular vodka brands has also taken a stand against Russia by deciding to change its name. Food & Wine reports that Stolichnaya Vodka now plans to go by Stoli outside of Russia as a "direct response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine." 

There are two versions of the vodka brand. One is made in Latvia, sold everywhere in the world except Russia, and will go by the new, shortened name. Another firm that produces the liquor inside Russia will continue to use the full Stolichnaya name. An exiled Russian billionaire who opposes the Vladimir Putin regime runs the company outside of Russia via a Luxembourg-based firm.

A new era for Stolichnaya Vodka

According to Food & Wine, the decision to rebrand the liquor company stems from a variety of factors. In addition to the founder's political opposition, these also include company employees' desire for action and to clear up any misconceptions about the company's roots outside of Russia. "While I have been exiled from Russia since 2000 due to my opposition to Putin, I have remained proud of the Stolichnaya brand," Yuri Shefler, the Russian billionaire owner of Stoli Group, said in an announcement. "We have made the decision to rebrand entirely as the name no longer represents our organization. More than anything, I wish for 'Stoli' to represent peace in Europe and solidarity with Ukraine."

The renaming move follows a massive backlash against Russian vodka. According to The Guardian, state-run liquor stores in multiple states, including Pennsylvania and Utah, stopped selling Russian vodka as a way to support Ukraine. These moves, while symbolic, might not accomplish much against Russia, as only about "1.3% of vodkas imported in the U.S. are Russian," per South Bend Tribune

While the Stoli Group vodka sold in the U.S. stems from Latvia, the liquor company plans to use this name change to promote the Latvian heritage of the brand and harken in a new era for the company.