In an effort to broaden its fan base and diversify food offerings, the L.A. Dodgers are now offering Hite, a Korean beer.
Hite is a light beer and, at $6, it’s the cheapest beer in Dodger Stadium. It’s also the first Korean beer sold at a major league ballpark.
Hite, which is manufactured by Korean company Hite Jinro, started selling at the stadium last season.
“Considering it's first year last year, we sold about 5,000 bottles of Hite," said Martin Kim, manager of Korean relations for the Dodgers. "Compared to the big names, obviously it’s not a lot, but if I told you how much we sold this year, you’d be blown away."
The Dodgers expanded the number of locations selling Hite from six to 10 places this season. Sales for the Korean beer after the first two months of the 2013 season have already beat last season's sales, Kim said.
Hite only makes up a small drop of the alcohol revenue at Dodger Stadium, but Kim said the Korean beer is part of the Dodgers' plan to offer food and drink from L.A.’s diverse community.
“Obviously, as a Korean-American, I take a lot of pride in that we are able to share something of my culture with our regular fans, and they have responded so well to it, and it’s a feel-good story, definitely," Kim said.
Hite isn’t the only Korean product for sale. Cocktails with soju, a distilled spirit, are also staking out space. The soju in the cocktails and the Hite is manufactured by Hite Jinro.
Hite Jinro Assistant Manager Tae Kim said the partnership works like this—Dodger Stadium sells Hite and soju cocktails and Hite Jinro can use the Dodger logo on its bottles and cans.
“We are reaching out to people that would never even hear about Hite because we’re at Dodger Stadium," Kim said. "Other people that don't come out to Koreatown or don’t visit a Korean market would never hear about Hite."
He said Hite is the dominant beer brand in Korea — with roughly 50 percent market share. You can find it everywhere, from corner stores to nightclubs. Kim said the company hopes the exposure Hite gets at Dodger Stadium will help make the beer a household name in the U.S.
“They get to hear our name," said Jinro's Kim. "It’s in the back of their mind. Oh, Hite, I saw that at Dodger Stadium. We’re about to reach out to new demographic that we were not able to reach before.”
He said the Dodgers approached Hite Jinro after seeing the number of Koreans interested in the World Baseball Classic.
“After the WBC finals at Dodger Stadium, they saw how crazy the Koreans got for baseball, and they wanted the Koreans to come and cheer for the Dodgers," Kim said.
The Dodgers also added South Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, and several of his fans have tried the new beverages.
At a recent Dodgers game, Hite Jinro representatives handed out free samples of soju cocktails to baseball fans. There were two types of cocktails: berry-flavor Asian Breeze and pineapple coconut flavored Gold Rush.
Angel Garcia never had the soju cocktail before. He loved it.
“The stuff they sell here is, is terrible, it really is," said Garcia. "Dodger Stadium food is by far the worse. But if they sell this here, hey, it’s a little bit of an upgrade. I hope they do."
Other Dodgers fans, like Sean Otrakul, 25, were already familiar with the brand.
"I was very surprised to see it, but I understand why, because of Ryu," Otrakul said. "We have a lot of Korean friends and we drink soju and Hite beer all the time, and it’s good to see it at Dodger Stadium."
Right now the soju cocktails only sell at three locations, but the Dodgers’ Martin Kim said that could change.
“We don’t have huge expectations, but just the fact that we’re testing it out, seeing if our fans like it and if they do, then maybe next year we’ll do more," Kim said.