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News Briefs for October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012

Constellation Brands’ Black Velvet Canadian whisky brand is entering the flavored whisk(e)y arena with a new variant—Toasted Caramel. The 70-proof extension is available now nationwide for a suggested retail price of $12.49 a 750-ml. The brand’s lineup previously included Black Velvet Original and Black Velvet Reserve 8-year-old. The flavored whiskey category is among the fastest-growing areas of the U.S. spirits market, up 114.5% in case volume in Nielsen channels in the 52-week period ending September 15, 2012, lead by entries like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Beam’s Red Stag, Wild Turkey American Honey and Evan Williams’ flavored reserves, among others. In other company news, Constellation has secured exclusive U.S. import rights to Carlsberg’s Somersby cider, marking its entry into another fast-growing segment. U.S. cider volume rose 23% to 5.7 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank.

•Chicago-based Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co. is introducing a limited edition winter variety 12-pack, featuring a new seasonal flavor, Mike’s Hard Chocolate Cherry. Available this month through New Year’s, the Mike’s Hard Lemonade Winter Grab Bag will also feature Mike’s Cranberry Lemonade and returning seasonal Mike’s Winter Blackberry. Mike’s Hard Chocolate Cherry, however, will be the only expression available solely in the variety pack. The Winter Grab Bag, which includes four 11.2-ounce bottles of each variety, is priced at around $16.99. The leading RTD brand in the U.S., Mike’s Hard Lemonade was up 14% last year to 18.3 million cases.

•E&J Brandy has renewed sponsorship and marketing deals with a number of National Football League (NFL) franchises, including the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. For all teams except the Green Bay Packers, which have now partnered with E&J for four consecutive years, the renewals mark the second consecutive year of the relationship. E&J Brandy is produced by Gallo’s E&J Distillers unit. The brand’s U.S. volume for 2011 was down 2% to 3.75 million cases, according to Impact Databank.

•South African wine producer Val du Charron is launching the Girlfriends line of wines in Kroger stores across the Southeast. The line features five different wines—Good Girl (a sweet white), Wild Girl (a sweet red), Classy Girl (Chardonnay), Romantic Girl (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Party Girl (rosé)—priced at $9.99 a 750-ml. bottle. Girlfriends will be available on shelves in Kroger supermarkets in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Good Girl and Wild Girl initially launched in the Midwest last fall as part of the brand’s U.S. debut. Val du Charron wines are imported by Wyoming, Minnesota-based Amara Imports.

Central European Distribution Corp.’s (CEDC) financial woes worsened in the first half of its fiscal year, ended June 30, as the company posted a net loss of $33 million. Net sales for CEDC—whose vodka brands include Green Mark, Zhuravli, Parliament, Zubrowka and Soplica—declined 1% to $333 million in the first half, as second-quarter increases of 4.7% and 20% in the group’s core markets of Russia and Poland, respectively, were offset by a negative foreign exchange effect. With losses mounting over the past year, CEDC’s longtime chief executive William Carey departed this summer, and former rival Russian Standard took a minority stake in the business in return for help in alleviating CEDC’s debt. Russian Standard chairman Roustam Tariko is now also serving as chairman of CEDC, with board member David Bailey currently filling the CEO role on an interim basis.

•Darden Restaurants-owned Olive Garden has revamped its image, including a new ad campaign, lighter food options and a new line of signature wines. The new television ads—the brand’s first new campaign in nearly ten years—tout the tagline “Go Olive Garden” and depict various reasons to eat at the chain, such as for a family dinner, a date night or a wine tasting. Olive Garden has also added new, lighter entrée options to its menu that are less than 575 calories each, and has released its new Port Vita Signature Wines, which were created in partnership with Northern Italy’s Cavit Winery and include a Bianco, Rosato and Rosso, all of which were specially crafted to pair well with Olive Garden’s signature Italian dishes.

•Correction: On October 1 we incorrectly reported that fine-dining restaurant Delmonico’s will open its second location, Delmonico’s Kitchen, in Manhattan on November 1. In fact the new location will open November 7.


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