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News Briefs for September 23, 2013

September 23, 2013

•Sonoma’s Truett-Hurst Inc. has released a new range of ultra-premium California wines packaged in retro-style square bottles. Unveiled at Hollywood’s W Hotel during this past weekend’s 65th Annual Emmy Awards, the California Square lineup includes a Russian River Chardonnay, Paso Robles Cabernet and a Paso Robles Three Red Blend. The range’s square-shaped packaging—created by Kevin Shaw of design firm Stranger & Stranger—is inspired by classic spirits bottles, featuring embossing and vintage graphics. The California Square brand will be in national distribution with Total Wine & More next month. In addition to Total Wine, Truett-Hurst produces private-label wines for chains such as Trader Joe’s and Safeway. It also markets wines under its Truett-Hurst, VML, Healdsburg Ranches and Bradford Mountain brands.

•Spirits volume growth slowed in control states in August, while value growth accelerated slightly. Nine-liter case sales in control states rose 1.1% year-on-year, compared with a rolling 12-month average of 1.8%. On the value side, control state “shelf dollars” increased 4.2% in August versus a year earlier, exceeding the 12-month average of 4%. Irish whiskey, with volume up 12.4% for the month and 14.5% over the past 12 months, continued to lead control state spirits growth, with vodka—which represents 33% of control state volume—up 0.7% in August and 1.4% for the year. Brandy/Cognac, cordials, domestic whiskey, gin, rum and Tequila all bested their 12-month rolling trends in August.

•Amidst a reduction of 85 corporate positions, Darden Restaurants has announced that president and COO Drew Madsen will retire from the company at the end of its second quarter, which concludes in November. Gene Lee—currently president of Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group—has been named to replace him, effective immediately. Madsen will work with Lee and the Darden leadership team until his retirement to ensure a smooth transition. Madsen has served as Darden’s COO since 2004. Meanwhile, Darden will expand the responsibilities of Kim Lopdrup, who has been leading the company’s new business development initiatives, to include Lee’s former post at the head of Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group, including its Seasons 52, Yard House, Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V’s brands. Same-store sales for Darden’s three largest brands—Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse—fell 3.3% in its recently completed first quarter.

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