Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for November 17, 2015

November 17, 2015

•Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. is acquiring the Milwaukee-based regional grocer Roundy’s for about $800 million, including debt. Roundy’s is the parent company of the 34-store Mariano’s supermarket chain in metro Chicago, founded in 2010 by Roundy’s CEO Robert Mariano, who’s expected to remain as head of both Roundy’s and Mariano’s under Kroger’s ownership. Mariano, 65, was chosen as a Market Watch Leader earlier this year by SND sister publication Market Watch magazine in recognition of the company’s expansive wine and beer selection. The acquisition gives Kroger, which has operated 14 discount groceries under the Food 4 Less name in Chicago, its first entry into full-price supermarket retailing in the market.

•Winemaking and grapegrowing are passions, but they’re also businesses. Every winemaker wants to know what consumers are looking for in a bottle. To try to answer that question, Sonoma State University and the Wine Business Institute conducted their second annual survey of American wine-consumer preferences, and recently released the results. Wine Spectator has a full report.

•Santa Barbara, California winery Zaca Mesa, owned by real estate magnate John Cushman, has been put up for sale. Spanning 750 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley, Zaca Mesa’s holdings include 150 acres of estate vineyards, planted with Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, Mourvedre and Viognier, and a 24,000-square-foot production facility, with a current annual capacity of more than 40,000 cases. The winery’s permit allows production to grow to 100,000 cases, and the vineyards are expandable by more than 100 acres. Zaca Mesa, which Cushman purchased with friends in 1972, has been owned solely by the Cushman family for more than 25 years. The estate’s flagship offering is its Black Bear Syrah, which retails for more than $65 a bottle.

•Heaven Hill Brands is launching a new limited edition Lunazul Double Barrel Reposado, which will be marketed through the end of the year. The 100%-agave Tequila is blended by the company’s Tequila partner, Tierra de Agaves, and aged in American white oak barrels before finishing in 11-year-old wheated Bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill. The Reposado Tequila is then blended with select extra-Anejo Tequila. Lunazul Double Barrel Reposado (40% abv) retails for $39.99, while the brand’s other variants retail between $19.99 and $29.99. Heaven Hill plans to release other limited edition Lunazul Tequilas on a regular basis looking ahead.

•Foxtrot, a beverage alcohol delivery service in Chicago that also delivers fresh food and other grocery items, has attracted $1.1 million in new angel investment for expansion. The company, which has a brick-and-mortar store in the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, is set to open a second location in the West Loop this week and add to its roster of 31 employees. For now, 90% of all sales come online, with wine and craft beer representing a sizable portion of that. The firm was born out of a business-plan competition two years ago at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where founder Mike LaVitola, a former investment banker, was studying for his MBA. His investors include Lon Chow, a local venture capitalist, and Kevin Price, chief financial officer at menswear retailer Trunk Club.

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