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Interview: Keith Greggor, President & CEO, Anchor Brewers & Distillers

May 5, 2016

San Francisco-based Anchor Brewers & Distillers saw its spirits volume rise 30% to 140,000 cases in 2015, and similar growth is projected for this year. With a presence in most spirits categories—as well as niche plays in absinthe, cachaça and Pisco—Anchor is benefiting from the consumer fascination with all things craft. SND assistant editor Kimberly Tharel recently interviewed Anchor president and CEO Keith Greggor to get an update on progress.

SND: Which Anchor Distilling brands are driving growth?

Greggor: We’re seeing growth across the board. In particular, Luxardo cherry liqueur has been expanding in what we call the cocktail modifiers category. (Luxardo recently debuted a 375-ml. size at $20, targeting at-home entertaining, while its 750-ml. retails at around $35.) We’ve also had success with imported whiskies like Nikka from Japan and Kavalan from Taiwan, in addition to our own whiskies Old Potrero and Hirsch. (Nikka is launching a Coffey Malt whisky at $75 to pair with its existing Coffey Grain entry, which retails at $70.) Junipero, an overproof gin at 98.6 proof, is also growing nicely.

SND: Where do you see specific opportunities ahead?

Greggor: One category that’s small but emerging is mezcal. We have Mezcal Amarás ($50-$60), a powerful liquid that makes some interesting cocktails. We’re also targeting Millennial interest in classic cocktails through our Tempus Fugit line of liqueurs, absinthes, bitters and vermouths (Anchor is now extending Tempus Fugit with a new Alessio Vermouth Bianco and a Vino Chinato aperitif). About 70% of our business is on-premise.

SND: What potential challenges loom for craft spirits?

Greggor: The market has become very fragmented, and the barriers to distribution are huge. There’s always a question of whether you can break out of your local market. For our imports, the key is to tell the story of their origins. Craft spirits are often mistaken for something you might make in your garage. But our Château de Montifaud Cognac is a seventh-generation, estate-grown, -distilled and -bottled Cognac. It’s made by true artisans. We’ve created our own in-house podcast studio and series to promote consumer education. Another goal is to increase production capacity for our own spirits brands. And we’re always open to adding new brands to our portfolio, but we’re looking for long-term relationships. Anchor Distilling started down this path in 2008, and most people thought we were crazy. But we felt craft was where the consumer was going, and we stuck with it. Fortunately, we’ve been proven right.

SND: You recently named Campari veteran Matt Davenport president of Anchor Brewing. How is your beer business faring?

Greggor: Last year, we did about 140,000 barrels on single-digit growth. It’s an extremely competitive and ever-changing landscape, with new products entering the market every day. I’m hoping that as an industry that we can focus more on quality and not just on beers that are different.

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