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

News Briefs for July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011

•The Plainfield Village Board has approved Diageo’s plans for a $22 million expansion to the company’s Illinois production facility. The 63,000-square-foot expansion requires removal of the original gin distillery to make way for expanded bottling, processing and semi-works areas, as well as extra warehouse space. Construction will begin this year and is slated to end by 2013. This expansion comes on the heels of an $18 million project that ended last year, which included construction of a bottling facility to allow for packaging of Diageo products on site. Diageo’s Plainfield location manufactures traditional and flavored Smirnoff vodka products, Gordon’s and Booth’s gins and flavored malt beverages like Smirnoff Ice.

•Napa Valley-based Whitehall Lane Winery has unveiled plans to expand the winery’s capacity. The family-owned winery wants to double its 50,000-case production and has hired Edd Lopez, who has more than 18 years of experience in wine sales, as national sales director to help achieve that goal. “We now have ample room to make more great wine, age it and even a place to drink it with a good meal,” said winery owner Thomas Leonardini, Sr. The winery also made an expansion to increase production in 2008 that included a larger crush pad and a new cellar for the aging process, among other things. The winery produces primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, generally priced from $16-$40 a 750-ml.

•New York governor Andrew Cuomo has signed new legislation aiming to reduce the regulations placed on farm wineries by the State Liquor Authority. Known as The Fine Winery Bill, the law permits farm wineries to open up to five branch stores without having to obtain individual licenses for each outpost. Additionally, the law allows farm wineries to offer and utilize custom crush services, reduces direct-shipping requirements, eliminates the need for wineries producing less than 1,500 gallons annually to obtain a separate micro-winery license and allows wineries to participate in up to five charitable events each year. According to Cuomo, the new law will help New York’s 300+ farm wineries “continue to thrive as a key tourism, agricultural and economic engine” and contribute to the state’s $3.76 billion wine and grape industry.

•Research firm Nielsen, which tracks beverage alcohol and other consumer packaged goods sales across much of the U.S. off-premise channel, has added Walmart to its purview after reaching a cooperation agreement with the country’s biggest retailer. The accord fills a significant void for Nielsen, as Walmart—which ended its previous affiliation with Nielsen around a decade ago—accounts for nearly 10% of all nonautomotive retail spending in the U.S. market. Under the terms of the pact, both Walmart (including its Neighborhood Market grocery chain) and its Sam’s Club subsidiary will share sales data with Nielsen.

•In an effort to strengthen its North American business, Japanese brewer Sapporo Holdings is eyeing potential U.S. acquisitions, company exec Yoshiyuki Mochida recently told Reuters. Although the group had recently focused on acquiring a premium U.S. beer company, a lack of suitable targets has caused Sapporo to widen its net and consider alternative low-alcohol categories, including wine and ready-to-drink cocktails. Concurrently, Sapporo is also looking to increase its North American brewing capacity, either by expanding its facilities or contracting out production. The brewer currently moves 2.8 million 2.25-gallon cases of its Sapporo, Sapporo Reserve, Sapporo Light and Yebisu brands in the U.S., according to Impact Databank.

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