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

News Briefs for August 2, 2011

August 2, 2011

•Mike Kenton, who was tapped to lead Ascentia Wine Estates in January, has left the company. Jim DeBonis, Kenton’s predecessor as CEO of the Healdsburg, CA-based Ascentia, has returned to the position, effective immediately. Kenton, who was previously president and CEO of Napa’s Artesa Winery and Aveníu Brands (both subsidiaries of Spain’s Codorníu) was appointed CEO of Ascentia because both DeBonis—who helped found the company in 2008—and Ascentia “wanted to find someone with greater depth in the sales and marketing fields,” a Ascentia spokesperson said at the time of his hiring. However, less than seven months later, Kenton has departed, with a company spokesperson saying that “the board of managers simply did not see eye to eye with Mr. Kenton on how to best achieve success.” Ascentia’s portfolio is led by Geyser Peak Winery in California, Columbia Winery and Covey Run in Washington State and Ste. Chapelle in Idaho.

•Despite rising costs, MillerCoors has reported a 2.6% increase in net income to just under $400 million for the second quarter, due primarily to a combination of “positive pricing, favorable brand mix and continued strong cost management.” Additionally, domestic net revenue rose by 3.5%, but both retailer and wholesaler sales fell by 2.7% and 3.1%, respectively, as Miller Lite and MGD 64 suffered declines. Sales of the group’s Tenth and Blake Beer Co. craft and import division demonstrated double-digit growth, however, propelled by fast-rising brands like Blue Moon and Leinenkugel’s.

•Leading global glass packaging supplier Owens-Illinois announced that shipments of its wine and beer bottles to Australia and New Zealand have dropped 20%, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Owens-Illinois executive chairman, chief executive and president Albert Stroucken publicly announced that, in order to offset the region’s falling demand, the U.S. based company had begun a long-term restructuring of its Australia/New Zealand operations last month, allocating $50 million to go toward potential capital expenditures and severance costs. The news further demonstrates the difficult drinks industry conditions persisting in both countries, influenced by economic instability, reduced consumer spending and a strengthening currency.

•Restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse Inc. experienced a 9.6% increase in revenue to $279.6 million for its second quarter, ended June 28. Net income, meanwhile, rose 7% to reach nearly $16.1 million, while company restaurant and franchise restaurant sales increased 4.4% and 3.6% respectively. Despite the strong performances, inflationary pressures and rising costs did cause Texas Roadhouse’s results to fall short of analysts’ predictions, resulting in a 9.8% slide in shares. Texas Roadhouse currently operates more than 345 restaurants in 46 states, with at least 25 new restaurant locations expected to open in 2012.

•California Gov. Jerry Brown signed bill SB39 into law on Monday, prohibiting the import, production, distribution and retail sale of caffeinated beer and RTD products in the state. California is the seventh state to pass such a law—Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Utah and Washington have already banned alcoholic energy drinks.

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