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News Briefs for August 11, 2011

August 11, 2011

•Nielsen reports that table wine sales for the 52 weeks ending July 23 rose by 3.5% in volume and 4.6% in value, to 127.6 million cases and $9.6 billion, respectively. According to Nielsen—which tracks wine sales in food stores, drugstores, convenience stores, liquor stores and other select channels (collectively accounting for more than 45% of the U.S. table wine market, as estimated by Impact Databank)—table wines priced at $9 and up per 750-ml. bottle grew 11.3% by volume and 9.9% by value for the most current 52-week period, outperforming wines priced under $9 per bottle (-1.5% by volume, -0.8% by value). The fastest-growing major table wine varieties by volume in the most current 52-week period were Pinot Noir (+14.1%), Riesling (+11.1%) and Pinot Grigio (+10.8%). Domestic table wines (+4.5% by volume) outperformed imports (+0.7%) in the most current 52-week period. Among import origins, the fastest growth was recorded by New Zealand (+32.9% by volume) and Argentina (+17.5%).

William Grant & Sons USA is launching a new Stolichnaya vodka extension, Chocolat Razberi, across the U.S. in September. The product will be available in three different sizes—750-ml. ($23.99), 1-liter ($31.99), and 1.75-liter ($41.49)—and packaged in a new frosted bottle. This is the first time Stolichnaya has launched a two-flavor product. Chocolat Razberi joins a Stoli flavor line already including Ohranj, Blueberi, Razberi, Vanil, Citros, Cranberi, Peachik, Strasberi, Blakberi, Gala Applik, White Pomegranik and Wild Cherri. Stoli’s U.S. depletions were down 1.9% to 1.8 million cases in 2010, according to Impact Databank.

Darden Restaurants Inc. has partnered with Mexico-based casual dining company CMR to establish a minimum of 37 restaurants in Mexico over the next five years. Under the deal, CMR will be charged with the initial development of Darden’s Red Lobster, Olive Garden and The Capital Grille brands in the country. According to Kim Lopdrup, senior vice president of business development for Darden, Mexico has emerged as an “attractive growth market” due to the country’s “growing middle class and strong affinity for American brands.” The three Darden chains join CMR’s existing roster, which spans 26 cities and 116 restaurants, including the Fonda Mexicana, Destilería, Elago and Chili’s brands, among others.

•Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) suffered volume declines in its key markets of the U.S. (shipments down 1.7%) and Brazil (down 2.6%) in the three months through June, but cost-cutting and price increases again led to strong profits—the company’s EBITDA was up 6% organically to $3.75 billion in the quarter, and up 6.3% to $7.16 billion in the first half. ABI’s overall volume, up 0.3% in the second quarter, was flat at 193 million hectoliters in the half-year. ABI says the U.S. beer market was hit by poor weather and high gas prices in Q2, but enjoyed a strong Fourth of July period. In the four weeks through July 10, market volume rose 1.4% according to IRI. Bud Light gained share in the U.S. over the first half, and Budweiser’s market share losses slowed, leading to the “best half-year performance for the brand in 11 years,” in ABI’s words. Meanwhile, at the high end of the portfolio, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Land Shark and Shock Top collectively grew U.S. sales to retailers by 21.4% in the first half. ABI said it would continue its strategy of “narrowing the price gap between our sub-premium and premium brands” in the U.S. market looking ahead.

Total Wine & More will open its 75th store on August 18th in Pinecrest, Florida, across from The Falls, one of the largest open air shopping, dining and entertainment complexes in the U.S. The new 22,000-square-foot superstore will be Total’s third store in Miami Dade County and ninth in the southeast Florida market. The store will feature over 13,500 SKUs of beverage alcohol, along with a selection of accessories and gift items and more than 150 high-end cigars in a walk-in humidor. Total Wine & More now operates in 11 states.

•Dan Gwadosky, former chairman of NABCA, has died at 57 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Gwadosky had a distinguished record of public service in his native Maine, where he served nine terms in the state’s House of Representatives and eight years as secretary of state. Gwadosky was appointed director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations in 2005, and it was in this role that he served on NABCA’s Board of Directors, including his term as chairman in 2010-11.

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