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News Briefs for January 3, 2012

January 3, 2012

•As part of its weeklong unveiling of the 25 Best Cigars of 2011, Cigar Aficionado announced the names of Cigars No. 10, 9 and 8 earlier today. For complete coverage of Cigar Aficionado’s exclusive ranking of the best cigars of 2011, click on CigarAficionado.com.

•Diageo CEO Paul Walsh has joined the board of satellite broadband firm Avanti Communications as a non-executive director, effective today. The directorship is the fifth for Walsh, who concurrently serves on the boards of Diageo, FedEx Corporation and Unilever PLC, and formerly filled a non-executive director role for Centrica PLC. Headquartered in London, Avanti sells satellite data communications services to telecoms companies in more than 50 countries worldwide. The most recent board appointment, meanwhile, has fueled rumors that suggest Walsh—who has served as CEO for Diageo since 2000—could be planning a departure from the drinks giant. Last fall, reports surfaced that Walsh was seen as a leading candidate to succeed Michael Treschow as Unilever’s chairman, although Treschow is expected to stay on for at least another two years.

•Pernod Ricard is rolling out Redbreast 12 Cask Strength in the U.S. as a line extension to its Redbreast single pot still Irish whiskey brand. A natural, non-chill filtered expression that is bottled straight from the cask, the new offering will be available in February, priced at around $65 a 750-ml. Redbreast 12 Cask Strength joins the core Redbreast 12 label, as well as its 15-year-old offshoot ($75 a 750-ml.). Alongside portfoliomates Jameson, Powers and Paddy, Redbreast has benefited from the recent popularity of Irish whiskey in the U.S. market, rising nearly 43% to a small base of 10,000 cases in 2010.

•The Comité Interprofessionel des Vins de Champagne (CIVC) said early estimates of global Champagne sales for calendar 2011 were up 3% to 330 million bottles, a bit shy of the pre-recession record of 339 million bottles sold in 2007. With the U.S. as well as emerging areas like China and Brazil expected to continue offsetting slow sales in Europe, the CIVC is forecasting 2% annual volume growth for the category over the next three years.

•The Craft Brewers Alliance’s Kona Brewing Company, based in Honolulu, has extended distribution of its flagship beer to the Pennsylvania, Delaware and South New Jersey markets, beginning January 17. The three markets will carry the beers in stores and on draught. With the new extension, Kona’s beer brands will be available in 30 states across the country. The brewery’s portfolio includes Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, Fire Rock Pale Ale and the Aloha Series (Koko Brown Nut Brown Ale, Wailua Wheat and Pipeline Porter).

•Effective January 1, minimum wage increases have been implemented in Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont. Washington experienced the highest wage raise to $9.04 an hour, up 37 cents. Washington restaurants are expected to be hardest-hit, as Washington restaurant employers aren’t permitted to use a lower hourly wage rate for employees who are also compensated through tips. A recent study by the Washington Restaurant Association found that nearly 70% of 450 restaurant businesses in Washington reported they would have to reduce employee hours or cut down on their number of employees as a result of this rise in labor costs, coupled with increased commodity costs.

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