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News Briefs for March 5, 2012

March 5, 2012

Diageo is introducing a new extension to its Bushmills Irish whiskey brand, Bushmills Irish Honey, available now nationwide. A blend of Bushmills Original Irish whiskey and real Irish honey, the variant will be sold first exclusively in the U.S. with distribution later expanding to global markets. At 35%-abv, Bushmills Irish Honey is priced at $24.99 a 750-ml. The Bushmills portfolio includes Bushmills Original, Black Bush, Bushmills 10-Year-Old Single Malt, Bushmills 16-Year-Old Single Malt and Bushmills 21-Year-Old Single Malt. The launch of Bushmills Irish Honey follows the success of Wild Turkey American Honey and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey. While those brands are liqueurs, the positioning is similar. Both sold more than 200,000 cases in 2011.

Beam Inc. has named Stephen Teeling global marketing director, Irish whiskey, responsible for marketing the Irish whiskey business Beam acquired in its purchase of Cooley Distillery, for $95 million, this past December. Teeling is the son of John Teeling, Cooley’s co-founder and former chairman. Beam CEO Matt Shattock said Teeling would manage brand and market strategies for Cooley’s Irish whiskey labels, especially Kilbeggan, which will become a priority brand for Beam, with the U.S., U.K., France and Germany (which along with domestic Ireland and South Africa are among the category’s top six markets), seeing the greatest attention.

•Walmart has announced plans for 13 smaller-format Neighborhood Market stores in California, with further expansion possible. Some of the new units, which cover about 42,000 square feet each (about one-fifth the size of a Walmart Supercenter and around the size of many Whole Foods markets), will open this year, with the remainder slated for 2013 openings. Nationwide, Walmart currently operates 167 Neighborhood Markets and is hoping to push that number to 300 by next year. The California expansion comes as non-unionized retailers like Walmart, Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and Fresh & Easy continue to take share from union chains Safeway, Raley’s and Albertsons in the state. With Fresh & Easy set to open five stores across Sacramento next week, Raley’s says it will close two of its locations in the area. Raley’s CEO Michael Teel has said its responsibilities to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, with which it’s currently deadlocked in contract negotiations, have hampered the chain’s progress.

•New York-based Lot18, a flash sale website for wine and gourmet food, has named Barbara Anderson vice president and general counsel. Anderson comes to Lot18 from Diageo North America, where she was director and senior counsel, focused on corporate commercial and regulatory compliance. Prior to that, Anderson was assistant general counsel at Terlato Wine Group. While at Diageo, Anderson developed the company’s response and strategy to the landmark direct-shipping case Granholm v. Heald, and worked on the integration of Chalone Wine Group after Diageo acquired it in 2004.

•Chef Gordon Ramsay will partner with his Gordon Ramsay Holdings corporate executive chef Andi Van Willigan on a restaurant venture called The Fat Cow. The restaurant, which will be located in Los Angeles’s retail destination The Grove and seat more than 200 people, is slated to open this summer. The European-inspired menu will feature dishes created using locally grown ingredients. Ramsay already has one restaurant in California—Gordon Ramsay at the London in West Hollywood—as well as plans to open his first Las Vegas restaurant at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino this spring. He also has three restaurants in New York.

•Newport Beach, California-based Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar has debuted a new cocktail menu at all of its 64 national units. The 10-item menu is divided into three drink categories: Retro Chic, which features classic mixed drinks with contemporary twists; Modern Martinis, which showcases Martinis with exotic flavors; and Couture Cocktails, which are chef-driven concoctions that have fresh ingredients such as cucumber and cilantro. Fleming’s also has more than 100 wines available by the bottle, glass and flight, various craft beer options and a selection of low-calorie “Skinnier Cocktails.”

•California wine exporter Thirvin International has launched a proprietary red wine, Stateside 2009 Reserve Blend. The wine is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Cabernet Franc from Sonoma County. Stateside will initially be available in Thirvin’s local San Francisco market. Specializing in exports to Asia through its Shanghai office, Thirvin represents California brands like Blackbird Vineyards, Gemstone Vineyards, Hendry, Curveball, Banshee, Atmosphere, 401K, Brigitte and Courtesan Wines.

•Vinexpo has announced the dates of the 2013 Vinexpo in Bordeaux. The exhibition will run from June 16 to June 20, 2013.

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