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

News Briefs for March 28, 2012

March 28, 2012

•Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) has unveiled Omission, a gluten-free beer brand launching this spring. Made with traditional beer ingredients—including malted barley, hops, water and yeast—the new range uses a proprietary brewing process to reduce gluten levels below the internationally recognized gluten-free standard. Omission will be brewed at CBA’s Widmer Brothers Brewing facility in Portland, Oregon, and will initially roll out in Oregon on April 2. For the full year ended December 31, 2011, CBA reported a 13% rise in net sales to $149.2 million.

•The U.S. has suspended Argentina from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits program, which formerly exempted the South American country from export duties on thousands of goods, including grape wine. The suspension will be effective in 60 days. U.S. President Barack Obama announced the decision earlier this week, in response to the Argentinean government’s failure to pay more than $300 million in court-ordered damages to two U.S. companies—Houston’s Azurix Corp. and Bank of America subsidiary Blue Ridge Investment. According to U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk, Argentina’s payment of the damages “would allow us to consider reinstating Argentina’s GSP eligibility.” Bottled Argentine wine exports to the U.S. rose 2% to just over 7 million cases last year.

•A group of beverage industry veterans have formed Clearwater, Florida-based Capital Brands, a new premium spirits company. The company is led by Ernie Blockburger (formerly of Ironstone Vineyards) as president and CEO and Bob Reider (formerly of Imperial Brands) as senior vice president and CMO. Capital Brands’ first three product entries come from its subsidiary, The Tennessee Spirits Co., which is led by former Imperial Brands executive Ray Steelman as senior vice president and general manager. They include Jailers Premium Tennessee whiskey (86-proof, $24.99 a 750-ml.); Breakout Premium 8-Year-Old American rye whiskey (86-proof, $44.99); and Forbidden Secret American cream liqueur (30-proof, $24.99).

•Bacardi has chosen Boston-based Mullen to handle Grey Goose vodka’s global creative account beginning April 1, 2012. The company takes over responsibilities from @Radical, who will continue to partner with Grey Goose on some branded content initiatives, like the original television series “Iconoclasts.” According to Impact Databank and Kantar Media, Bacardi spent $14.8 million in measured media on Grey Goose in the U.S. in 2011 (with $12.6 million aimed toward the core brand and the remainder boosting its flavors).

•Mike Kenton, a wine and spirits industry veteran whose career has included senior management positions at Ascentia Wine Estates, Aveniu Brands, E&J Gallo Winery and Joseph E. Seagram, has formed OFFbeat brands, a company aimed at marketing spirits and wine products to Millennials and Generation X consumers. The majority of the Petaluma, California-based OFFbeat’s brands will be created and wholly-owned by the company, with the first product launch scheduled for April 2012. OFFbeat will also represent a small number of international wine properties under its Luxury Estates & Domains division. Kenton was most recently CEO of Ascentia Wine Estates but held that post for less than a year before departing in August 2011. OFFbeat’s management team also includes former Codorniu S.A. international director Xavier Batlle, who will manage the new company’s global supply relationships, management and procurement, and international sales; Craig Moore, who has been named vice president, sales and Brenda Peterman, who has been appointed vice president, operations.

•Austin, Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a chain of movie theater/restaurant hybrids, has announced plans to open its largest unit yet in northwest Austin this November. The 265,000-square-foot space will be located within the Lakeline Market shopping center, also scheduled to open in November, and will boast ten screens and a large bar with a wide selection of draft brews. This will be the second Alamo Drafthouse Cinema with its own in-house bar, joining the company’s south Austin location opened earlier this month. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema first launched in 1997 and currently operates nearly a dozen locations in Texas, as well as one in Winchester, Virginia.

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