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News Briefs for August 9, 2013

August 9, 2013

•Tesco’s talks toward a sale of its Fresh & Easy retail chain to billionaire Ron Burkle have hit a stumbling block, and the most likely outcome may now be an outright closure or a breakup of the Fresh & Easy business, reports the Financial Times. Citing several unnamed sources, the paper said that while the situation “remains fluid,” Burkle’s Yucaipa investment group is seeking a longer timeframe before assuming complete financial responsibility for Fresh & Easy than what Tesco prefers, namely a swift, clean break to get the loss-making unit off its books. In June, reports surfaced that Burkle intended to relaunch the 200-unit Fresh & Easy under the defunct Wild Oats retail brand. Tesco said at that time that it was in advanced negotiations with a number of parties regarding a potential sale.

•A new bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2921) is aiming to change the federal excise tax structure on cider, one of the fastest-growing areas of the drinks industry. Under current law, cider below 7% abv is taxed in line with beer, but cider above 7% is taxed as wine, which can raise its excise burden from 23 cents a gallon as high as $1.07. In addition, more heavily carbonated ciders are subject to a “champagne” tax, which can drive their excise as high as $3.30 a gallon. The House bill—and a similar Senate bill introduced earlier this year—would raise the alcohol-by-volume threshold to 8.5% and the carbon dioxide threshold to 6.4 grams a liter, shielding more ciders from higher tax levels. U.S. Reps Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Chris Collins of New York are pushing the House bill, while Charles Schumer of New York introduced the Senate legislation. U.S. cider volume has more than doubled to 9.6 million (2.25-gallon) cases since 2010, according to Impact Databank.

Southern Comfort liqueur has released a limited edition bottle to celebrate the brand’s sponsorship of ESPN’s 2013 Fantasy Football season. The bottle, which is packaged in football-inspired wrapping, will be available nationwide starting this month, priced at around $16.99 a 750-ml. Along with the new bottle, Brown-Forman is also supporting the sponsorship with a Southern Comfort Fantasy Getaway Sweepstakes contest. Southern Comfort—supported by its recent “Whatever’s Comfortable” ad campaign—returned to growth in the U.S. last year, rising 0.4% to 1.25 million cases, according to Impact Databank.

•Heaven Hill Distilleries has introduced the limited edition Elijah Craig 21-Year-Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The release will be available in limited quantities in select markets across the country for one time only. It’s slated to hit shelves in September and will be priced at $140 a 750-ml. The 21-year-old Bourbon is packaged in the flask-shaped Elijah Craig Single Barrel bottle with a cork closure and marbled capsule, as well as a blue label with the age statement prominently displayed and the barrel number and “barrel date” on the back. The release follows the rollout of the Elijah Craig 20-Year-Old Single Barrel, which earned American Whiskey of the Year honors from Whisky Advocate.

•Brown-Forman is set to roll out the limited edition 2013 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon this month. Priced at $54.99 a 750-ml. bottle, the Bourbon will be available beginning mid-August in limited quantities at retail stores across the country. The vintage-dated Bourbon is packaged in a decanter-style glass bottle, designed to look like that of the late 1800’s when Old Forester was first produced. Each bottle also features the date on which the Bourbon was barreled and bottled. Old Forester releases a special expression every year to commemorate the birthday of the brand’s founder, George Garvin Brown (September 2). This year’s edition is the 12th to be created. The brand also offers the Classic 86 Proof and Signature 100-Proof Bourbon variants.

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