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Exclusive: Stoli’s New Distribution Footprint Takes Shape With Series Of Deals

February 25, 2014

Stoli Group USA has inked a series of wholesaler agreements covering nearly two-thirds of the U.S., Shanken News Daily has learned. The new accords will see Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC) and Charmer Sunbelt handle Stolichnaya vodka—as well as flavored offshoots and upscale extensions Gold and Elit—across wide swaths of the country, while Horizon Beverage will distribute the brand in much of New England.

RNDC, the U.S. market’s second-largest spirits and wine wholesaler, had estimated 2013 revenues of $5.46 billion, according to Impact Newsletter. RNDC will distribute or broker Stoli in a total of 15 markets. The company now has distribution rights to the brand in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas (the Georgia and New Mexico operations are wholly-owned by National Distributing Co.), and it will serve as Stoli Group’s broker in the control states of Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia.

Charmer Sunbelt, the market’s third-largest wholesale player with estimated revenues of $5 billion, will handle distribution or brokerage duties for Stoli in 11 markets, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York (metro and upstate), Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Horizon Beverage, meanwhile, is adding Stoli to its portfolio in five Northeast markets, overseeing distribution in Massachusetts and Rhode Island while performing all brokerage duties in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The three deals above come two weeks after Stoli aligned with top U.S. wholesaler Southern Wine & Spirits in 13 markets, including key areas like Illinois, California and Nevada. In a statement to SND, Stoli Group USA said, “An aggressive distribution strategy with a more collaborative approach to distributor relations is at the core of (our) plan to reinvigorate the brand.” According to Impact Databank, Stolichnaya sold 1.5 million cases in the U.S. in 2013, down from a high-water mark of 2.2 million cases in 2007, when it was marketed by Pernod Ricard USA.

Stoli Group USA launched as an independent U.S. sales and marketing group in early 2013, with John Esposito as its CEO. Stolichnaya vodka had been marketed in the U.S. by William Grant & Sons USA since 2009, and that accord ended on January 1 of this year.

In other Stoli news, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to brand-owner SPI Group’s rights to the Stolichnaya trademark in the U.S. market. Russian government firm Federal Treasury Enterprise Sojuzplodoimport first sued in 2004, asserting that the trademark is rightly owned by the Russian government and that SPI and its U.S. distributors were using it illegally. The Supreme Court let stand a second circuit court ruling from last August that denied FTE standing to represent the Russian Federation in the U.S. FTE has already filed a new suit seeking the same end, and citing a fresh assignment of rights to the brand from the Russian government.

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