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News Briefs for May 7, 2014

May 7, 2014

•AB-InBev’s U.S. sales to retailers fell 2.6% in the first quarter of the year—compared with an estimated beer industry decrease of 1.7%—as harsh weather during the period dampened demand. The company said the Bud Light brand family declined by low single-digits although its Rita line of flavored beers continued to expand via a successful launch of Mang-O-Rita and Raz-Ber-Rita extensions. Budweiser continued to lose share in the first quarter, but AB-InBev said the brand is making progress in stemming its long-term decline. Meanwhile, the brewing giant saw Michelob Ultra and high end brands like Stella Artois, Shock Top and Goose Island gain share. AB-InBev expects the trend in U.S. beer industry volumes to improve over the course of the year, linked to a stronger economy. Overall, the company’s global revenue rose 9% to $10.6 billion in the first quarter, with volume up 4% to 106 million hectoliters.

•Healdsburg-based Rodney Strong Vineyards has repacked its Sonoma County tier of wines. The update is intended to convey “high-end messaging” through a bolder crest and a softer, richer color palette, while emphasizing the winery’s family ownership and Sonoma heritage. The new look is making its debut with Rodney Strong’s 2011 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, which started shipping last month, and will continue with its 2012 Sonoma County Chardonnay and 2011 Sonoma County Merlot, which will appear in June and August, respectively.

•Following its successful launch into Massachusetts earlier this year, Yuengling beer will soon be expanded into Rhode Island and Massachusetts. D.G. Yuengling & Son posted the news on social media yesterday, and at press time no further details were available. With expansion into those two southern New England markets, Pottsville, Pennsylvania-based Yuengling will have distribution in 17 eastern states and Washington, DC. The oldest U.S. brewery, Yuengling had previously marketed its beer in New England, but withdrew from the market in the mid-1990s due to capacity constraints. Since then, the company has expanded brewing capacity at its Pottsville and Tampa, Florida facilities.

•Sonoma-based wine producer Truett-Hurst has reported 44% sales increase for its third quarter ended March 31. Year-to-date, sales rose 36% on the same nine-month period last year, while margins remained steady at 34.2%. Sales growth was driven in part by the group’s California Square, Colby Red, Evocative Wraps and PaperBoy labels, as well as strong direct-to-consumer sales of Truett-Hurst’s namesake brand and VML. Internet sales, which have been bolstered by Truett-Hurst’s acquisition of The Wine Spies website in fiscal 2013, were up 46% for the quarter and 58% year-to-date. Earlier this week, Truett-Hurst announced that it had entered the Canadian market via a new partnership with Vancouver’s Trialto Wine Group.

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