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The Other Guys Targets Double-Digit Growth, Preps New Spirits Launches

June 2, 2014

Since spinning off from Don Sebastiani & Sons in 2010, Sonoma, California-based wine and spirits group The Other Guys (TOG) has demonstrated steady growth, driven primarily by its core Leese-Fitch wine brand. Leese-Fitch, which accounts for roughly half of TOG’s total volume, was up 9.2% to 170,000 cases last year, helping contribute to a portfolio-wide increase of 6.7% to 320,000 cases. For 2014, the company is projecting total volumes of around 350,000-360,000 cases.

“For Leese-Fitch, it’s really steady as she goes. We’re doing our best to be stewards of that growth and be sure we’re maintaining not only quality, but consistency,” says TOG president August Sebastiani, adding that the brand has moved beyond its original on-premise focus to achieve a substantial retail presence. Priced at $12.99 a 750-ml., Leese-Fitch features a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Merlot.

Other TOG wine brands include Plungerhead ($14.99-$19.99), MooBuzz ($14.99) and White Knight ($9.99 a 750-ml.), which rose 6.5% to 42,000 cases, 3.1% to 7,000 cases and 53.4% to 10,000 cases respectively in 2013. Plungerhead, which recently added both a Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon and Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, is emerging as a focus brand, due in part to its strong margins. TOG’s Pennywise ($10.99) and Hey Mambo ($9.99) brands, however, have faced some softness of late, with the former dropping 11.7% to 50,000 cases, and the latter down 9.9% to 25,000 cases last year. Consequently, TOG recently opted to refresh both brands with new packaging, which has been received favorably.

This year, TOG is adding a new high-end wine, Gehricke, a small-production label retailing at $45 a bottle. TOG will directly oversee every step of Gehricke’s production process. The brand will initially debut with a 2012 Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir, limited to a couple thousand six-packs, in the next few months. Additional Gehricke extensions are likely to follow.

Meanwhile, TOG’s craft spirits unit, 35 Maple, has gained steam since launching in 2011, and spirits have become a key piece of the company’s overall strategy. “(Our wine portfolio has) a well-deserved reputation in the marketplace for having a retail focus, and that’s fantastic. But the spirits side of the book has really opened doors for us on-premise,” explains Sebastiani. “While spirits are a tiny sliver of what we do, they’re exploding in growth.”

35 Maple’s Masterson’s whisky ($79), which includes rye, wheat and barley expressions, has exceeded expectations, reaching more than 5,000 cases in 2013. Portfoliomate Uncle Val’s gin ($35-$40) is now at 7,500 cases, and TOG plans to expand the brand with flavors, including an American-style cucumber- and rose petal-infused gin as well as a roasted red pepper version. Likewise, the group will add 18- and 23-year-old extensions to its 4,200-case Kirk & Sweeney rum brand ($40) later this year. Finally, 35 Maple will unveil Bib & Tucker ($50), a new brand labeled “Tennessee Bourbon,” on August 1.

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