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

News Briefs for January 15, 2015

January 15, 2015

•Constellation Brands has named Bill Newlands to the newly created position of chief growth officer. Newlands has roughly 30 years of drinks industry experience, and was most recently president, North America for Beam Inc. He left Beam shortly before it was acquired by Suntory in 2014. “With the addition of a chief growth officer to our leadership team, we are creating a new structure within the business that will focus on long-term, margin enhancing and profitable growth opportunities across our beer, wine and spirits businesses,” said Constellation president and CEO Rob Sands, to whom Newlands will report. “Bill will be responsible for leading corporate strategy and business development, accelerating our new product development and innovation efforts, leveraging strategic insights and identifying synergies in channel management.”

•Constellation’s Svedka vodka is adding two new products, a 100-proof unflavored vodka and a new Grapefruit Jalapeno flavor. Grapefruit Jalapeno ($12.99 a 750-ml.) is intended to capitalize on consumer interest in fusing sweet and spicy flavors. The new 100-proof variant, meanwhile, carries a suggested retail price of $15.35 a 750-ml., and will “over-deliver with a superior quality experience,” according to Svedka vice president of marketing Diana Pawlik. Both new products will be in nationwide distribution as of March. Svedka, the third-largest vodka brand in the U.S. market, grew 3.9% to 4.1 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank.

•Blackheath Beverage Group has added The Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon to its U.S. sales portfolio. Launched by California’s Monument Valley Distillers in April, The Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon (around $35 a bottle) is named for film star John Wayne, and claims to be crafted according to Wayne’s taste preferences. Along with The Duke, Blackheath’s portfolio includes Atlantico rum, The Dalmore and Jura Scotches, Stillhouse Moonshine and Fernet Vittone, among other brands.

•Syosset, Long Island-based Star Industries has inked a new distribution deal with New York’s Empire Merchants. Under the partnership, Empire Merchants will serve as exclusive distributor for Star Industries’ stable—which includes the Georgi, Alexi and Majorska vodka brands—throughout the five boroughs of New York City and Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. In addition to its core vodka offerings, Star Industries also manufactures the Caribaya rum, Llord’s Cordials & Liqueurs and Donegal Estates Irish whiskey brands, among others.

•MillerCoors will launch a “naturally gluten-free” offering on its Coors line, Coors Peak Copper Lager, to Seattle and Portland next month, reports Ad Age. Leveraging the trend of gluten-free products, the brewer said it has developed a proprietary process in which barley is replaced with brown rice, malted brown rice and protein from peas and brewed separately from beers containing gluten, part of the gluten-free certification guidelines. The result is a light to medium-bodied copper lager with a malty, slightly caramel flavor, according to MillerCoors. The company will focus on the Seattle and Portland markets and does not have immediate plans for national distribution due to production limitations. Each 12-ounce bottle contains 170 calories. Rival Anheuser-Busch launched a gluten-free brand called Redbridge (made with sorghum) nearly a decade ago and offered it in all 50 states, but its sales have been modest.

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