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News Briefs for January 18, 2017

January 18, 2017

•Johnson Brothers, one of the country’s largest spirits and wine distributors, has entered the West Virginia market through a partnership with Mountain State Beverage. Based in Summersville, West Virginia, Mountain State is one of the state’s leading wine and craft beer distributors. Under the terms of the deal, Johnson will join the Rucker family as co-owners of Mountain State. Johnson Brothers is the sixth-leading spirits and wine distributor in the U.S., with estimated revenue of more than $1.8 billion in 2016, according to Shanken’s Impact Newsletter. With the addition of West Virginia, the St. Paul, Minnesota-based Johnson Brothers now operates in 23 states.

•Rémy Cointreau has appointed Simon Coughlin to the newly created position of CEO of its whisky business unit. Coughlin, who was previously CEO of Bruichladdich Distillery Company (which Rémy acquired in 2012), assumes the new post after Rémy augmented its whisky business with the recent acquisitions of the Domaine des Hautes Glaces and Westland distilleries. Douglas Taylor, formerly global brand director of Bruichladdich, will become CEO of Bruichladdich Distillery Co. Frédéric Revol will remain in his role as CEO of the Domaine des Hautes Glaces, while Mark Breene—previously chief marketing officer of Rémy Cointreau Americas—has been appointed CEO of Westland Distillery.

•Diageo is considering upping its stake in India’s United Spirits Ltd. (USL), according to Bloomberg. Diageo, which currently has a 55% stake in the Indian spirits giant, is said to be exploring an open offer to the other shareholders. USL shares are down by more than 20% over the past year, making such a move particularly attractive to Diageo. Under Indian stock market regulations, Diageo may raise its stake to just under 75% without activating a delisting offer. At its current share price, a 20% stake in USL is valued at around $940 million. After a long period of meteoric growth amid India’s fast-rising spirits market, USL’s leading brands have struggled in recent years. However, it remains the market’s dominant spirits player.

•Absolut has extended its flavor lineup with a new lime offering, which is rolling out nationwide. Retailing at around $20 a 750-ml., in line with the core brand, Absolut Lime’s launch is being backed by a sponsorship of the 59th Grammy Awards (airing February 12), which includes TV, digital and social components. Pernod Ricard-owned Absolut, the U.S. market’s 10th-ranked spirit brand by volume, according to Impact Databank, returned to growth in 2016, inching up 0.2% to 4.1 million cases despite ongoing tough competition in the vodka category.

•New York-based importer Biggar & Leith has launched super-premium French import Spytail Black Ginger Rum in the U.S. Based on a ginger- and spice-infused recipe from the 19th century, Spytail is distilled in the Caribbean, then aged, spiced and blended in the Cognac region of France. The 40% to 42%-abv offering is packaged in a submarine-inspired bottle and retails at $22 to $24 a 750-ml. Biggar & Leith, which is led by William Grant and Proximo veteran Elwyn Gladstone, also markets the Malfy gin brand ($30) from Italy.

•Shaw-Ross International Importers has appointed two new vice presidents to its U.S. sales team. Dan Hansen, Jr., previously a western division manager with Palm Bay, has been named vice president of Shaw-Ross’s western region. Meanwhile, Andy Halpern, formerly president of Glazer Wholesale Texas, has been appointed vice president of the importer’s central region. Shaw-Ross’s brands include Chateau d’Esclans, Marqués de Riscal, Viña San Pedro, Real Sangria, Gekkeikan sake, Ron Barcelo, Glengoyne single malt Scotch and Pusser’s Navy Rum, among others.

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