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With A Revamped Spirits Portfolio, Halewood Looks To Build On Its U.S. Success

April 14, 2017

Since the arrival of CEO Stewart Hainsworth in June 2015, U.K.-based Halewood Wines & Spirits has undertaken a flurry of investments and acquisitions focused on upscale craft brands, ranging from its Liverpool gin brand to West Cork Distillers in Ireland. Hainsworth is now readying a significant push in the U.S. market, where the company’s key success so far has been Crabbie’s ginger beer. Crabbie’s was an Impact “Hot Brand” in 2015 up 62% to nearly 400,000 (2.25-gallon) cases, but it has faced some pressure since then. SND recently spoke with Hainsworth at the Liverpool-based company’s London offices.

SND: For a long time, Halewood has been known in the U.S. primarily for the Crabbie’s Ginger Beer brand.

Hainsworth: In mid-2015, Crabbie’s comprised 100% of our U.S. business. We acquired it from Glenmorangie in 2005 and brought it to the States in 2011. But it subsequently became a challenge for us when brands like Not Your Father’s Root Beer and Henry’s Hard Soda proliferated in the category. They’re typically priced at around $8.99 a six-pack, while we’re at $9.99 a four-pack. There’s a reason for that price differential: we use real ginger in our product that’s steeped for six weeks. It’s a true craft label, with a Scottish heritage. We’ve now got a lot of competitors taking up shelf space, and it’s become harder to grow the brand. But we still think Crabbie’s has some room to expand sales in places like Florida and California. We’ve discontinued some non-ginger flavors like lemon and strawberry-lime, sharpening our focus. We’re also planning a 3.2%-abv version to supplement our 4.8%-abv product, probably for some time this year.

SND: You’re now selling your Whitley Neill gin brand in the U.S. How is that going?

Hainsworth: It’s been in the U.S. for less than a year, priced roughly at parity with Hendrick’s. We’ll also be offering a J.J. Whitley elderflower gin at about $30 in a few months, and we’ll be selling our recently acquired Liverpool gin ($40), an organic craft brand. Liverpool also makes a vodka and rum, but so far they’re just for the U.K.

SND: You’ve recently been active in Irish whiskey.

Hainsworth: West Cork Distillers has seven years worth of stock, and has raised its production significantly. It’s been in the U.S. for a couple of years, retailing at between $32 and $40 for a 10-year-old malt. The brand has huge potential in the U.S. market. We’ve also got a stake in Pogues, and we’re planning to resurrect a brand called Gelston’s Irish whiskey that features 15- and 25-year-old Bushmills stocks. Also for the U.S., we’re planning a brand made by West Cork called Skibberson Eagle Pot Still, launching in 18 months. And our Sixty Six rum will hit the U.S. this year, as will a Crabbie’s 8-year-old blended Scotch.

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