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González Byass Sharpens U.S. Focus Following Key Acquisitions

April 6, 2018

After increasing its presence in recent years through a mix of organic growth and acquisitions, González Byass USA is refocusing its portfolio on a number of key brands that it expects to drive further gains looking ahead. This year, the company’s U.S. business is expected to total around 220,000 cases, representing an increase of 130,000 cases over the past two years. Over that time, the brand stable was augmented with Chile’s Veramonte wines and Mexican brandies Don Pedro, Presidente, and Azteca de Oro, among other labels. As the González Byass USA portfolio has expanded, so has the company’s headcount, which has risen by 50% over the past year to 30 employees.

Nicolas Bertino, a company veteran who was named CEO of González Byass USA last fall, says key priorities now include growing the Beronia brand from Rioja and continuing to develop Veramonte and the Tio Pepe Sherry range. While Beronia remains small, Bertino says the brand is growing well and will reach about 10,000 cases this year. “We’re encouraged, because Rioja volume was up 6% last year in the U.S.,” Bertino says, “but there’s still a lot of work to do.” While it’s known for Rioja, Beronia also expanded in the Rueda region earlier this year, opening a new winery close to its two local vineyard estates, Finca La Perdiz and Finca El Torrejón.

In the Chilean category, Veramonte, which was acquired from the Huneeus family for an undisclosed sum in 2016, will be certified organic beginning with the 2017 vintage. “The lower end of the Chilean category is struggling,” Bertino observes. “But we see opportunity in the $15-$20 range with Veramonte’s Ritual and Primus wines, and at the high end with Neyen ($50).” Meanwhile, Veramonte will launch a rosé of Pinot Noir ($12) under its core brand in June.

The Sherry segment will also continue to be a focus with Tio Pepe. Last month, González Byass held its first Tio Pepe Challenge mixology contest in the U.S., inviting bartenders to use the brand as a component in cocktails. At the same time, the company has noted an increase in neat Sherry drinking on the part of influencers in the U.S., portending further opportunity—especially for higher-end bottlings—looking ahead.

On the spirits side, González Byass plans to first focus on the off-premise with the Mexican brandies it acquired from Pernod Ricard last year, before looking to expand in the on-premise. “We’ll be able to give these brands more attention,” says Bertino, noting that Texas, California, and Illinois are the key markets for Don Pedro, Presidente, and Azteca de Oro.

Meanwhile, on an agency basis, González Byass USA recently entered the California wine category with the Row Eleven label, specializing in Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. Other key agency brands in the portfolio include Austria’s Domaine Wachau, Italy’s Farnese, and Champagne Palmer.—Daniel Marsteller

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