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MGP Takes Deliberate Approach With Its Branded Business

May 6, 2019

Known as a massive supplier of liquid for American whiskey brands across the price spectrum, Kansas-based MGP Ingredients has recently been building its own portfolio of spirits labels. The effort is being led by industry veteran Andy Mansinne, formerly of Brown-Forman and Aveníu Brands, among other companies, who joined MGP two years ago as vice president of brands. “We want our portfolio to be brand-centric, we want to build it right, and we want to go narrow and deep, meaning we want to get the first market right before we go to the second,” Mansinne tells SND.

The move to assemble a branded portfolio was born out of MGP’s long-term strategic goal to continue taking value share in the spirits category, particularly in whiskey. But Mansinne says the company is careful not to go head-to-head in the market with its customers, which have included brands like Bulleit, Redemption, Sagamore, Templeton, High West, and many others. “We won’t compete directly on positioning, concept, or price with any of our customers,” he explains. As a supplier to other brands, MGP’s premium beverage alcohol sales rose 5.9% to $188.4 million last year, including an 11% jump for brown goods to $125.9 million.

MGP launched its first brand, Till American Wheat Vodka ($18 a 750-ml.) in 2016, and it’s now in 14 states, counting top players like RNDC, Breakthru, and Southern Glazer’s among its distributors. While the overall MGP portfolio currently derives about 60% of its sales from the off-premise, Till has an opportunity to carve out a niche in the on-premise space, Mansinne notes, targeting farm-to-table accounts.

The company introduced its first brown spirits label, George Remus Straight Bourbon, in 2017. A high-rye Bourbon aged for an average of five years and bottled at 94 proof, Remus is named for the famous Prohibition-era bootlegger and retails at $40. The brand is also present at the high end with a Repeal Reserve expression (100 proof/$85), which rolls out every year on December 5 to celebrate Repeal Day.

Last year, MGP debuted a second whiskey label, Rossville Union Rye, in a nod to the company’s Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery, which originally opened in 1847 as Rossville Distillery. Rossville Union includes a 5-7-year-old Master Crafted expression that’s at 94 proof and retails at $40, along with a Barrel Proof edition that’s at 112.6 proof and sells at $70. Most recently, the portfolio expanded with the addition of Eight & Sand, a blended Bourbon (88 proof/$30). A mix of Bourbon, rye, corn, and light whiskies, Eight & Sand is a sweeter offering intended to appeal to a younger and less developed whiskey palate.

Moving forward, Mansinne sees the potential to add a gin to the range, noting MGP’s position as a top U.S. gin distiller. Meanwhile, the company will continue to gradually expand its brand portfolio into more states. Texas is up next, where MGP has partnered with RNDC. “We’re taking a long-term perspective with our brand portfolio,” Mansinne says.—Daniel Marsteller

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