Distinguished Brands International – Street Talk VOL VI Issue 9

ITALY / UNITED STATES — Birra Dolomiti, a beer popular in the north of Italy, is now being imported by Distinguished Brands International of Littleton, Colorado. The brand is brewed in the village of Pedavena, nestled at the base of the Dolomite Mountains, sometimes called the Italian Alps. The Dolomite region was once occupied by Austria, and retains a strong Germanic influence, which extends to the region’s brewing traditions.

“Birra Dolomiti is a 100 percent Italian Pilsner boasting a snow-white, rocky head, bold golden hue, noble hop character, and sticky lace finish. Its herbal, floral malt compliments its mildly hoppy nose,” said Ty McCaffrey, marketing manager for Distinguished Brands International. “It is robust and thirst-quenching for the most advent adventurer and beer enthusiast alike. “It has a bold, refreshing flavor that captures the taste of alpine adventure. It’s the rugged purity of the Alps,” Mr. McCaffrey added. “Maybe that’s why it doesn’t come in a 12 oz, but rather a big 16.9 oz bottle only. Made exclusively with locally grown hops and barley and the pure mountain spring waters of the Dolomites, this is European beer at its finest.” Birra Dolomiti is available in 16.9 oz singles or colorful 12-packs of 16.9 oz big bottles. The retail price per 16.9 oz bottle ranges from $2.39 to $2.99. Look for the colorful case touting the Italian Dolomites. Birra Dolomiti is in immediate USA distribution.

COLORADO – The Boulder based Brewers Association announced on the annual Top 50 craft brewing companies. Rankings for the top 50 list are based on 2008 sales volume.

The top 5 are:
Boston Beer Co. – Boston, MA
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Chico, CA
New Belgium Brewing Co. – Fort Collins, CO
Spoetzl Brewery – Shiner, TX
Pyramid Breweries, Inc. – Seattle, WA
You can find the entire list at http://www.beertown.org/ba/media_2009/Top_50_Release.html

BELGIUM / UNITED STATES – Belgian antitrust authorities have been asked to start an informal investigation to find out if Anheuser Busch-InBev is making use of its dominance in the market to make unfair deals and contract changes with its suppliers. The Wall Street Journal also reported that AB-InBev is supposedly pressuring its suppliers into new purchasing contracts which could state a new policy of the company taking up to 120 days to pay suppliers after goods have been received. The brewer reportedly also cut back on its malt purchases which prompted some European malt suppliers to complain that AB-InBev is breaking its contracts with them. Its no secret that AB-InBev has planned on cutting $2.25 billion in costs in order to help pay for the $52 billion A-B purchase last year, and the brewer says that savings from suppliers will account for some of those cost savings. In the U.S., a federal judge too has been asked to hold a hearing to review the merger settlement with U.S. antitrust regulators.
IRELAND / UNITED STATES — The Official Beer of St. Patrick’s Day has long been Guinness. But 2009 was different – based on the beverage trades and consumer media, the new St. Patrick Irish darling was O’Hara’s Irish Stout. The chatter was much the same on beer blogs, “WOW! That’s a good stout! Smokey chocolate dominates and the sweetness rounds it out nicely. We know it’s not, but it’s almost a little oaky with some tannins.” O’Hara’s Irish Stout enjoyed its best St. Patrick’s Day sales, up 43% over 2008. And O’Hara’s St. Pat’s success has it further trending upward as it is now regularly the feature beer of the week at finer establishments up and down America’s East Coast.
O’Hara’s U.S. products are imported and represented by Distinguished Brands International based in Littleton, CO. Visit their website at www.distinguished-brands.com.

PENNSYLVANIA — Philly Beer Week and Beer Advocate.com was a buzz as Fuller’s shipped in its cask ales for Philadelphia’s just concluded “Philly Beer Week.” While there were many outstanding reviews by the many beer aficionados in attendance, none were more glowing that those for Fuller’s, especially Fuller’s 1845 Bottle-Conditioned Ale.
Fuller’s U.S. products are imported and represented by Distinguished Brands International based in Littleton, CO. Visit their website at www.distinguished-brands.com.
INDUSTRY – Nielsen data shows domestic tables wines are continuing to out perform imported table wines. In the four weeks leading to March 7, dollar sales for domestic table wines increased 6.7% and volumes increased 4.6% while imported table wines grew 3% in dollars sales and 0.5% in volumes. Of the “big three” importers, France, Australia and Italy, Italian table wines performed the best with dollars sales increasing 1.8%, but volumes declined -1.5%. French and Australian table wines declined in both dollar sales and volumes.
ILLINOIS — The Anheuser-Busch InBev distribution center in Mount Vernon is set to close by the end of the year. The brewer announced it decided to contract third-party vendors to manage direct premium and point-of-sale fulfillment business needs. It is believed that there are around 80 people currently employed at the facility. Nearly 30 workers were already let go during layoffs this past winter.

CALIFONIA – The latest proposal for a dime-a-drink tax in California, AB 1019, failed to pass through the Assembly earlier this month. The bill proposed increases of $1.07 per gallon of beer, $2.56 per gallon of wine for those up to 14% alcohol content, $4.27 per gallon of wine, sparkling hard cider with greater than 14% alcohol content and a whopping $8.53 per gallon of distilled spirits. Unfortunately, the committee only voted to take another vote on the bill on April 28th…More to follow.

INDUSTRY – It was reported by The Sunday Telegraph that Brown-Forman hired investment banker Lazard to explore different opportunities with Bacardi. Options could range from selling individual brands to a complete merger. The two companies have already worked together in the past in a series of distributor partnerships. It is thought by other industry people that now would be a good time for the two companies to start seriously considering a deal.

UNITED STATES – The Wall Street Journal reported in early April that U.S. beer imports fall 19% the first two months of 2009, the largest decline in recent years. The Beer Institute located in Washington D.C. reported that imports from Mexico and the Netherlands, the two largest beer importers to the U.S., dropped 13.5% and 26% respectively. More trouble on the horizon for imports comes in the way of competition from domestic “craft” beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Last year imported beer shipments fell only 3.4% – the first drop since the early 1990’s.
UNITED STATES – Wine giant Constellation Brands has spent much of its time over recent years buying up wine businesses. After news that Constellation shares dropped after the company released proposals to cut debt and costs which included a plan to cut 5% of jobs globally, it looks like the shopping spree is now over. In 2008, the company faced a US$301 million net loss. Constellation must now make the decisions on which brands it will keep and which may need to go.

WORLD INDUSTRY — Mintel has suggested that some six out of ten consumers are cutting back on visits to the pub in light of the recession. The differential in pricing between the on-trade and the off-trade could also have a role to play and a Mintel spokesman said that ‘fear along can cause major spending adjustments’. The polling organization believes that ‘it is evident that consumers are changing their spending behaviour and adapting’. Trade body the ALMR focuses more positively on the 41% of consumers who are not considering cutting back and says that ‘the pub remains the last bastion for many consumers’.

NEW YORK – Rumour has it AB-InBev is looking for office space in the Big Apple. Supposedly the company is in negotiations for a 30,000 square foot space on Park Avenue. AB-InBev has not confirmed the exact location for their new space, but did state it should be fully functional by the end of the year and is expected to have more than 100 employees working out of it. AB-InBev did emphatically state that New York will not be the company’s U.S. headquarters – that will remain in St. Louis.

POTTSVILLE, PA – Speculation abounded among distributors today over rumors that America’s oldest brewery, D.G. Yuengling & Sons, may soon be part of MillerCoors for the USA. At press Yuengling Brewery owner, Dick Yuengling Jr., could not be reached. Yuengling Brewery, with 20 years of positive growth, produces nearly 2 million barrels per year between their Pennsylvania and Florida brewing operations. The Brand is widely distributed, with its core distribution and volume in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

KANSAS – Legislation was signed by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius legalizing direct wine shipping to residents. Residents are now allowed to purchase up to 12 cases of wine per year direct from wineries and retailers. The new legislation will also allow wine producers to sell their products at farmer’s markets, as long as the market has proper approval from state alcohol control, and restaurants will now be allowed to store unfinished bottles of wine for customers.

INDIANA / WISCONSIN – Fat Tire beer is now available in Indiana and beginning May 4th it will be available in Wisconsin, mainly in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. Mothership Wit Beers and 1554 are other New Belgium brands that will be available in Wisconsin after May 4th. New Belgium Brewing, Co. was founded by husband-wife team Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan and is in the top five of the nation’s largest craft brewers. The brewery now produces six other craft beers besides Fat Tire and four seasonal beers.

INDUSTRY — Another “secret deal”, a.k.a rumor, being reported by British media is that Diageo is in discussions to make a bid for LVMH’s 66% stake in Moët Hennessy. Supposedly plans have been in the works for weeks, but no official approach or bid has been made.

UNITED STATES / MEXICO – Brown-Forman announced the company plans to cut 250 employees – mainly from U.S. and Mexico operations, however, Europe and Asia Pacific regions will also see some positions eliminated. Company spokesman, Phil Lynch, said some employees in the Louisville operations may be affected as well and another 60 employees have opted to take early retirement. The company has a global workforce of 4,100 people.

NEW YORK – Based on a notice that was filed with the New York state Department of Labor, Malibu-Kahlua International Co., A Pernod Ricard subsidiary, plans to lay off 50 employees in White Plains during a two week period in July. The report stated the reason for the layoffs is “economic”. Pernod Ricard had just recently announced that it would be combining Malibu-Kahlua with The Absolut Co. beginning in July. The consolidated group will be headquartered in Stockholm.

WISCONSIN — MillerCoors has reformulated its Miller Chill brand by reducing calorie and carbohydrate content and introducing new packaging. The new Miller Chill has 100 calories per 12-ounce serving, 10 calories less than the original and only 4 grams of carbohydrates, 2.5 grams less than the original brew and about half that of Bud Light Lime, it’s main competitor. Miller Chill will also now be found in a new clear glass bottle versus the green glass bottle. The new Miller Chill should be available country-wide in early May.
INDUSTRY – Based on food, drug and liquor store scan data from Nielsen, the dollar sales for spirits increased 4.2% and case sales jumped 3.3% in the four weeks leading to March 7. Value priced spirits had the largest spike in dollar sales at 6% and volumes grew 4.6%. Not far behind were mid-priced spirits with an increase of 4.6% in sales and 2.8% in volume. In third place, were ultra-premium spirits growing at 3% in sales and volume.
WASHINGTON — For the first time in over 50 years, U.S. consumer prices for goods and services are, on average, lower than they were one year ago. The Labor Department stated the consumer price index decreased 0.1% in March compared to February. Additional March price data from the governments suggests that risk of sustained deflation is fairly remote due to the fact that most of the price drops are focused mainly in energy and energy-related products.

INDUSTRY – The TTB has under review a current proposal that would require all alcohol beverages to display serving facts to include carbohydrate, calorie and fat content as well as ingredients. The current proposal does not, however, require producers to display the amount of alcohol per serving or the definition of a standard drink. The standard drink definition is a 12 oz serving of beer at 5% alcohol, a 5 oz glass of wine at 12% alcohol, and 1.5 oz drink of distilled spirits (straight or mixed) at 40% alcohol or 80 proof.

INDUSTRY — The M&C reports that the US Beer Institute suggests that beer imports into the US fell by 16.1% in February compared with a year earlier. A part of the reduction is thought to be due to de-stocking but underlying consumption would also look to be markedly lower. Mexico and the Netherlands, the two largest exporters into the US, saw volumes fall by 13.5% and 26.0% respectively.

CHINA – Y.R. Cheng, the head of AB-InBev in China has resigned after 15 years. Y.R. Cheng cited personal reasons for the resignation.

INDUSTRY – According to a survey of 3500 U.S. wineries, tasting room, wine club, internet, and mail order direct wine sales increased 7% in 2008 to a record $3 billion. Those surveyed stated that although some larger established wineries reported declines in wine club membership and tasting room visits in 2008, there were many small and mid-sized wineries that reported solid gains in wine club, online and mail order sales. As the consumer spending trends continue to move to the off-prem, small and mid-sized wineries remain “cautiously optimistic” in 2009 as consumers increasingly shift to wine clubs and online sales.

TENNESSEE — A proposal to allow Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine was withdrawn from a House subcommittee due to a lack of support from lawmakers and failure to reach a compromise with retailers and wholesalers. The final result? Grocery stores can’t sell wine, and liquor stores can’t sell beer.
Two other separate measures have passed the Tennessee Senate and have moved on to the next vote. The one that would allow internet sales from out-of-state wineries up to three cases per year is awaiting a House vote. The other that would allow consumers to transport wine from licensed out-of-state wineries into the state in their cars, which is currently illegal, has cleared the Local Government Subcommittee.

CALIFORNIA – Reports from The Press Democrat state that E&J Gallo is facing a $73,000 fine for illegal diversion of Russian River water into a vineyard reservoir near Healdsburg. The complaint came from the state water board. Gallo can opt to go ahead and pay the fine or they can fight it in court. However, if they choose to fight the complaint in court, they will risk an increased fine of $500,000 if they it doesn’t go their way.
WEST VIRGINIA — The previously announced April release of Yuengling beer into West Virginia is now being postponed, likely until May. West Virginia state law requires a franchising agreement between the company and the distributor and labels on packaging must be submitted approved by the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration prior to hitting stores. At the time of this release The ABCA had not yet received the proper documentation from Yuengling. Once the company completes its paperwork, West Virginians could expect to see Yuengling on the shelves within a month,” Gig Robinson said a spokesperson from the ABCA.
TEXAS / COLORADO – Dallas based Ben E. Keith distributors will be distributing beers from Ska Brewing Company in Texas. Ska Brewing Co. is an award winning Colorado based craft beer brewer. Their beers became available in Texas bars and restaurants in early April, as well as package stores. The brewery’s sales grew 26% last year, and it recently released its newest beer, The Modus Hoperandi India Pale Ale. This same brew is also Ska’s second beer to be made available in cans. The brewery’s first canned beer was Ska Special ESB, was released to rave reviews in 2003.
OREGON – The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) endorsed a resolution asking state legislature to reconsider raising tax on beer and wine. Lawmakers previously cut the OLCC’s budget while raising the surcharges on bottled spirits only by 50 cents. Their point is that the beer tax in Oregon, $2.60 per 31-gallon, is one of the lowest in the entire country and that it is unfair to expect the increased surcharge on spirits to carry the entire burden. There is a bill pending in the House that would increase the tax on beer to $49.61.
INDUSTRY – It is rumored that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) has been in discussions with United Spirits regarding purchasing a minority stake in the company which would put KKR in direct competition with Diageo and Bacardi. Both Diageo and Bacardi have been “eyeing” a stake in USL for the last several months. It seems KKR is interested in buying the company’s treasury stocks which would give it a 14.8% stake in ownership. Diageo is vying for equal stake and management rights in USL while Bacardi is possibly looking to buy brands and may consider equity ownership.
WORLD INDUSTRY – Estimates for 2009 barley production released by Coceral at the end of last month are as follows:
Germany – total barley acreage expected to make 1,951 thousand ha versus 1,969 thousand ha in 2008. Production is forecast to decline to 11,921 thousand tons in 2009 from 12,031 thousand tons in 2008.
France – total barley acreage expected to make 1,823 thousand ha in 2009 a 1.44% increase over 2008. Production is forecast to decline 4.67% to 11,758 thousand tons in 2009 versus 12,309 thousand tons in 2008.
Spain – total barley acreage in 2009 will be down by -11.68% to roughly 3,100 thousand ha. Production is forecast to decline 25.12% to 9,000 thousand tons versus 11,261 thousand tons in 2008.

INDUSTRY – Pernod Ricard has a deal to sell its Wild Turkey brand for $575 million to Campari Group. It was also reported that the company could sell off other “important but not indispensable” brands and possibly other assets such as real estate. The overall plan is to raise about $1.3 billion in new capital by selling non-strategic assets in order to pay down debt after purchasing Vin & Sprit for $8 billion last year.
In addition, Pernod Ricard’s founding family has agreed to buy out the 3.74% stake Kirin Holdings previously held in Pernod Ricard for an undisclosed sum. The Ricard family is already Pernod Ricard’s largest shareholder, and its stake will rise to 16.17% of the capital and 22.02% of the voting rights following the purchase of Kirin’s stake.