Liquor Industry News 1-19-13

Franklin Liquors


Pennsylvania: Corbett is thinking big on liquor privatization


Angela Couloumbis

Thursday, January 17, 2013

 It will be big, and it will be bold.

And when it comes to the fight over privatizing Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores, Gov. Corbett is sending word that he intends to take no prisoners. The governor is preparing to roll out his much-anticipated plan to sell off the wholesale and retail operations of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, according to several groups with a stake in the liquor market who have met with the administration over the last two weeks to discuss the proposal. All shared details with The Inquirer on the condition that their names not be used so as not to alienate Corbett and his team as they work to complete their privatization plan.


Though he has yet to put anything in writing, the governor and his team are sending strong signals that they want the system squarely in private hands, and that they are leaning toward opening up the wine and beer market to grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants and taverns, and big-box stores.One businessman who met with the governor’s aides described the administration’s tentative plans as “an all-out attack” on the state system that has been in place since Prohibition.Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Thursday he would not discuss details of what the administration wants but said a proposal would be revealed soon, likely before the governor’s Feb. 5 presentation of his annual budget.Harley noted that Corbett had long wanted to get the state out of the business of selling alcohol: “The governor is a proponent of bold privatization. That has been his consistent position from day one – and it hasn’t changed.”

 Corbett has said since his 2010 campaign that he sees an inherent conflict in the LCB’s dual mission of both regulating and selling booze. Private industry, he believes, can do the job better, and offer better service and lower prices to consumers.

 But in the last two years he has remained largely quiet as fellow Republicans in the legislature championed privatization ideas. This plan would mark the first time he stakes out a specific stance on the issue. And he is putting his second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, in charge of the push.


 Those who have met with Cawley and other administration officials say Corbett envisions auctioning off both the wholesale and retail operations of the LCB, much as House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) had proposed last year in a bill that died for lack of support.

 And, like Turzai’s proposal, the governor is looking to incorporate beer into the equation. Those who attended meetings said administration officials wanted to auction off State Stores and offer some of the licenses to beer distributors, who now can sell beer only by the case or the keg. Groceries, too, would be allowed to apply to sell wine and beer, as would convenience stores and big-box stores such as Walmart and Costco.

The numbers

Though the administration did not provide hard and fast numbers, at least two groups were told Corbett is considering allowing for 2,000 retail outlets. As it stands, Pennsylvania has just over 600 wine-and-spirits stores and some 1,200 retail beer distributors. Under the administration’s tentative plan, beer distributors would be the only ones allowed to sell the booze trio: beer, wine, hard liquor. Grocery, convenience, and big-box stores could sell only wine and beer.

A big part of the equation – and one that does not seem to be set in stone yet – is what quantities of beer and wine could be sold.

 One person who met with the governor’s staff, and who also requested anonymity, said he was told the administration was considering allowing beer distributors to sell six-packs of beer, along with cases; grocery stores to sell up to two six-packs; and big-box stores to sell beer by the case.

Matt Brouillette, who heads the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank in Harrisburg, was among those who met with the administration in recent weeks.

 Brouillette, a staunch supporter of privatization, said Thursday he was hopeful that what Corbett ultimately outlines will be what the public has consistently said it wants: an unapologetically privatized system.

 But he acknowledged it will be a tough sell that will require a tremendous negotiating campaign.

“This is an issue that has defeated many governors in the past,” Brouillette said. “To get it over the goal line will be an incredible policy feat. Despite the public’s belief that this is an easy layup, it will take quite a bit of moving of heaven and earth in the legislature.”

 Mixed metaphors aside, Corbett’s plan is sure to face a fight in the General Assembly, which has been loath to change the system. The typical arc of privatization proposals has been this: A bill is introduced. If sponsors are lucky, they get a hearing. In the meantime, counterproposals are offered. And the issue gets mired in inaction, or other issues are addressed while LCB privatization is pushed to the sidelines until the legislative session ends.

Still, Corbett’s proposal will mark the first time since Republican Tom Ridge that the state’s chief executive has thrown his weight behind privatization. And Corbett will have the public on his side: Poll after poll shows consumers overwhelmingly favor a private system that offers the convenience of buying wine and beer under one roof.

 Opponents – ranging from the LCB clerks’ union and its Democratic allies to socially conservative Republicans who want liquor tightly regulated – counter that privatizing would have dire social and financial consequences.

 Reached for comment Thursday, Wendell W. Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which represents 3,000 State Store employees, said he and his members were not among those summoned to the Capitol to hear Corbett’s plans.

 “Some people have worked for the system for two or three decades – and they don’t even talk to us about it?” Young said. “I’d say that is a pretty cold and callous position to take.”


America’s Beer Distributors Generate 130,000 Direct Jobs, $54 Billion in U.S. Economic Benefits

 Source: NBWA

Jan 17th

 New Study Measures Jobs, Economic Impact and Community Service

 The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) today released a new economic impact report – America’s Beer Distributors: Fueling Jobs, Generating Economic Growth & Delivering Value to Local Communities – that provides the first-ever comprehensive report on beer distribution companies’ total impact on national and state economies.

 The report, produced by Dr. Bill Latham and Dr. Ken Lewis of the Center for Applied Business & Economic Research at the University of Delaware, provides an in-depth view of beer distributors’ economic contributions by taking into account how beer distributor activities are intertwined with many parts of the economy, especially the personal services sector.  The report also accounts for the amount of resources contributed by beer distributors in supporting community events and local economic development, contributing to charitable causes and promoting responsible alcohol use and adds the impacts of these activities to the usual impacts of distributor operations.

“The beer distribution sector is a hidden gem that has been tremendously undervalued in previous economic reports,” said Dr. Latham.  “Fueling more than 345,000 direct and indirect jobs, beer distributors add $54 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and offer far reaching benefits to brewers, retailers, consumers and government agencies at all levels.”

 Key findings of the new economic impact study include:

     The beer distribution industry directly employs more than 130,000 people in the United States.

    When the impacts of distributor capital investment and community involvement are considered, the total number of impact jobs exceeds 345,000.

    Beer distributors add $54 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product.

    Beer distributor activities contribute nearly $10.3 billion to the federal, state and local tax bases. This does not include the nearly $11 billion in federal, state and local alcohol excise and consumption taxes.

    The beer distribution industry contributes more than $22 billion in transportation efficiencies for the beer industry each year.

    Beer distributor contributions to local community activities generate $175 million in impacts annually.

“With more than 3,300 independent beer distribution companies directly employing more than 130,000 hardworking men and women in communities across the country, America’s beer distribution industry provides significant economic value,” said NBWA President & CEO Craig Purser.

 “Distributors deliver economic benefits in their communities through local business-to-business commerce, investments in local infrastructure and capital assets and tax revenue.  They provide services that improve efficiency for trading partners, especially small brewers and retailers, and they ensure fair prices and a broad selection of products for consumers to enjoy.  This new economic impact report offers a thorough look at many of these previously unreported economic benefits.”

 To view the full report, including state by state data, please visit  Click here to view data on the economic impact of beer distributors on the United States as a whole.

 The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) represents the interests of America’s 3,300 licensed, independent beer distributor operations in every state, congressional district and media market across the country. Beer distributors are committed to ensuring alcohol is provided safely and responsibly to consumers of legal drinking age through the three-tier, state-based system of alcohol regulation and distribution.  To learn more about America’s beer distributors, visit For additional updates from NBWA, follow @MrBeerGuy on Twitter and visit


Beer Distributors Say Yes To Middlemen

 Source: WSJ

By Joseph B. White

Jan 17th

How can you tell when a particular industry feels threatened? One telltale is when its trade group issues a report promoting how many jobs the industry in question supports.

 The National Beer Wholesalers Association today put out a 125-page report detailing the economic benefits of the current system that governs beer distribution in the United States – a so-callled “three-tier” system developed as part of the legal framework to repeal  Prohibition. (The aim then was to prevent beer brewers and liquor distillers from acquiring too much power over the sale of their wares to consumers.)

 The NBWA report says beer distributors directly employ 130,000 people and generate some $54 billion to the gross domestic product.

 The NBWA study comes less than a month after the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C. policy shop, launched a broadside against the three-tier system, saying the existence of legally-protected middlemen drives up consumer costs and threatens the vibrancy of the craft beer industry by making it harder for microbrewers to sell their beer directly to bars or retail stores.

 The CEI white paper was in turn a response to a December broadside from the liberal-leaning New America Foundation that called for protection of the three-tier distribution system as a barrier to big brewers’ efforts to establish hegemony over the U.S. beer market. An article in a recent edition of Washington Monthly argued that allowing big beer and liquor producers to control distribution and drive down consumer prices for alcoholic beverages could lead to an increase in excessive drinking.

 Some big beer producers – such as SAB Miller and Anheuser Busch-InBev NV – and some big alcohol retailers such as big-box discounter Costco, have been skirmishing with beer distributors for several years trying to weaken the hold distributors have over the business. InBev executives have suggested in interviews that they’d like to have more control over distribution the better to assure that more Budweiser and other InBev brews are on the shelves at lower costs.

 The jockeying among the interests in the beer supply chain reflects many larger disputes over whether government regulation of commerce protects consumer interests, or the interests of incumbents who profit from the regulatory status quo.

 Fortunately, whether because of the three-tier system or despite it, it’s relatively easy to find a bar in any decent-sized city with a wide choice of flavorful brews that can push aside, if temporarily, worries about how tangled the U.S. economy is in laws designed for another era.


The CDC Says Women Are Chugging Their Way To Doom; But What Does The Data Say?

 Source: Forbes

Jan 17th

 A new year, a new promise of things getting worse:

“Binge drinking among women and girls is a health problem that is serious but under-recognized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in a report today,” reported USA Today.

“You might be tempted to think binge drinking is mainly an issue for men, but that’s not the case. So the CDC is putting the spotlight on women’s binge drinking, which it says is both dangerous and overlooked,” reported NPR.

“Previous reports have focused on higher rates of binge drinking among males, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its report, aims to raise awareness of binge drinking among women as a serious problem that’s held steady for more than a decade,” said CNN.

 “Chug! Chug! Chug! Why More Women Are Binge Drinking,” ran the headline in Time.

“Ok, parents of daughters. Time to get worried again,” began a story in the Christian Science Monitor headlined “CDC: Binge drinking among teen girls increasing.”

 Let’s agree that binge drinking is really – really – something girls and women shouldn’t do for short, but especially for long-term, health reasons. It is not a behavior that one can trivialize. But did the media report something that was true?

 First, is binge drinking among girls and women an overlooked issue? Consider the results of a not-terribly deep Google/Factiva survey of news stories specifically focusing on female binge drinking from the past ten years:

 2002: Drinking still on rise at women’s colleges – New York Times

2003: Teenagers on a Binge – New York Times

2004: Wisconsin is ranked worst for binge-drinking women  – Associated Press

2005: Women more affected by binge drinking – New Scientist

2006: More Girls Binge Drinking – Kansas City Star

2007: Rise in alcohol abuse by college women – WebMD

2008: Women Who Binge Drink At Greater Risk Of Unsafe Sex And Sexually Transmitted Disease – Science Daily

2009: Growing Problem: Women Driving Drunk – CBS Early Show

2010: The rise of binge drinking women – Salon

2011: Binge-Drinking Among Women Is Up: Study – Huffington Post

2012: Study: Female college students more likely to binge drink than males – Consumer Affairs

 One could add many more – and you can find the issue discussed in such gender terms before 2002 too. It is certainly true that binge drinking stories in the media in the early 1990s, especially about kids binge drinking did not mention any gender differences, but this may well have been because the surveys didn’t break down such data by sex.

 Second, are more girls and women binge drinking than ever before? If you go to the data that the CDC compiles (and bases its new analysis on), binge drinking among high school-aged girls has been declining; more to the point, if you were to come up with something new to say about this problem it is that the latest data from 2011 shows that high school-aged girls are binge drinking less often than at any point in the last 20 years.

 Had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple of hours on at least 1 day (during the 30 days before the survey)

 Among Female Students High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey

1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011

25.9   26.0   28.6   28.6   28.1   26.4   27.5   23.5   24.1   23.4   19.8

 This tracks with the other major survey, Monitoring the Future, which looks at alcohol use and, specifically, binge drinking among eight, 10 and 12th-graders, in terms of having had five plus drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks. The survey shows a notable decline among 12th graders since the 1970s – where the prevalence of binge drinking had exceeded 40 percent. As the survey added eight and 10th graders in the 1990s, it also shows gradual declines among these groups. It does not disaggregate the grades by sex.

One of the problems assessing longitudinal trends in binge drinking among women is that the CDC didn’t settle on a stable measure as it did with high school students. For 2010, its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey showed that the annual prevalence for “women of childbearing age” (those aged 18-44 reporting four or more drinks on one occasion during the previous 30 days) was 15.4 percent.

 In 2012, the CDC aggregated data from 2006 to 2010 to come up with an overall prevalence of 15.0 percent. Unlike the high school survey, the CDC doesn’t provide any easy way to disaggregate this data from year-to-year, in part because the CDC says their data from 2011 isn’t comparable with previous years due to changes in methodology. However, the report for 2011 – the one generating lots of media coverage – found an overall binge drinking prevalence rate of 12.5 percent for women over the age of 18, which suggests a decline. (the prevalence of binge drinking among pregnant women is 1.4 percent, in case you’re wondering).

You’ll also note the problem in the BRFSS defining binge drinking as four or more drinks for women, while the YRBS defines it as five or more drinks.

In sum, the problem of girls and women binge drinking has not been overlooked – at least not by the media over the past decade – while at the same time the problem appears to have declined to the lowest levels in 20 years, at least among high school girls, which is contrary to the message promulgated by the CDC. So, by simply repeating the CDC’s claims, the media coverage is accurate and, well, wrong.

But what’s the harm, you might say, in being wrong if it draws attention to a social problem, which ideally should have a prevalence of zero percent?

Well, for a start, social science research – notably the famous hotel towel study – shows that people are much more likely to behave in socially responsible ways if they know the majority of other people are behaving in socially responsible ways. From the perspective of social norming, it might be far more productive to promote the decreasing popularity of binge drinking as a way of encouraging girls and women not to binge drink.

 If things are getting worse – if more and more people are perceived to be doing the wrong thing – the solution is often more and more regulation. The CDC is closely intertwined with – indeed, it funds – the US Community Preventative Services Task Force, which in turn relies on the CDC for expert guidance on health issues. The Task Force has recommended various policies for restricting alcohol, including limiting sales, limiting privatization of state liquor stores, and increasing taxes. And the CDC’s report, in turn, cites the recommendations of the Task Force as a way to reduce binge drinking.

 Obviously, it’s harder to get politicians to agree to such proposals if the data shows a problem might be improving. Less obviously, it is far from clear whether such restrictions would, in fact, lead to a further decrease in binge drinking.

 This is why the CDC claims needed to be checked out against their data. And this leads one to end on a different question: What use is – what value has – news that utterly fails to do that?


Lawmakers demand data on energy drinks

 Source: FT

By Alan Rappeport in Washington

Jan 17th


US lawmakers stepped up their investigation into energy drinks on Thursday, demanding that companies making products such as Monster, AMP, Red Bull and Rockstar hand over internal documents that prove they are safe.

 The highly caffeinated drinks have been the subject of government scrutiny in recent months since the US Food and Drug Administration disclosed reports of several deaths associated with Monster and 5-hour Energy.

The controversy has also called into question why energy drinks, which are usually sold next to regular beverages such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, are classified as nutritional supplements and face looser regulation.

 Senators Richard Blumenthal and Richard Durbin and Representative Ed Markey asked 14 energy drink companies to explain why they classify themselves as supplements and to provide information about the caffeine content of their drinks and any safety studies they have undertaken.

 “One of the major concerns surrounding energy drinks is the potential health risks to children who consume these products,” they wrote. “Furthermore, questions have been raised about the combination of high levels of caffeine with other stimulant ingredients.”

 Those fears were buttressed by a recent study by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that found emergency room visits linked to energy drinks jumped from 10,000 in 2007 to 20,000 in 2011.

The FDA is studying the relationship between caffeine and other stimulants such as guarana and taurine that are in energy drinks. The health regulator said in November that it had not found studies showing those mixes of ingredients to be dangerous.


Tesco axes jobs as it prepares a US exit

Source: FT

By Andrea Felsted, Senior Retail Correspondent

Jan 17th

Tesco is cutting about 50 jobs at its Fresh & Easy business as it prepares to exit the US.

 The retailer, which said last month it was reviewing the future of Fresh & Easy, is cutting about 45 jobs at its head office in Los Angeles, in areas including property.

Tesco said: “We have cut a small number of positions in the head office as we continue the strategic review of the business. All our stores remain open and it is business as usual for customers and store employees.”

 The latest cuts follow the loss of about another 50 jobs last July, when the unit put significant new store openings on hold, in an effort to drive the chain to profitability.

 Last month, Philip Clarke, chief executive of Tesco, admitted that this had not been possible and that the business had “failed”.

 The latest job cuts, first reported by Fresh & Easy Buzz, a blog covering the US grocery industry, are in areas associated with expanding the business, according to people familiar with the situation.

The cuts come as Tesco is expected to say that it is quitting the US when it announces its annual results in April.

Tesco said last month that it was reviewing the future of the US business and would part company with Tesco veteran Tim Mason, chief executive of Fresh & Easy, and the group’s deputy chief executive. It also appointed investment bank Greenhill to lead the review.

 Mr Clarke said at the time the US review was announced that he expected it to lead to a withdrawal from the country in which Tesco has invested about £1bn since 2007.


American hangover for AB InBev


Regulatory concerns could damage Modelo deal

 Source: FT / Lex

Jan 17th

 AB InBev is not having a great January. Any joy the brewer might have felt after raising $4bn of debt at rates as low as 0.8 per cent this week will have been tempered by regulatory woes on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, it was told that it has to share the Budweiser name with rival Budvar. More seriously, in the US it is haggling with regulators over its $20bn acquisition of Modelo, whose brands include Corona.


The big issue is market share – the combined company would have a 55 per cent share of the US beer market by volume. AB InBev’s attempt to soothe regulatory concerns by handing control of Crown Imports (which distributes Modelo’s drinks in the US) to Constellation Brands – limiting the combined market share to 49 per cent – might not be enough. It may also have to give up its option to buy Crown, which can be exercised every 10 years. And if that is not enough, it might have to tweak its supply agreement with Crown or even allow another brewer to produce some of Modelo’s drinks.


Problems with US regulators need not be fatal to the deal, whose benefits rely largely on cost savings in Mexico and wider distribution of Corona. But exports are 40 per cent of Modelo’s sales, and about

two-thirds of exports go to the US, so it is a sizeable chunk of business. Bernstein estimates that being forced to lose some of Modelo’s production could strip $75m out of the deal’s cost savings of $600m. That said, AB InBev has overdelivered on savings promises in the past, so $600m might still be achievable.


Worries about the deal are weighing on the shares. Since it was announced last June, AB InBev has underperformed rivals SABMiller, Heineken and Carlsberg. The company hopes that the deal can be completed in the first quarter of 2013. If the uncertainty drags on, the risk is that the shares will lose more of their fizz.




Palatable cures seen for AB InBev’s ‘merger headache’


Source: Deal Pipeline

by Renee Cordes In Brussels  

January 17, 2013


Is the beer mug half-empty or half-full?


Even if Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV has to make concessions to win U.S. Department of Justice approval for the outstanding 50% of Corona maker Grupo Modelo SAB de CV, analysts don’t see much danger of the $20.1 billion deal collapsing.


In the past couple of days, the New York Post and Bloomberg reported that U.S. regulators will demand major remedies from AB InBev, the Leuven, Belgium-based brewer of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck’s, in exchange for approval of the purchase agreed last summer. The New York Post predicted a “merger headache” for the world’s top brewer.


The deal got the green light from regulators in Mexico in November, but faces its toughest test in Washington, where talks reportedly concern a long-term distribution and pricing agreement between the merged entity and Crown Imports LLC, AB InBev’s joint venture with Constellation Brands Inc. that distributes and markets Modelo’s Corona and other brands in the U.S. A decision may not come for another month.


AB InBev spokeswoman Karen Couck said by e-mail that the company continues to expect closing in the first quarter, as announced in June, but that the brewer is not commenting on the DOJ review.


AB InBev shares were up marginally at ?67.01 in Brussels Wednesday, equating to a total market value of about ?107.7 billion ($143.25 billion). Modelo shares advanced 1.15 pesos in Mexico City to P113.65, valuing its equity at 367.9 billion pesos ($29.1 billion).


When announcing the planned takeover of Mexico’s leading brewer, AB InBev billed it as a “natural step in the long and successful partnership” between the two companies, and projected “at least” $600 million in annual cost synergies, phased in over four years, through combined purchasing and various administrative efficiencies.


In a related transaction, Modelo agreed to sell its 50% stake in Crown Imports to Constellation Brands for $1.85 billion, although AB InBev retained the right to exercise an option to buy back the stake every 10 years at a multiple of 13 times Ebit, subject to regulatory approval.


As speculation swirls about possible remedies, analysts poured cold water on suggestions of any real risks to the tie-up from U.S. regulators.


“I suppose that the authorities will ask for some limited concessions, but that does not mean that the whole deal will be cancelled,” said Hans D’Haese, an analyst with Bank Degroof in Brussels with an accumulate rating on AB InBev shares.


He also said the $600 million in projected synergies was most likely a conservative figure.


A likely scenario in the DOJ review, according to analyst Wim Hoste of KBC Securities in Brussels, is that AB InBev gives up its call option on Crown Imports. “Personally I think that part of the proposed transaction could face some scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, which might just say, ‘If you sell it, sell it forever,'” he said.


He also dismissed criticism that AB InBev could use Crown to influence Corona’s pricing policy in the U.S., saying this would not be a major issue in the Washington review in light of an often-overlooked provision in the merger agreement spelling out a pricing formula based on U.S. consumer inflation.


“This should allay some of the concerns or the potential concerns of the Justice Department,” said Hoste, who has a hold rating on AB InBev shares with a ?67 price target.




Anheuser-Busch InBev Finance Raises C$1.2 Bln From Debt Issues


Source: WSJ

By Ben Dummett

Jan 17th


Anheuser-Busch InBev Finance Inc., a financing arm of beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, raised 1.2 billion Canadian dollars ($1.22 billion), or double the minimum target, from an issue of five-year and 10-year bonds, according to a person familiar with the offering.


The company raised 600 million from the five-year issue, pricing the offering at 98.3 basis points over the relevant Government of Canada benchmark to yield 2.478%. The bonds carry a coupon of 2.375%. It raised the same amount from the 10-year offering, pricing with a spread of 150.8 basis points over the relevant benchmark to yield 3.461%. The bonds carry a coupon of 3.375%.




Heineken moves from Vienna to Amsterdam


Source: Vienna Times

Jan 14th


The east-european centre of the Dutch beverage giant Heineken is moving from Vienna to Amsterdam in the next few months.


The Lassallestraße location in Vienna will be closed down.


“The change is not too dramatic, because a big part of the team is staying in Austria”, chairman of the Austrian brewery union Markus Leibl told the “Oberösterreichischen Nachrichten” (OÖN) on Saturday.


Some of the staff are relocating to Schwechat.


Jan Derck van Karnebeek, responsible for the central und east-European location (CEE) will be relocating to Amsterdam with his management team. As member of the executive committee, he belongs to the group’s senior  management team.


The Lassallestraße location will be shut down. The CEE exports team, revision and part of the finance team are due to relocate to the Union brewery in Schwechat.


This withdrawal is to save costs. There are enough offices and infrastructure available. Moreover, the location is close to the airport.


Since the takeover of the Austrian brewery union by Heineken ten years ago, the central and east-European expansion has been controlled from Vienna. That was part of the takeover contract. However, this clause only lasted the five year running up to 2008. From 2005 the biggest Heineken department, which was responsible for Germany and Greece as well as central and east-Europe operated from Vienna.


The central and east areas alone are responsible for a quarter of the total Heineken beer production and some 3.3 billion Euro turnover according to the latest yearly report. It was made public last December that Heineken is selling Pago, the fruit juice brand from Carinthia – finally bought by the German group Eckes-Granini.




Ultimate Spirits Challenge – Top Reasons to Enter


Source: UB-C

Jan 17th


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Champagne 2012 will be an ‘exceptional’ vintage


Source: Decanter

by Caroline Henry in Champagne, and Adam Lechmere

Thursday 17 January 2013


Champagne producers including Dom Perignon and Philipponnat have confirmed they will make a vintage in 2012.


Despite what vignerons at the time called one of the worst growing seasons they had seen for decades, with April frosts, hailstorms, and one of the wettest summers on record, they are highly optimistic for the quality of the vintage.


‘The quality and the intensity are definitely there to make an outstanding vintage,’ Dom Perignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy told


Winegrowers said the warm weather in August was a saving grace. As harvest grew closer it became apparent that the small amounts of grapes on the vines were of excellent quality. In September as grapes were picked and pressed, often at close to 11% alcohol, winemakers were amazed by the concentration of flavour, natural sugar and acidity, and talk of a potential vintage began to be widespread.


‘The base wines show a lovely richness as well as the acidity needed to make outstanding and long-lived Champagnes,’ Jean-Phillipe Moulin, director of wine making at Champagne Barons de Rothschild and Paul Goerg. ‘We will definitely bottle a vintage for both brands.’


Charles Philipponnat at Champagne Philipponat agreed. ‘2012 is an exceptional vintage and especially promising for Pinot Noir,’ he said, and was echoed by at least three other producers, including Champagne Boizel and Champagne Tarlant.


Benoit Tarlant said the quality of all three grape varieties was ‘excellent – something which is extremely rare’.


He added that he would make less non-vintage this year. ‘It would be a pity not to make a decent amount of vintage wine, even if it means we have a little less of of our non-vintage cuvee.’


The harvest average in 2012 was just under 9,000kg/hectare – significantly lower than the maximum allowance of 11,000kg/hectare.




From Big Wins to Big Wines


Top Athletes Who Turned Their Favorite Drink Into a Business Venture


Source: WSJ


Jan 17th


For the majority of sportsmen, operating in a field where peak physical fitness and razor-sharp reactions are a necessity, wine appreciation isn’t perhaps the most obvious of recreational pursuits. In today’s professional era, most athletes are more likely to endure an ice-bath and energy drink than enjoy a well-deserved glass of red or a chilled Chablis.


But there are some sports that, for the spectators and former players at least, lend themselves to wine appreciation. Take the game of cricket. As well as being a leisurely contest-Test matches take place over five days, with breaks for lunch and tea written into the laws-it is also played in some of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. In South Africa, Newlands Cricket Ground is a short drive from the Western Cape vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. New Zealand’s McLean Park is in the heart of Hawke’s Bay, home to some scintillating red wines.


While there are plenty of celebrities who endorse brands, there is also a number of sportsmen who have genuinely caught the wine bug, whether it was a memorable first glass while on tour, over a meal with their future wife or long after they’d retired from the locker room. For a few, like Formula One driver Jarno Trulli, that off-duty love of wine has matured into a post-retirement business.


Jarno Trulli


Years before climbing into a race car, Jarno Trulli knew how to make wine. “My wine experience isn’t huge, but it is definitely long,” says the former Formula One driver. “I grew up with my grandfather when I was young; he was making wine in his garage and that was one of the first things I can remember.”


Those early experiences in the western Italian city of Pescara, watching his grandfather produce small batches of wine for the family cellar, stayed with him. “As I started racing go-karts, I lived in a different way,” he says. “But when I had the chance to restart the family business, I took it.”


Jarno Trulli purchased Podere Castorani, a 30-hectare estate in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, in the late 1990s. The core business is centered around the production of red wines made from the Montepulciano and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape varieties. There are also a number of white wines made from Pecorino, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Passerina and other local varieties.


That opportunity came in the late 1990s in the form of Podere Castorani, a 30-hectare estate in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, where the red Montepulciano grape variety thrives. Tucked away in the foothills behind Pescara on the Adriatic coast, it has been described as the heart of Italy’s winemaking culture. The 18th-century estate had been abandoned for many years before Mr. Trulli, then in his 20s, along with his father and Formula One manager Lucio Cavuto, set about restoring its vineyards.


“The wine world is totally different to Formula One because everything takes a long time, but the passion is exactly the same because it is the same fundamentals as when I was racing,” says the 38-year-old, who recently retired from racing. “We have to be passionate and pay attention to all the details and make sure the wine is being made and aging in the right way.”


He says he has very little to do with the actual winemaking-leaving that to his winemaker, Angelo Molisani-but he is heavily involved in marketing the product. “When I was racing, I used to spend the first half of the week meeting people and promoting the wines,” he says. “I have never been a huge drinker. One glass will always be enough….When we were approaching the weekend, we would never touch alcohol. But after the race, it was always nice to celebrate.”


Ian Botham


The former English cricket captain discovered his love of New World wine when he was touring Australia and New Zealand in the late 1970s. “It all started when we were playing in Australia and we didn’t like the ordinary beer they served in Adelaide,” says Ian Botham. Winemaker Geoff Merrill, who would later go on to work for Hardy’s before setting up his own label, suggested to the fast bowler and his teammate Bob Willis that they should come and “try our wines,” Mr. Botham recalls.


Former English cricket internationals Ian Botham and Bob Willis, in partnership with South Australian wine producer Geoff Merrill, produce three wines: a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Full-bodied and ripe, they are very much made in the New World style and sell for around £16 or ?20 a bottle.


From that meeting, the seed was sown. Mr. Botham, who had been educated to appreciate the delights of fine wine (mainly French) by the late cricket commentator and writer John Arlott, began a love affair with Australian wine. “The more I visited vineyards on my travels and got to know the wine growers and the regions, the more disillusioned I became with French wine,” he says. “I used to bring a lot of wine back from Australia for John Arlott to try. In the early days, he would dismiss [them] but toward the end, he saw that their styles were changing and he mellowed a bit on it.”


In 2001, Mr. Botham joined with Mr. Willis to launch a Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz made by Mr. Merrill’s winery in the McLaren Vale. A Chardonnay followed a year later. “We are very much hands-on and involved,” says the 57-year-old, now a sports commentator. “What we haven’t tried to do is go down the route where Geoff has a vat of Chardonnay that he can’t get rid of so we put our names on it and flog it. That’s not what we do.


“I taste the wines,” he adds. “I have some 2001 Shiraz that I will be opening, some ’05 Chardonnay, which is quite a butch Aussie Chardonnay with a bit of oak on it. We actually toned it down from previous vintages because of peer pressure from the girls.”


These days, Mr. Botham’s cellar is filled with the sort of award-winning bottles that have put Australia on the wine map: Penfolds, Hill of Grace by Henschke, Merrill’s Henley Shiraz and Moss Wood. “If I was given the choice between a Montrachet from France or a Western Australian Chardonnay like Leeuwin Estate Art Series, there would be no contest,” he says.


When Mr. Botham heads to New Zealand to commentate on England’s three-match series next month, he plans to “hit the road” to discover some new wines. “I like to just pull in and have a sandwich and a glass of wine at a local place,” he says. “One of those is Cabbage Tree vineyard in Martinborough, on the southern tip of the North Island, which is always one of my first ports of call when I am in New Zealand. The more you explore, the more you find these little gems.”


Ernie Els


It was a first date that introduced the South African golfer to the delights of fine wine. “I grew up in Johannesburg, which is not in the wine region of South Africa, but Liezl was from Stellenbosch, so I took her to a friend of mine’s winery near there,” recalls the 43-year-old pro, who has twice won both the U.S. and British Opens. “That was my first experience.”


Since that visit, Ernie Els has married his sweetheart and his interest in wine has flourished. “My palate is one that I love the red wines of Bordeaux,” he says. “But living in America now, I have got to like classic Napa wines such as Harlan family and Bryant family. But obviously good, quality, aged Bordeaux is still my favorite.”


Ernie Els set up his eponymous Stellenbosch winery in 1999 with acclaimed winemaker Louis Strydom. The first wine they produced was a Bordeaux-style blend described as bold and full-bodied that commanded a high price. Since then, the winery has gone on to produce a series of less-expensive wines, including a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, that sell for £8 to £15 a bottle (?9 to ?18).


In 1999, he teamed up with Rust en Vrede’s Jean Engelbrecht and respected winemaker Louis Strydom to create their own wine: a Bordeaux blend. The first vintage was 2000, created from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. A range of robust reds followed, as well as a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chenin Blanc.


“For marketing purposes it helps that I am golfer,” Mr. Els says. “But as you know, whatever the brand is, if it’s not quality, people are not going to buy it. So we needed to have a proper wine in the bottle.” He remains in constant touch with Mr. Strydom, who runs the wine operation, and tastes the wine as much as possible.


“We are really in the business,” he says. “I have a winery and a 75-hectare estate near Stellenbosch. We produce the wines on the farm. We don’t just put my name on the label. I taste the wines all the time. When we are down there we try and change things around a bit with the varieties and the blends.”


Mr. Els currently splits his time between homes in Florida and the U.K., with visits to South Africa, but he says that when his golf career is over, he will live on the estate and develop the wines full-time.


Joe Montana


The former San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback caught the wine bug after meeting Ed Sbragia, one of California’s most talented winemakers.


Joe Montana, who led the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories, teamed up with Mr. Sbragia in 2000 at the Napa Valley wine auction.


Since 2000, Joe Montana has been creating a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend with distinguished Californian winemaker Ed Sbragia. Initially made at Beringer Vineyards, the wine, called “Montagia,” is now produced at Mr. Sbragia’s own winery in Dry Creek Valley. Limited edition, with all proceeds going to charity, the wine is only available at the cellar door.


Mr. Sbragia, who made his name producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays at Beringer Vineyards, worked with Mr. Montana, now 56, to create a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-based blend produced from fruit from Beringer’s vineyards in the Howell Mountain region.


Their first vintage, a 1997 called “Montagia,” was auctioned for more than $200,000, with proceeds benefiting a number of Napa Valley health charities.


Each successive vintage has also been sold for charity. In 2007, production moved to Mr. Sbragia’s Sbragia Family vineyards.


David Ginola


The former French playmaker may be from Provence, but it wasn’t until he was playing soccer for Paris Saint-German in the 1990s that David Ginola was truly introduced to his country’s great wines.


David Ginola produces a rosé wine made by the Coste Brulade wine estate, a cooperative in the small village of Puget-Ville in Provence’s largest appellation, the Côtes de Provence. This appellation, which spreads to around 20,000 hectares, produces mainly pale pink, dry rosés.


So when he retired a decade later, having crossed the Channel and established himself as a popular Premiership player in England, it seemed only natural for Mr. Ginola to turn to the wine-producing villages of his native Provence.


Though he tried his hand at a number of ventures, including acting and advertising L’Oréal OR.FR +1.25% shampoo, the 45-year-old ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United player decided the life of a vigneron appealed. In 2007, he invested in Coste Brulade, a cooperative wine estate in the village of Puget-Ville in the Var, promising to make typically Provençal wine that was as “pale” and “sexy as possible.” A blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, the Coste Brulade 2007 Rosé won a silver medal in 2008 in the International Wine Challenge in London.


Gérard Basset, the master sommelier who co-founded the U.K.’s Hotel du Vin chain, regularly shared a glass with Mr. Ginola when he stayed at his hotel while playing for Aston Villa. “He was a great listener and was naturally very interested in wine,” Mr. Basset recalls. “Of course he loved red Bordeaux, but I thought he was very broad-minded and would often try new wines or something a little different.”




St Emilion owner ‘seeking damages’ over Classification


Source: Decanter

by Chris Mercer

Thursday 17 January 2013


The owner of Saint Emilion’s Chateau Croque-Michotte, Pierre Carle, will seek compensation if he and two other chateaux win their court battle against the new Saint Emilion classification.


Carle has joined forces with Château La Tour du Pin Figeac and Château Corbin-Michotte to file a legal complaint at a tribunal in Bordeaux.


After missing out on Grand Cru Classé status, they allege procedural errors by the INAO-led selection team for the 2012 classification.


Carle told he will ‘ask for damages’ if he wins the case, highlighting the difference in wine prices for those with a classification and those without.


Croque-Michotte has been out of the classification since 1996.


Carle accused INAO officials of ‘not respecting their own rules’ in the 2012 selection process.


While full details of the legal case are not fully known, the dispute centres on the application of eligibility criteria for classification, and specifically the tasting results, the tests for quality of terroir and the extent to which the chateaux are ‘well-known’.


‘This area has some of the best terroir in the world, and we are right in the middle. But they said the terroir was not good,’ said Carle. ‘We are on the border with Pomerol, 350 metres from Cheval Blanc and Petrus.’


Both Carle and Sylvie Giraud, of Château La Tour du Pin Figeac, said that legal action is a last resort.


‘I wrote them several letters with full details,’ Carle said, ‘and the answer was: we can do nothing. They are just bureaucrats who go home at the end of the day and don’t care.’


He added, ‘For me, it’s very simple. We have all the proof of the fault, everything is written down on paper’.


The case could take months to sort out. Last time there was a dispute of this nature, in 2006, it took three years to resolve, Carle pointed out.


Franck Binard, director of the Conseil des Vins de Saint Emilion, said the legal action ‘is a pity for everyone in Saint Emilion.’




Wine trade to see record M&A in 2013 – study (Excerpt)


Source: Just-Drinks

By James Wilmore

17 January 2013


M&A activity among US wineries will come at a “record pace” this year, while bulk imports will continue to dominate the lower end of the market, according to a new report.


Silicon Valley Bank’s (SVB) Annual State of the Wine Industry Report, published this week, said that it expects to see “more transitions, sales and mergers taking place than at any time in memory” in the US in 2013. It also predicts a “c;ontinuation of new mergers among wholesalers”.


Wineries’ profits will also be hit by higher grape costs this year, the report suggests. Companies will raise their bottle prices, but the bank believes the move will “prove difficult”.




Wines of Chile’s 10th annual awards


Source: Drinks International

By Christian Davis

17 January, 2013


Wines of Chile has announced the Trophy winners for its annual awards.


Eighten trophies were awarded to wines that the panel of Asian and Chilean judges considered to the best in their category after a three-day blind tasting of more than  00 wines that took place in Santiago.


The top award went to Viña Errazuriz. The winery won the Best in the Show trophy for its icon wine Don Maximiamo Founder’s Reserve 2010: a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc.


Owner Eduardo Chadwick commented: “It’s really a great honour – we are trying to show finesse and quality from Chile and our winemaker and the team are key in doing that. I am really pleased that their efforts have been recognised in this way.”


The same wine also won one of the most coveted new trophies to be added this year – Best Super Premium Red Wine.


The Best Super Premium White Wine was awarded to the Casa Marín Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011.


Two wines were awarded the Best Value Trophies: Oveja Negra Cabernet Franc- Carmenere 2011 for Best Value Red, and Santa Carolina Reserva Moscato 2012 for Best Value White.


A further 15 trophies were awarded to the best wines in each category. Colchagua Valley-based winery Cono Sur struck gold three times as it took away the Best Pinot Noir medal for its 20 Barrels 2010 and the winery also won two trophies for the Best Syrah as both its 20 Barrels Syrah 2010 and Single Vineyard Syrah 2011 produced a tie in the blind tasting.


This year saw a record number of entries at 615 wines and also the highest number of medals in the awards’ 10-year history: 10% receiving gold medals, 28% receiving silver and 41% receiving bronze, resulting in 79% of entrants receiving a medal.


Wines of Chile says the Asia region is one of Chile’s most important and growing consumer wine markets and so for this landmark tenth year of the awards, a specialist panel of wine experts from Japan, China, Korea and Chile was selected to blind taste the wines that entered the competition.


The Judges were: Fongyee Walker (China), Tersina Shieh (Hong Kong, – Yumi Tanabe – Japan – Walker Kei – Hong Kong – Marcelo Pino – China), Young-Jin Yoo (South Korea), Masaharu Oka (Japan), Hector Vergara and Patricio Tapia (both Chile).


The trophy winners in Annual Wines of Chile Awards 2013 are:




Seizure of Evidence at Wine Seller’s Home Ruled Legal


Source: Bloomberg

By Patricia Hurtado

Jan 17, 2013


FBI agents’ seizure of evidence at the home of a California man accused of selling more than $1.3 million in counterfeit vintage wines was legal and can be used at trial, a judge ruled.


U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in New York said today that the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents didn’t violate Rudy Kurniawan’s constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure last year when they gathered the evidence at his home in Arcadia, California.


Prosecutors said Kurniawan, an Indonesian national, had a “laboratory for creating counterfeit wine” in his home, including thousands of printed wine labels for many of the world’s most expensive wines, such as Domaine de la Romanee- Conti and Chateau Petrus. Kurniawan was arrested March 8 and accused of consigning at least 84 counterfeit bottles of Burgundy to a New York auction house.


Kurniawan’s lawyer had sought to bar the use of evidence seized by the FBI during the search. The evidence included a wooden crate labeled “Joseph Drouhin,” a producer of wines from Burgundy, France, which FBI Special Agent Oliver Farache said in a sworn statement was in “plain view” and “just inside the threshold of the subject residence’s front door.”

‘Detailed Account’


“The detailed account of Kurniawan’s counterfeiting activities in the complaint, which already connected his home to evidence of wine counterfeiting, when combined with just a brief description of the materials piled up against Kurniawan’s front door, establish probable cause to uphold the warrant,” Berman said today.


Michael Proctor, a lawyer for Kurniawan, had sought to suppress the evidence, alleging that the FBI agents lacked probable cause to enter the home. Agents said that after they arrested Kurniawan, they saw wine bottles visible from the front doorway.


“The suggestion is nonsense,” Proctor said in court papers. “That he had bottles of wine — even French wine — visible from his doorway cannot establish probable cause. He is a wine dealer and aficionado, and there is nothing unusual or noteworthy about the presence of cases of wine in his home.”


Berman directed Kurniawan to return to court on Feb. 14 for a pretrial conference.


Billionaire wine collector William Koch sued Kurniawan in 2009 in Los Angeles state court, claiming he had sold him phony vintages.


The case is U.S. v. Kurniawan, 12-mj-606, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).






Source: Evangeline PR

Jan 17th


Piedmont Distillers, Inc., announced that John Lundstrom has been hired as Director of Sales – Eastern U.S.


Lundstrom joins the company with almost 30 years of industry experience.  He spent most of his industry years at Jim Beam Brands Company, where he held every sales position from sales representative to U.S. Sales Vice President.  Lundstrom also spent three years as a chain account executive at United Liquors, an Arizona wholesaler, and three years early in his career at Copper Mountain in the resort’s food and beverage department.


“John’s prior experience in the Control States and work with open state distributors to build brands will be instrumental to his success at Piedmont” said Joe Flock, vice president of Sales and Marketing at Piedmont Distillers.




Fast-casual chains ramp up alcohol offerings


Restaurants such as Smashburger, Noodles & Co. and Pitfire Artisan Pizza aim to differentiate and meet consumer demand with new drinks


Source: NRN

Lisa Jennings   

Jan. 17, 2013


Offering upgraded beverages can help fast-casual chains boost dinner sales and enhance the overall guest experience.


Beer and wine – or even wine-based margaritas – have long been a part of fast-casual chain restaurant menus, but a growing number of concepts are ramping up their alcohol offerings to stand out from the crowd.


Last year, Smashburger launched a new craft beer pairings program that matches local brews with burgers on its menu. The Denver-based chain plans to bring the program to six markets this year.


Chipotle Mexican Grill is also testing the offer of local craft beers in Chicago in partnership with the 5 Rabbit brewery.


The Dallas-based Snappy Salads chain is seeking approval to add beer and wine for the first time at a unit in Richardson, Texas.


Freebirds beerThe 90-unit Freebirds World Burritos offers a selection of beers, including some on draft and craft brews like Shiner Bock, Saint Arnold and Shock Top alongside national Mexican and domestic brands like Corona, Dos Equis and Budweiser. Some franchised locations also serve tequila-based margaritas, which are unusual in the fast-casual Mexican realm.


Noodles & Co. has been testing an expanded beer and wine program that includes an upgrade to the experience, with new glassware and a focus on “wines from around the world and beers from down the street.”


And six-unit Los Angeles-based Pitfire Artisan Pizza chain recently opened a location with a full liquor license. Though the chain has long offered beer and wine, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based restaurant will feature a speakeasy concept with a full bar, called Pie Society, in the back of the freestanding unit.


One reason fast-casual concepts may be focusing more on differentiated alcohol opportunities is the fact that some quick-service competitors are also experimenting with adult beverages.


Sonic, Burger King, Johnny Rockets and Burgerville have been testing beer and wine additions, and Starbucks is increasingly adding alcohol to certain markets to build sales later in the day.


Introducing alcohol into the menu mix is not without challenges. There are training costs, varying state laws and permit processes.


However, for fast-casual concepts, offering more upgraded beverages helps boost dinner sales and enhances the overall guest experience. The addition of local craft beers that vary by restaurant also enhances the “anti-chain” vibe sought by a growing number of concepts.


Tom Ryan, founder of the Denver-based Smashburger chain, said the trend follows the growing interest among consumers in craft beer, in particular. “We do it because the local craft beer trend is hugely popular,” explained Ryan. “For us, it’s taking America’s favorite adult beverage on a local basis and pairing it with America’s favorite food done in a modern way.”


The craft beer pairings program is available at Smashburgers in the Denver (New Belgium Brewing Co.), Brooklyn, N.Y. (Sixpoint Brewery), and Houston (Saint Arnold Brewing Co.) markets. This month, the chain plans to roll it out in Minneapolis, Phoenix and Miami. In February, markets in Ohio and Dallas will begin promoting local beers with specific burgers.


In each market, the chain works with the beer makers to develop the best beer-to-burger pairings. The matches are listed on menu boards and “tasting notes” are available at each table.


So far, Ryan said the 200-unit chain has seen traffic grow with both repeat and new business in the markets featuring the beer pairings. One Denver location has even tested a beer float with the chain’s Haagen-Dazs ice cream.


At Noodles & Co., local microbrews are part of the expanded beer and wine offerings that are part of an ongoing rebranding effort, which has also included the addition of appetizers and tests of new desserts, said Dan Fogarty, the chain’s vice president of marketing.


Smashburger beerWine offerings there include a selection from musician Dave Matthews, who makes a cabernet, as well as a Clos du Bois chardonnay, both offered from $5 per glass and $17 per bottle. A more value-positioned Black Box wine, what Fogarty described as an upscale wine in a box, is available for about $1 less.


Fogarty said alcohol has been a small part of the menu mix, but identified it as “a great opportunity.”


For adults, being able to relax and have a glass of wine with their pasta while their kids are happy with their macaroni and cheese adds value to the experience and will help build dinner business, he said.


At Pitfire Pizza’s new Costa Mesa, Calif., location, the speakeasy in the back of the restaurant was an attempt to make good use of a larger space that already had a liquor license.


The bar will be able to service drink needs for a new “community kitchen” area, available for private parties or events, said Paul Hibler, the chain’s co-founder.


Though the bar is available in the facility, Hibler wants to keep the main dining room’s menu limited to beer and wine – and the possible addition of a rotating selection of pre-made cocktails made with seasonal ingredients. “But guests won’t be able to order a gin and tonic or something like that,” he said. “We’re not a bar. That’s in the back.”


Hibler said if the speakeasy is successful as an adjoining concept then he may add it to new units going forward where permits can be obtained, he said. But he doesn’t foresee getting too far into the bar business.


“I’ve seen too many companies dilute their brand by adding too many layers,” he said. “I want to make sure we stay focused on the baby, which is Pitfire.”




Customers still seek value when dining out


Source: NRA

by Elissa Elan

January 17, 2013


When dining out, budget-conscious consumers continue to expect the best value for their money, the National Restaurant Association’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast has found.


Among operators polled, nine out of 10 said their customers were more value-conscious today than they were two years ago.


Furthermore, 79 percent of consumers questioned for the report’s 2012 National Household Survey said they would consider dining out more often if menu prices were lower during off-peak times. In addition, a slightly higher proportion of frequent quick-service users and takeout dinner customers also said they might go out more often if prices were lower during off-peak periods.


“Offering reduced prices during off-peak meal times is potentially a good way to offer additional value to existing and new customers,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s Research & Knowledge Center. “The ability for restaurant operators to shift some current as well as new customers to slower times of the day and week is a well-established practice in other consumer driven industries. In the years ahead, and aided by new technologies, more restaurateurs will consider and offer enhanced value propositions at nontraditional times.”


Still, the operators surveyed had mixed opinions regarding whether off-peak dining at lower prices would become a trend. Approximately 60 percent of full-service operators said they thought it would, while just 39 percent of fast-casual and 33 percent of quick-service operators thought the trend would gain in popularity.




The 100 Best Beer Bars in America


You are reading The 100 Best Beer Bars in America by Kendall Jones, as originally posted on The Washington Beer Blog.


Source: Seattle PI

Jan 17th


The current issue of Draft Magazine showed up in the mailbox the other day. The cover story: The 100 Best Beer Bars in America. I am always excited to get this particular issue. I love to travel so I especially enjoy reading about the top-rated bars in other parts of the country. I’m quite familiar with the ones that made the list here in the Northwest, but I enjoy reading about the best beer bars in far-off places like Austin, Texas and Athens, Georgia. I must admit that I also enjoy the controversy that these kinds of “best of” lists always seem to stir up.


This year, as far as the Pacific Northwest is concerned, the following bars made the list: Apex, Bailey’s, Belmont Station, Beveridge Place Pub (blog sponsor), Horse Brass Pub, Naked City Taphouse, The Pine Box, Seraveza, and Stumbling Monk.


I can live with that list. Sure, there are some glaring omissions, but having compiled these kinds of lists myself, I am keenly aware of the challenges. There simply is not enough room for every deserving candidate to be on the list. Thank God!


So why isn’t Brouwer’s Café on the list? Well, because there are so many others that also deserve to be on the list. Is that a bad thing? Should the Green Dragon be on the list in place of Bailey’s or Apex? Instead of crying about the fact that Bellingham’s Green Frog Acoustic Tavern or Ballard’s Noble Fir did not make the list, I am choosing to celebrate the fact that there were so many other worthy candidates.


According to Draft Magazine, nine out of 100 of the country’s best beer bars are in either Portland or Seattle. I am not sure what that means. Should that number be higher? I don’t know. I haven’t been to all of the other 91, though I have been fortunate enough to imbibe at a number of them. I cannot honestly say that another Seattle bar should be on the list at the expense of San Diego’s Small Bar or San Francisco’s Toronado.


I am  curious which bars you think deserve to be on the list, or at least deserve consideration. What place(s) would you absolutely and positively put on this list? I am also curious to know which of the bars on the list (that you have actually visited) you would omit?  You can view the list here.




Carrefour sales raise hopes of turnround


Source: FT

By Scheherazade Daneshkhu in Paris

Jan 17th


Carrefour reported improved sales in its French domestic market on Thursday and endorsed 2012 operating profit expectations, reinforcing hopes that new chief executive Georges Plassat’s turnround strategy is beginning to work.


Total sales rose 2.1 per cent at constant exchange rates to ?22.9bn and by 1.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis in the three months to the end of December compared with the same period a year earlier. A drop in sales in austerity-hit southern Europe partially offset faster sales growth in emerging markets.


In France, which accounts for 40 per cent of sales, revenues rose 1.3 per cent like-for-like and 0.6 per cent in reported terms.


For the full year, total sales rose 1 per cent to ?86.6bn.


Pierre-Jean Sivignon, finance director, said: “It is too soon to say we have turned the corner but there are encouraging signs that the pricing and commercial strategy is bearing fruit.”


Analysts at Credit Suisse described the numbers as “reassuring,” adding: “France is showing some sequential improvement which, in our view, is the key feature of the statement.”


Improving the performance of French hypermarkets – which account for 60 per cent of domestic sales – is seen by investors as key to reviving the fortunes of the company, the world’s second-biggest retailer by sales.


Mr Plassat, a veteran retailer who took the top job at Carrefour last May, has reinforced price promotions in a fiercely competitive domestic market and devolved more responsibility to individual store managers.


Carrefour endorsed analysts’ expectations of ?2.07bn 2012 operating profit, helping to ease fears that the sales improvement might have come at the expense of profit margins.


Like-for-like sales in hypermarkets were broadly stable in the fourth quarter. Excluding petrol they fell 2 per cent, which was an improvement on previous quarters. Food sales grew for the first time in more than two years.


Casino, Carrefour’s smaller domestic rival, this week reported a 9.9 per cent drop in French hypermarket sales in the fourth quarter, citing pricing pressure.


Analysts at Citigroup said: “The like-for-like performance of Carrefour’s hypermarkets and supermarkets was much better than that of Casino in the fourth quarter and we think relief about this is part fo the reason for the share price jump this morning.”


Carrefour shares rose 5.54 per cent to ?20.39 in Paris.


Mr Sivignon said part of the money raised from the pulling out of Greece, Singapore, Colombia, Malaysia and Indonesia last year would be used to reduce debt and the rest reinvested in maintenance and expansion.


Mr Plassat has promoted a strategy of reducing the number of countries in which Carrefour operates in order to boost investment in its key markets of Europe and emerging countries.


Analysts at Citgroup said: “There have been false dawns at Carrefour before, as the price-cutting efforts of previous management teams gained them sales traction. The sense that ‘this time it’s different’ is strong however.” They said the asset sales “provide some visibility that this time Carrefour should be able to maintain price competitiveness”.




Ahold strengthens hold on domestic market


Source: FT

By Matt Steinglass in Amsterdam

Jan 17th


Dutch food retailer Ahold reported a 7.1 per cent rise in sales in the fourth quarter over a year earlier, as it opened new stores in the US and strengthened its dominant market share in the Netherlands.


Ahold, which owns the Albert Heijn supermarket chain in the Netherlands and the Giant chain in the US, boosted revenues despite the Netherlands’ poor economy, which shrank 1 per cent in 2012 while consumer spending dropped to its lowest level since 2002.


Total sales reached ?7.8bn. At constant exchange rates the increase in sales was 5.1 per cent.


For the full year sales rose 3.5 per cent at constant exchange rates to ?32.8bn.


Sales growth of 4.3 per cent in the US was due in part to Hurricane Sandy, as the company’s stores remained open and won sales from damaged rivals.


Ahold did not release information on earnings in the trading update for the fourth quarter. The company will make its final quarterly and annual result public on February 28.


The results were in line with analysts’ expectations. Shares in Ahold rose 0.67 per cent at ?10.57 in Amsterdam, against a 0.67 per cent gain in the AEX index.


The company ascribed its sales growth in the Netherlands to the acquisition of 15 stores from its rivals C1000 and Jumbo and to rapid growth in online sales. The company’s market share in the Dutch food retail sector is more than 40 per cent.


Ahold said it had seen better than expected results from its new click-and-collect service, which allows customers to order groceries via their mobile phones and pick them up at participating stores.




Sweetbay Supermarkets to close 33 stores


Source: ABC Action News



Late Wednesday evening, Sweetbay Supermarkets announced plans to close 33 underperforming stores in Florida.


The company plans to close the stores by mid-February.


In an emailed statement, spokesperson Nicole LeBeau said the move will help Sweetbay to “deliver profitable growth and accelerate shareholder value.”


Action News also spoke with Alexis Muellner, an editor from the Tampa Bay Business Journal, who said the closures could damage the brand Sweetbay had built up in the areas where stores are closing.


Muellner also says the market that Sweetbay competes in is ultra competitive, it’s main rivals include Wal-Mart and Publix, both brands which pride themselves on discount prices.


Muellner went on to say that grocery retail has very slim margins, and why some brands could be more vulnerable than others.


After these actions are complete, Sweetbay will have 72 stores in Florida.




Alabama: Bill would do away with ABC stores (Additional Coverage)



Kim Chandler

January 16, 2013


Alabama’s familiar ABC stores could be replaced with independent liquor stores under a proposal to privatize the retail functions of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.


Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur will propose the idea in the upcoming legislative session, the latest development in the debate over the state’s role in the booze business.


“The fundamental question, I think for us as legislators and as a state, is should the state of Alabama be in the retail liquor business in the twenty-first century. Is this truly a function of state government?” Orr said.


There are currently 169 retail ABC stores across the state. Orr said eliminating the expense of those retail stores – including rent and employees – would save about $46 million annually.


“By not having the state employees, the leases, the utilities, the insurance , the equipment and the cash registers – all that goes away,” Orr said.


Alabama is only one of 12 states  in the retail liquor business, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, an organization representing the  states plus local jurisdictions that directly control the distribution and sale of alcohol.


However, those 12 states handle retail functions differently. Some have only state stores. Others have licensed “agents” that sell liquor for the state within a business. Alabama is unique in that it has a mixture of state stores and private package stores.


Under Orr’s proposal, the state would phase out retail operations  by October 1, 2013. Licenses for private stores to replace the state stores would be based on sealed competitive bids.


Orr said his proposal would limit the number of retail stores that could be set up in a particular area.


“We do not want a liquor store on every corner,” Orr said.


The proposal would create the five-member Retail Sales of Liquor Market Zone Commission to determine the number and location of retail licenses within market zone.


Orr said it “would determine what is a reasonable amount for a Dothan or a Jefferson County.”


However, others in the Alabama Legislature aren’t sold on the idea of completely privatizing the liquor business.


“I’ve got serious concerns about it and the motivations behind it,” House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said.


Ford said he believes the state’s retail stores are efficiently run and bring in revenue for the state and he’s concerned about  what the numbers would look like under privatization.

“The fundamental question, I think for us as legislators and as a state, is should the state of Alabama be in the retail liquor business…”


Ford said he is also concerned about the hundreds of employees that would be displaced.


Orr said his proposal would give the displaced employees some preference on the retail licenses and new state jobs.


A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley said the administration did not have a position on the proposal because they had not seen the legislation. Likewise, ABC Administrator Mac Gipson said he also did not have a position until he saw a bill.


NABCA President James M. Sgueo urged legislators in any state considering privatization to look what the stores generate in revenue and not just how much they cost.


“It’s not like the retail is losing money,”Squeo said.


Some states have abandoned the old state store approach and others are considering it.


Iowa in 1986 got out of retail operations and West Virginia followed in 1990, Squeo said.


Washington recently got out of the wholesale and retail operations. However, instead of bringing prices down, as some had hoped, average liquor prices jumped 10 percent since a year ago, according to the Associated Press.


Orr said that is a concern he wants to head off.


“I don’t think there would be a sentiment to see an increase in liquor prices,” Orr said.


Orr said that could mean dialing back the mark-up and taxes to make sure that consumers don’t see sticker shock at the cash register. That could reduce the savings to the state, Orr said, but he believes the savings would still be significant.


“Whether it’s $46 million or $30 million, the budgets are so desperate for funds, we need to consider every source of revenue that we can,” Orr said.


Asked about the outlook for the bill, Orr acknowledged it would be difficult


“There’s a lot of interest in continuing on the status quo by those involved in the current system…. But it’s a debate that needs to be had,” Orr said.




New Hampshire: Nashua warehouse company wants review of Liquor Commission ruling


Source: New Hampshire Union Leader


Jan 18th


Attorneys for Law Warehouses of Nashua asked a Superior Court judge to reconsider his ruling against the company’s right-to-know petition aimed at finding out why Law lost its bid for a $200 million contract with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission (NHLC) to an Ohio-based company.


A contract between Law and the NHLC for warehousing services had been regularly renewed since the 1990s, but last year the commission decided to seek bids for a long-term deal. In November it awarded a 20-year contract to Exel Inc., a subsidiary of the German company Deutsche Post DHL.


A spokesman for Exel said Thursday that the company is moving forward with plans to start business in New Hampshire and has identified a site along 3A in Bow for construction of a 240,000-square-foot warehouse.


“We are working with a local New Hampshire firm for the design-build portion of the site, and when we get to the point where we are close enough to the start-up to begin hiring people we will do that,” said Exel spokesperson Lynn Anderson. “We expect to hire 50 people who will be locally sourced in the Bow area.”


Brian Law, president of Law Warehouses, said 100 jobs are at stake in facilities it currently owns in Nashua. He said the company had planned to acquire a former Poland Springs plant near Interstate 95 in Seabrook, which he described as ideal for the purpose, had it been awarded the contract.


Law has demanded to see the full contract between the state and Exel, with no material blacked out or redacted, as well as the scoring sheet used in the commission’s decision-making process, emails and other communication considered part of the contract.


The court ruled on Jan. 8 that the Liquor Commission was allowed to black out certain information, even after the contract was approved by the state and became a public document.


In a motion for reconsideration filed Tuesday, Law’s attorneys say they it should at least get to review a list of what has been withheld, and be given a chance to challenge those redactions with a judge.


Attorney Chris Carter, representing Law, said the material the company has seen has only raised more questions.


“We believe that the documents that have been un-redacted and produced as a result of our right-to-know petition confirm our concern that New Hampshire law governing this bidding process was not followed and that the commission demonstrated improper favoritism for Exel,” Carter said.


Question of collusion


In his motion for reconsideration, Carter attached a letter from Exel to the Liquor Commission, in which Exel’s “real estate solution” is blacked out. The letter was later released with the paragraph intact, and it reads as follows: “It appears Law Warehouses is attempting to tie up the best existing warehouse location in New Hampshire through a deal with the current sub-tenant and landlords.


“Though not willing to accept our calls now, we believe the sub-tenant and landlord will work with Exel if we are selected as the successful proponent. If this is not the case, Exel has found a build to suit option in Concord. The net cost difference between the two buildings is minimal. Thus, either way we have a real estate solution for the NHSLC.”


Carter’s point is that the information was clearly not proprietary and was initially withheld at Exel’s request, suggesting collusion.


Attorney Nick Holmes of Manchester, representing Exel, said that is simply not the case. “The initial round of redactions was done by someone at Exel who did not fully understand the statute,” he said. Since then, Holmes and attorneys for the state representing the Liquor Commission have reviewed all the blacked-out material to make sure the redactions can be defended in court.


He said that process is complete and the documents have been posted on the Liquor Commission website, except for two fully redacted documents that relate to the real estate transaction in Bow and portions of 13 others that he said contain confidential, commercial or financial information that is exempt.


Assistant Attorney General Lisa English, who is representing the Liquor Commission, said her office is willing to provide a Vaughn index and expects to have one ready by next week. The deadline for formal protests to the bid award has been extended to Jan. 28.


Another unsuccessful bidder, XTL Logistics and Transportation, has also filed right-to-know requests in the case through its attorney, James Bianco of Concord. The Canadian company with U.S. headquarters in Pennsylvania placed second in the NHLC’s scoring sheet. Law Warehouses placed third.


Anderson said her company won the contract on the merits of its proposal, and is eager to get to work.


“Our calling card is our expertise and experience,” she said. “We think our ability to use that experience to form a very efficient and very productive process is what earned us this business.”

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