Liquor Industry News 2-20-13

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Pernod says no to Cuervo but declares interest in craft spirits


Source: the drinks business

by Ron Emler

19th February, 2013


Pernod Ricard is not about to do a deal with the Beckman family and take Jose Cuervo, the world’s best selling tequila, into its portfolio, but its next foray in the mergers and acquisition market could be in the craft spirits sector.


Pierre Pringuet hinted that the dynamic craft spirits sector, especially in the US, was attractive.


Deputy chairman and chief executive Pierre Pringuet said in London yesterday that he had been surprised by reports from Paris last week that he wanted Jose Cuervo to fill the tequila gap in his portfolio. “I was asked if it [Cuervo] is a desirable brand – and it is – but there are no on-going discussions about it,” he said.


Diageo, which distributes Cuervo until a distribution agreement with the Beckman’s runs out in the summer, wanted to buy the brand but walked away from it late last year when the Beckmans declined to sell. A Beckman subsidiary will take over distribution in the dominant US market.


Pringuet reaffirmed that Pernod Ricard too does not wish to enter distribution agreements for brands it does not own. “Distribution on its own is not enough,” he said. And while he confirmed that the French group would not be making a “transformational” acquisition within the next couple of years, he said that “tactical” purchases were an option.


He hinted that the dynamic craft spirits sector, especially in the US, was attractive and said: “You may see some activity in that sector quite soon.”


Craft spirits, which sell at premium and super-premium prices, have attracted much attention and growing consumer interest in the US. But finding a company or brand with the right growth potential will not be easy, although Pringuet hinted that he may soon be about to announce that he has done so.


“It’s all about size. Is there a specific recipe with distinctive packaging that makes a product stand out from major brands?” he said. The key question for Pernod Ricard was whether any craft product had the potential to be developed into a significant part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio, first in its home market and later globally. “All brands started small,” he said.


One company not in Pringuet’s sights is the troubled French group Belvedere, which has Sobieski vodka and Scotch brand William Peel in its portfolio. US film star Bruce Willis is among its shareholders with about 3% of the equity. Pringuet says Belvedere’s brands do not interest him.


Earlier this week, the administrator of French spirits group warned of “industrial and social disaster” if Belvedere’s shareholders don’t approve a debt restructuring that would see their stakes drastically diluted.


After four years of legal wrangling, Belvedere struck a deal with its creditors last September but it has had to call a second shareholder meeting on the plan because the minimum number of votes was not achieved at a meeting on Tuesday.


Belvedere, which was founded in 1991, went into administration in 2008 to protect itself from creditors demanding early reimbursement of ?375m (£320m) of debt the company had issued in 2006 to buy Marie Brizard liquors.


Since then, the company has been “at war” with its creditors, especially Oaktree Capital Management, its main creditor and owner of rival Stock Spirits, which makes Poland’s Orzel vodka.


“There is no alternative plan,” the administrator said about the proposal to convert ?629m of debt into equity.


“The consequences of the rejection of Belvedere’s plan would be an industrial and social disaster,” Frederic Abitbol said, referring to the company’s brands, and 3,315 staff worldwide, including 713 in France and 1,903 in Poland.


He said that if the If the present plan is defeated by shareholders, the commercial court overseeing the case will probably decide to liquidate Belvedere at a hearing on March 11.


In 2011, Belvedere made a loss of ?55m.




ThaiBev: Elephant in the boom


One of the world’s top five spirits producers enters a new era


Source: FT

Feb 19th


Take four-fifths of the spirits market in a large and growing economy. Add a decent soft drinks business and a strong distribution network to what is already one of the top five spirits producers in the world by sales volume – and you have the new, improved Thai Beverage. The takeover of Fraser and Neave by ThaiBev’s controlling shareholder has officially closed. Now to see what ThaiBev gets from it.


Since Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi launched his bid for Singapore’s F&N in September through TCC, his private vehicle, ThaiBev’s shares have rallied by two-thirds. The first question is how he will split the group. Assuming Mr Charoen wants F&N’s property portfolio for TCC, the tidiest solution for the drinks unit would be for ThaiBev to sell its 29 per cent in F&N to the company and use the funds to purchase the drinks business for, say, the S$2.7bn that Kirin wanted to pay for it. That leaves ThaiBev S$1.2bn to pay down the debt it took on to buy the stake.


Assuming that happens, the next question is what the F&N unit brings to one of the most profitable drinks businesses in the world. ThaiBev’s 80 per cent of the spirits market in Thailand means the division’s operating margin of 20 per cent beats Diageo’s in the region, according to CIMB, although some is lost covering for losses at Chang (elephant) beer. Still, synergies with F&N look genuine. F&N’s soft drinks can be sold into Thailand, whose population is double that of its current market of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. And F&N’s heft outside Thailand should be able to boost Chang sales.


The most entertaining synergy would be if ThaiBev’s newly expanded reach could lift support for Everton, its Chang-sponsored UK premiership football team, currently ranked sixth. But some deal effects really are too hard to quantify.




Barclays Consumer Equity Research: Spirits Scanner Scoop


Source: Barclays

Feb 19th


This report contains a high-level review of the latest Nielsen Spirits Scanner data released this morning (data through February 2, 2013), ordered by company (with a look at a few key categories), highlighting some metrics (sales, volume, price/mix growth) within a chronological context. Keep in mind that Nielsen captures a relatively small portion of the US Spirits category, even with the recent addition of Wal-Mart, Club, Dollar & Military outlets, and our data excludes the impact of the channel shift in Washington State. In the latest Nielsen spirits scanner data for the period ending February 2, 2013:


Distilled spirits industry sales growth slowed to +3.1% in the 4 weeks ending 2/2/13, likely reflecting some calendar/timing factors after the category grew +6.0% in the prior month. On a 12-week basis, the industry grew +4.2%, a touch faster than the +4.0% growth of the prior 12 weeks but below +5.1% rate of the past year. Importantly, spirits pricing remains solid, as almost all of this month’s sales growth was a result of better price/mix – up +2.9% compared to +2.8% in the last 12 weeks and +2.3% in the prior 12 weeks.


Industry volume was up +0.2% this month, decelerating from +2.7% last month and +1.3% in the past 12 weeks. Vodka grew roughly in line with the industry (+0.5%) but with more modest price/mix (+1.9%). Bourbon volume slowed a bit (+4.7% versus +5.5% in the last 12 weeks), but remains considerably stronger than other major categories, as it gained +0.6 points of dollar share with solid +3.2% price/mix. Prepared cocktails volume fell -9.0% down from -6.1% in the last 12 weeks and Rum was also weak (-1.5%). Tequila volume remained positive at +1.6%, but slowed from +4.1% in the prior 12 weeks.


As industry prices continued to improve on a 12-week basis, Beam’s sales outperformed this month (+4.3% versus +3.1% for the sector) and over the past 12 weeks (+5.8% compared to +4.2%) after lagging the industry in the prior 12 weeks (+3.4% versus +4.0%). Brown-Forman’s price/mix has yet to significantly improve at retail, up +1.9% including a modest +1.6% for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Diageo’s sales decelerated to +0.8% from +2.0% last month and +1.1% in the rolling 12 weeks, as the company led major players on pricing (price/mix up 4.4%). Pernod Ricard’s sales growth also slowed a bit to +2.1% this month from +2.8% last month, while price/mix was up +2.6%.




Loan recall, corp guarantees may derail USL-Diageo deal


Source: MoneyControl

Feb 19th


The USL – Diageo deal may be in jeopardy after banks have recalled loans given to Kingfisher Airlines . Bankers told CNBC-TV18 that they could invoke the corporate guarantee of UB Holdings and file for liquidation of the company. This could endanger the transfer of USL shares owned by UB Holdings to Diageo, reports CNBC-TV18’s Gopika Gopakumar.


The recall of loans given to Kingfisher Airlines by consortium of banks can actually put the entire USL -Diageo deal in jeopardy. Lenders state that they can also invoke corporate guarantees given by UB Holdings as collateral for Kingfisher Airlines.


In the first step of invoking this guarantee, banks will send a legal notice to the guarantor-  UB Holdings- to repay the entire debt of Kingfisher Airlines which is around Rs 7,000 crore. In the event UB Holdings is unable to repay the debt in the stipulated time-period banks can then file a liquidation suit in the court which could then prevent UB Holdings from alienating any of its assets.


So UB Holdings could be prevented from transferring its shares in USL to Diageo as part of the deal. And this could throw spanner in the works of the USL-Diageo deal. However, Diageo can save the deal if it enters into an out-of-court negotiation or settlement with the consortium of banks.


However, banks also hold USL shares pledged by UB Holdings as collateral for Kingfisher Airlines but banks are unwilling to sell these shares to Diageo because the current market price is much higher than the open offer price set by Diageo. So, unless Diageo looks at revising the open offer-price, banks will not look at selling those shares to Diageo.


The consortium of banks is a bit miffed because the Kingfisher management is unwilling to commit to infuse any funds from the USL-Diageo deal. All these factors will work against the conclusion of the USL-Diageo deal unless Diageo decides to enter into a settlement with the banks.




Underage US drinkers prefer Bud Light, Smirnoff, Budweiser: Study


Source: Beverage Daily

By Ben Bouckley



Bud Light, Smirnoff malt beverages and Budweiser were the brands most widely consumed by by 1000+ underage US drinkers over a 30-day period, according to the authors of a new study who claim to be the first to assess nationwide data.


Writing in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, lead author Professor Michael Siegel (Boston University School of Public Health) and colleagues claimed to be the first to collect national data on brandspecific alcohol consumption among US youth.


They said their work could prompt a public health focus targeting specific brands via prevention policies, and new research on the impact of alcohol advertising on youth brand preference.


Explaining the basis for their research, the academics said that underage drinking was a major public health concern in the US, since more than 70% of high school students had drunk alcohol, while around 22% engaged in heavy episodic drinking (Eaton et al. 2012).


“Existing national surveys of alcohol use among underage youth have collected data at the level of the alcoholic beverage type (beer, spirits, wine, etc.), but never at the level of alcohol brand (Bud Light beer, Grey Goose vodka, Bacardi rum, etc.) or even liquor subtype,” Siegel et al. wrote.


Relatively small brand pool


A 2004 National Academy of Sciences report recommended that the federal government collect data on brand preference among underage drinkers – to determine the influence of alcohol marketing on youth – Siegel et al., said, but no such work had been done.


1032 underage youths (13-20) responded to Siegel et al. last year via online questionnaires that assessed their consumption of 898 alcohol brands among 16 alcoholic beverage types over the previous 30 days, including the frequency and amount of each brand consumed.


The team said its “major finding” was that, although alcohol consumption was spread out over a number of beverage types, it was grouped among a relatively small number of brands.


The top 25 brands consumed (all household names) accounted for around half of all alcohol consumption by volume, they found.


Bud Light was the brand drunk by most respondents (27.9%; 6.4% market share) then Smirnoff malt beverages (17%; 2.9% share) and Budweiser (14.6%; 3%); Smirnoff vodkas (12.7%; 1.4%), Coors Light (12.7%; 2%) and Jack Daniel’s Bourbon (11.4%; 1.6%).


Most popular alcoholic drink types

The most common alcohol beverage types among underage drinkers were beer (68.9%) and spirits (69.7%), followed by flavored alcoholic beverages (49.9%), then wine (31.6%).


The market share figures (glossed briefly two pars above, tabulated in the study) reflect consumption frequency vis-a-vis other brands: the total number of times subjects drank a given brand over 30 days, divided by the total number of drinks consumed for all brands.


Siegel et al. said that response rates of 43% for 18-20 year olds and 44% for 13-17 year old lent the possibility of non-response bias, with fewer responses from Black and lower-income youth.


Thus, the academics weighted survey responses from these respondents more heavily, to address possible brand and market bias towards White, middle- and upper-income youth.


“Non-response bias does not threaten the validity of our basic finding that underage alcohol use is concentrated among a relatively small number of brands,” Siegel et al. added.



Former liquor producer buys Boothbay CC


Source: Portland Press Herald

Feb 20th


Boothbay Country Club was bought by Paul Coulombe of Southport, who has hired Harris Golf of Bath to manage it.


The course was in foreclosure. Coulombe, former owner of White Rock Distilleries of Lewiston, has long supported endeavors in the Boothbay region.


“It’s worth saving,” said Coulombe in a press release. “I feel the club is a critical component of our community that attracts both out-of-state visitors and Maine residents.”


Harris Golf owned the course from 1995 to 2008.


“Boothbay Country Club is steeped in history,” said Jeff Harris of Harris Golf.


Francis Ouimet, winner of the 1913 U.S. Open, held the course record at Boothbay CC for years.


“I’ll encourage youth programs for children of all ages in the Boothbay area and will provide qualified PGA pros to teach the game,” Coulombe said.




SAM: 4Q12 Earnings Pre-Game Primer


Source: CITI

Feb 19th


Sales Should Increase – In 4Q12, we expect that SAM’s net sales (excluding excise taxes) will increase 12.2% YoY, a deceleration relative to the 23.5% growth seen in 3Q12 (partially due to a difficult comp as sales in 4Q11 were up 22.7% YoY). Our estimate is 490 bps ahead of the Street, given the outsized growth trends seen for SAM in 4Q12 in Nielsen-tracked channels (+17% in c-stores and +10% in the xAOC channels).


Margins Should Be Mixed – We anticipate that SAM will deliver a 56.4% gross margin (unchanged YoY). Meanwhile, we expect that SAM will post an 18.4% operating margin (-20 bps YoY) driven by a modest increase in other SG&A expenses (i.e., those other than advertising, promotional and selling expenses), offset by our expectation for healthy fixed cost leverage given our forecast for robust top-line growth. The Street is forecasting an operating margin of 17.0%.


EPS Should Increase – In 4Q12, we expect that SAM will deliver EPS of $1.35, which represents 13.0% earnings growth YoY, and is ten cents above consensus.


What We’ll Be Interested in Hearing About – Management’s outlook for the craft beer category given the introduction of lower-priced offerings; additional information regarding SAM’s introduction of canned beer; color regarding the company’s 2013 depletion forecast; and further detail on SAM’s 2013 gross margin outlook.


Conference Call Details – Wednesday, February 20, at 5:00 pm ET. Dial-in: 1-877-760-2165. The passcode for the call is 95839765.




SABMiller CEO’s successor to get less boost from deals


Source: Chicago Tribune

February 20, 2013


One of the biggest challenges facing the incoming chief executive of SABMiller Plc will be continuing to grow the business as strongly in a world with fewer acquisitions to make, according to its outgoing chief executive.


With the global beer industry undergoing a wave of consolidation over the last two decades, brewers can no longer count on much of a boost from mergers and acquisitions – deals that helped transition SABMiller from a regional South African brewer to the world’s second-biggest, with over 200 brands ranging from Miller Lite to Peroni to Grolsch.


“The opportunity to bring on new businesses, integrate them and derive earnings … that opportunity is diminishing,” said SABMiller CEO Graham Mackay in an interview on Tuesday. “Everywhere we are relying more on organic growth. And that’s a lot easier in some markets than in others.”


That will be one issue facing Alan Clark, who will take the reins at SAB this summer.


“How to drive organic growth is one that he’s going to face particularly keenly,” Mackay said on the sidelines of the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton, Florida.


SABMiller recently announced a deal in China through a local joint venture. Sales volume in the country declined in the most recent period, however, after the coldest winter there in 28 years.


“China is a long-term growth market, no question,” Mackay said. “It’s never been a particularly profitable market. The margins are low because prices are very low. They still look set to be at pretty low levels for some time to come.”


By contrast, Mackay said growth was “extremely profitable” in Africa, where per capita consumption is much lower, but prices are higher. Africans, who have a cultural proclivity to drink beer, still only drink about one-tenth the amount, on average, as their American counterparts.


SABMiller generates half of its revenue and nearly two-thirds of its profits from Latin America and Africa.


Mergers and acquisitions have “gotten stickier,” Mackay said, because of fewer available assets and high price expectations. He said SAB’s appetite for acquisitions has not changed from what it has been, even if its balance sheet is a bit more extended as a result of the 2011 acquisition of Fosters.




The biggest beer deal on the agenda right now is Anheuser Busch InBev SA’s pending takeover of Mexico’s Grupo Modelo . The world leader last week revised its $20.1 billion deal to satisfy antitrust concerns that led the U.S. government to sue to block the deal.


Mackay said he would expect the deal to ultimately get done.


“I would be personally surprised if ABI doesn’t get this thing through one way or the other,” Mackay said. “Whether the major concession they made recently is enough to get it across the line, I have no inside knowledge. There’s lots of commentary, but I’m not sure I can really add to it.”


He did however question the government’s use of the argument regarding “coordinated price action.”


The DOJ has argued that if AB InBev owned Modelo – even if Constellation Brands Inc owned the U.S. distributor Crown Imports as planned – it would become less likely to buck pricing trends set out by AB InBev or Miller Coors, the U.S. joint venture of SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Co . To satisfy that concern, AB InBev revised its deal to include the sale to Constellation of the Piedras Negras brewery, which supplies the Modelo beer destined for the United States.


As for the ultimate end-game in beer consolidation – the often speculated on possible takeover of SABMiller by AB InBev – Mackay said the choice was not his to make.


“The decision of whether to do that or not is obviously not going to be mine,” he said. “It’d be a huge and very expensive deal. Our job, as I’ve always said, is to make our business as expensive to buy as possible and that’s it.”


The company’s market capitalization is about $80 billion, plus it has about $17 billion of debt, Mackay said.


“It would be a very expensive deal for them,” he added. “Of course they’d have to pay, I think, a fairly high premium on whatever our price was at the time.”




Mackay is preparing to step down from his current role, some 35 years after he joined South African Breweries Ltd.


He became group managing director in 1997 and chief executive of South African Breweries Plc when it listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. In 2012, he was appointed executive chairman, with plans to become non-executive chairman at the 2013 annual general meeting.


During his tenure, the company underwent aggressive international expansion, moved its primary listing from Johannesburg to London and acquired Miller Brewing in the United States.


“I’ve been extraordinarily lucky because I happen to have been running the show at the time when it was without doubt the most exciting period in the world beer industry that there’s ever been and it can’t happen again either,” he said.


“The new guys are much cleverer than I am … but it will get harder to drive out growth because the consolidation phase has passed its first flush.”


Clark, who is taking over at this year’s general meeting, joined South African Breweries in 1990 and became COO last year.


When asked what he was most proud of, the 63-year-old Mackay cited getting rid of SAB’s other interests in South Africa to focus on beer and moving to London.


“That was a seminal decision,” he said. “I obviously didn’t take it on my own, but that worked.”


On the flip side, Mackay said there are also things he “should have done if I’d been cleverer, more energetic or could be everywhere.”


“I don’t regret any of the transactions we did. I suppose there are some we turned our noses up at, that with hindsight we might have been more accommodating about,” he said.


He declined to be more specific.


As for Mackay’s own plans, he expects to play a bit more tennis.


He also will keep his seats on the boards of SABMiller, Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc and Philip Morris International Inc .


“That’s kind of enough to keep me out of mischief for a bit,” he added.




King Rex dethroned from local liquor shelves


Source: The Times-Picayune

February 19, 2013


King Rex no longer reigns, at least not on local store shelves. In a settlement with the Rex organization, which brought suit claiming trademark infringement, the redundantly named Los Angeles liquor distributor has agreed to stop producing products with that name and remove them from shelves in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.


The company, King Rex Spirits, also agreed to stop using the Rex organization’s imagery, traditions and history in marketing its products, said Andrew Rinker, the lead attorney for the king of Carnival’s krewe.


It also signed over to the Rex organization all of its federally registered King Rex trademarks, Rinker said Tuesday, thereby ensuring that no one will be able to use them again.


To soften the economic blow to the company, the settlement lets King Rex Spirits sell the vodka for the next year in the states not covered by the agreement, and for the next 18 months elsewhere.


Even though King Rex Spirits has to give up the right to sell its namesake vodka, “I think the settlement is a great settlement,” said Sal Ortiz, King Rex Spirits’ president and chief executive officer.


Ortiz, who said he had not heard of the Rex organization before the suit, said he spoke favorably about the settlement because it shows neither side bears any ill will toward the other side.


King Rex’s attorney proposed the settlement during a trial Friday before U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, Rinker said.


“We’re very happy to have it all resolved,” he said.


No money changed hands in the settlement, Rinker said, but King Rex Spirits agreed to donate $1,000 to the Pro Bono Publico Foundation, a Rex organization initiative that supports charter schools. The foundation takes its name from the krewe’s motto, which means “for the public good.”


“The important thing,” Rinker said, “is that Rex was able to establish its international rights to its trademarks, trade rights and trade names when connected to Mardi Gras activities.”


“We have no ill will toward the Rex organization,” Ortiz said, adding that he realized that the krewe had to sue to protect its trademarks.


“They were covering their backs,” he said.


Initially, 800 cases of King Rex vodka had been ordered locally, he said, but when the Rex organization filed suit last month, 650 cases were sent back.




French study finds pesticide residues in 90% of wines


Source: Decanter

by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

Tuesday 19 February 2013


Pesticide residues were found in the vast majority of 300 French wines tested, say researchers.


A study of more than 300 French wines has found that only 10% of those tested were clean of any traces of chemicals used during vine treatments.


Pascal Chatonnet and the EXCELL laboratory in Bordeaux tested wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages of Bordeaux, the Rhone, and the wider Aquitaine region, including appellations such as Madiran and Gaillac.


Wines were tested for 50 different molecules found in a range of vine treatments, such as pesticides and fungicides.


Some wines contained up to nine separate molecules, with ‘anti-rot’ fungicides the most commonly found. These are often applied late in the growing season.


‘Even though the individual molecules were below threshold levels of toxicity,’ Chatonnet told, ‘there is a worrying lack of research into the accumulation effect, and how the molecules interact with each other.


‘It is possible that the presence of several molecules combined is more harmful than a higher level of a single molecule,’ he said.


Vineyards represent just 3% of agricultural land in France, but the wine industry accounts for 20% of phytosanitary product volumes, and 80% of fungicide use specifically.  


Since 2008, France’s Ecophyto national plan (involving the study of the ways in which organisms are adapted to their environment) has sought to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2018.


‘By 2012, there had been no reduction at all, even a small rise of 2.7% between 2010 and 2011,’ said Stéphane Boutou, also of EXCELL.  


While EU rules limit pesticide residues on grapes to 250 molecules, there are no limits set for wine.


‘Some molecules will break down during the process of fermentation, and we need more research into what they synthesise into, and more traceability in place,’ Chatonnet said.  


‘But we should not forget that it is not the consumers who are most impacted by this, it is the vineyard workers who are applying the treatments.’


In May 2012, the French government officially recognised a link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease in agricultural workers.




Decanter launches on iPhone as brand reaches record digital audience


Source: Decanter

Tuesday 19 February 2013


Decanter magazine has launched a new digital version on the iPhone, and is now available on all major smartphones and tablet devices.


From this week, iPhone users can download Decanter magazine from the Apple Newsstand, or by searching for Decanter in the Apple app store. Users can subscribe to receive the magazine every month, or buy single issues of Decanter magazine.


This follows the release of Decanter in Apple Newsstand for the iPad in 2012.


Existing magazine print subscribers can access both the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch versions by downloading the app and authenticating their subscriptions, at no extra cost.


In addition, Decanter is also available for download on all major smartphones and tablets via Zinio, Google Play, Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook, by searching for Decanter in each device’s app store.


To date, 18% of Decanter magazine’s print subscribers have activated their subscription on an iPad.


The launch of the iPhone version comes as newly released figures show traffic to doubled during 2012.


Yearly unique users rose from 1.7m in 2011 to 3.5m in 2012, whilst‘s average monthly unique users in 2013 now stand at 425,000.


In addition, the site drew visitors from 214 countries in 2012, with 38% of traffic coming from Europe, 37% from Asia and 20% from the Americas. editor John Abbott said: ‘We’re really pleased to be engaging with the largest number of wine lovers we ever have been, right across the Decanter brand – and we’re committed to serving our international audiences on whatever platform they prefer to interact with us on.’


‘Launching on the iPhone is only one of a number of steps we’re taking towards improving our overall multi-platform offering, so expect more developments from Decanter very soon.’


Decanter magazine was first published in the UK in 1975, and today is read in over 90 countries.


The Decanter brand consists of Decanter magazine,, Decanter Events, Decanter World Wine Awards, and Decanter Asia Wine Awards.




Rioja enjoys record export highs


Source: Harpers

Written by Carol Emmas   

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


The DOCa Rioja has kept its sales over 355 million bottles for the third year in a row, with exports growing by 5.5%, offsetting the decline in sales in Spain.


This has been attributed to a continued rise in demand in export markets, with record export sales close to 100 million litres – almost four out of 10 bottles sold by the wine region.


China continues to show the largest growth, rising to seventh place among importers of Rioja, with the UK standing above the rest accounting for one-third of total exports – totalling 32.7 million litres in 2012, a growth of 6.8%.


In 2012, Rioja exports maintained the positive trend of the two previous years, with successive sales record figures totalling 34% growth in three years, bringing it very close to achieving the current 100 million-litre target.


Despite today’s difficult economic climate, Rioja continues to make inroads in its strategic markets, which account for over 80% of global wine consumption – where Rioja is the undisputed leader among Spanish wine regions.


Crianza red is the best-selling Rioja, closely followed by reds with a generic label. Reserva wines are also on the rise in foreign markets and export sales figures (26 million litres) are almost double those in the domestic market (16 million litres). The overall proportion of barrel-aged wines surpasses 60% of total red wine sales. This is thanks to a specialisation strategy that has required significant investments by wineries, but has allowed Rioja to achieve a better position than its competitors in added-value segments.




Accolade Wines sues Cath Kidston


Source: Decanter

by Chris Mercer

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Accolade Wines has accused popular accessories and homeware brand Cath Kidston of illegally copying Babycham’s deer logo.


Accolade Wines has issued a High Court writ against Cath Kidston for an alleged infringement of copyright after it used a cartoon deer, similar to Babycham’s leaping, ribbon-clad mascot, on its Christmas 2012 homeware range.


‘We are most concerned that the use of a similar image risks bringing the brand into disrepute by using alcohol-related imagery on material designed for children,’ a spokesperson for the Hardys winemaker said.


‘The company’s initial attempts to resolve the dispute had been unsuccessful, leaving no option other than to go to court.’


Cath Kidston denied that there are any ‘substantial similarities’ between the two deer logos. ‘We have been advised that Babycham’s action is without merit,’ a spokesperson said. ‘We will fight these claims accordingly.’


Babycham, technically a sparkling perry, was first launched 60 years ago, in 1953.




Knight Michael Robbins 


Source: St. Helena Star

February 14, 2013


Knight Michael Robbins was a member of a vanishing Napa Valley pioneer breed who came to the valley in the early 1960s with a big dream: to make the finest wines and put the Napa Valley on the wine map of the world. He founded Spring Mountain Vineyards, the 16th winery in the valley. His acclaimed 1968-69 cabernet was his first release of 33 vintages, many of which were highly regarded, placing in the top tiers in prestigious wine competitions.


Michael passed away at his home in St. Helena on Jan. 29, 2013, at age 89. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 5, 1923. His father died when Michael was 3. To help his mother, Michael started working at a young age. His strong work ethic and drive to succeed stayed with him throughout his life.


After high school, Michael enlisted in the Navy, was appointed to the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 1948. His time at Annapolis was formative with its rigorous academics and disciplined routine. Michael could still “sit” at a table with no chair well into his 70s. At Annapolis, he met the young Grace Kelly, who remained a friend of his throughout her life. Michael served three tours in the Korean War.


After the Navy, Michael worked in real estate, leasing the Alcoa Building in San Francisco and Century City Towers in Los Angeles. From his project in Los Angeles, he commuted back to his home in St. Helena every weekend to pursue winemaking. During this time, he also attended night school, eventually earning a law degree from the University of San Francisco.


Michael did not have his first glass of wine until age 31, but once he discovered his passion for wine, he pursued it intensely. He envisioned creating a wine estate in the image of the great French chateaux, but he also wanted to challenge French wine tradition and help put Napa Valley on the fine-wine map. His Spring Mountain wines were represented at the famous 1976 Paris Tasting.


In 1963, Michael bought and restored the Victorian house on Highway 29 that is known today as St. Clement Vineyards. It became the original home property of Spring Mountain Vineyards. In 1974, Michael purchased the old Tiburcio Parrott estate on Spring Mountain Road, near St. Helena. He painstakingly restored the large villa to its historic beauty and then set about designing and constructing the winery buildings, which were completed in 1977. No detail was too small for his attention. He even designed the stained glass for the winery’s “Spring Mountain,” “Chardonnay” and “Cabernet Sauvignon” windows.


Michael’s own interest in the Napa Valley was sparked in part by seeing the movie “This Earth is Mine” in 1959. In 1982, the producer of the “The Waltons” approached Michael to film a television pilot at Spring Mountain. This pilot became the long-running series “Falcon Crest.” The show featured some of Michael’s favorite 1940s movie stars, but its unexpected popularity overwhelmed the private estate winery with fans. The series brought many visitors to the valley, particularly international tourists.


Throughout this period, Spring Mountain Vineyards continued to make elegant, cellar-worthy wines. The Robbins family left Spring Mountain in 1992, with Michael refocusing his passion on golf, 49ers football and the potential of a new winemaking challenge in Virginia.


Michael founded an extraordinary wine estate and was a recognizable character in the wine world. He will be deeply missed by his beloved wife of 33 years, Susan; his children, Grant and Matthew Robbins; his stepdaughter, Sarah Richards-Gansa (Andrew); and his grandchildren, Luca and Renzo.


A memorial service celebrating Michael’s life will be held at St. Helena Catholic Church on Friday, Feb. 15, at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the St. Helena Fire Department and Hospice Napa Valley.






Source: Daily Mail

Feb 20th


ITS slogan says ‘every little helps’. But shoppers appear to think Tesco should be doing a lot more.


The supermarket has been voted the worst in the UK by consumers.


Of the nine major chains, it came bottom of the table in an annual poll of 11,000 shoppers by Which?


It received poor marks for its pricing, store environment, quality of fresh produce and customer service giving it a a customer satisfaction rating of just 45 per cent.


At the other end of the scale, Waitrose received a score of 82 per cent, including five-star ratings for its customer service and the quality of its fresh produce.


Shoppers rated the supermarkets on customer satisfaction and the likelihood they would recommend the store to a friend.


Discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl came second and third with scores of 74 per cent and 69 per cent respectively, beating bigger rivals Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda.


The budget chains were the only ones to get four-star ratings for their pricing.


A Tesco spokesman said: ‘We have made a £1billion commitment to make Tesco better for our UK customers since this survey in October 2012.’




Restaurant sales drop as consumers cut spending


Consumers ordered fewer premium entrées in January, the NRN-MillerPulse survey finds


Source: NRN

Charlie Duerr    

Feb. 19, 2013


Restaurant industry same-store sales declined in January due to pullback from consumers, according to the latest NRN-MillerPulse survey.


Contributing to the same-store sales dip at restaurants is a significant drop in premium entrée orders, possibly due to consumer frugality after increases in the payroll tax, according to MillerPulse.


MillerPulse, an operator survey exclusive to Nation’s Restaurant News, questioned operators from 53 restaurants in February regarding January sales, profit trends, performance and outlook. Respondents included operators from all regions of the country that represent the quick-service, casual-dining, fine-dining and fast-casual segments. Those surveyed in January represented restaurants that booked about 18 percent of industry sales.


Overall, industry same-store sales rose 1.1 percent in January, a significant drop from the 2.4-percent increase reported in December, with both main segments contributing to the results. Quick-service restaurants, which include both fast-food and fast-casual brands, reported a 1.6-percent increase in sales in January compared with a 2.5-percent increase the month prior. Sales at full-service restaurants, which include both casual-dining and fine-dining brands, rose 0.6 percent in January, compared with the 2.2-percent increase in December, the survey found.


“Operators are unsure of what the cause of the slowdown was,” said Larry Miller, restaurant securities analyst at RBC Capital Markets and creator of the monthly MillerPulse surveys. “They cited a laundry list of reasons, including weather, holiday shifts, gas prices and tax refund delays.”


Miller believes one key factor may be the increased payroll tax, which took effect at the beginning of the year. Of the operators surveyed in February, 35.9 percent said that the tax had an impact on same-store sales or average check, 25.6 percent said it did not and 38.5 percent said it was “unclear” at the moment.


The tax has the potential to dampen traffic and sales, he added, and if it proves to have an impact, it is one that is not likely to go away anytime soon. “If the payroll tax is indeed hurting sales, the impact could be longer lasting,” he said. “Potentially all of 2013.”


Consumers may be responding to the impact of the tax by ordering fewer premium entrée orders, a trend that has occurred since May 2012. And while an uptick happened in December, perhaps from consumers splurging during the holiday season, the survey found that the net percentage of operators surveyed in February experiencing a softer trend in premium entrées was the highest it has been since the summer of 2011, when the U.S. debt rating was downgraded.


“I think it speaks to larger trend of pricing power being more limited in 2013,” Miller said. “This stems from the rise in promotions and discounting to maintain traffic level, which aren’t growing as fast as the number of restaurants.”


Still, there were a few bright spots in this month’s report. After showing a significant decline in January, consumer spending plans were stronger at every restaurant segment in February, and operators were optimistic about February same-store sales. A net 9 percent of operators believed that February sales would be better than January, the survey found. That number was calculated by subtracting the 24 percent of operators who thought sales would be worse in February from the 33 percent that believed things would be better. For the next six months, however, the outlook remains split, with quick-service restaurants expecting positive results and full-service restaurants expecting tough times to continue.


The survey found that while the industry as a whole is generally optimistic about the future, operators have serious concerns. “Operators are significantly worried about guest traffic,” Miller said, “which leaped to the number one concern for the first time since 2009.”




Red Robin earnings doubled over 2011, and it expects sales to increase


Source: Dow Jones

By Annie Gasparro and Melodie Warner

Feb 20th


Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc.’s fourth-quarter earnings doubled over the same period in 2011 as the restaurant chain attracted more customers, and it expects them to spend more on their meals this year.


Greenwood Village-based Red Robin’s shares rose 18.9 percent Tuesday to close at $43.33, as the company gave an upbeat outlook and seems to be avoiding the fate of its rivals amid a struggling economy.


“Economic headwinds will continue to impact casual dining,” said chief financial officer Stuart Brown on a conference call. But Red Robin is confident its initiatives, which proved successful in the last quarter, will help it steal customers from rivals, without heavy discounts that hurt profitability.


“We remain cautious regarding consumer discretionary spending,” Brown said. “The consumer was volatile last quarter; it was volatile the quarter before; it’s going to continue to be volatile in 2013.”


For 2013, Red Robin forecast that sales at its established locations will increase 2.5 percent to 3 percent, of which approximately 2 percent will be from price increases to offset inflation.


For the fourth quarter, Red Robin reported a profit of $6.49 million, or 45 cents a share, up from $2.91 million, or 20 cents, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings rose to 59 cents a share from 28 cents. Revenue jumped 17 percent to $240.7 million.


Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had most recently forecast per-share earnings of 44 cents on revenue of $232 million.


Restaurant-level operating margin at company-owned restaurants improved to 20.6 percen from 19.9 percent.


Same-restaurant sales rose 1.4 percent as guest counts edged up 0.3 percent and the average guest check increased 1.1j percent.




Kentucky: Appeal of KY Ruling on Wine and Spirits in Grocery Stores Under Way


Source: Wine & Spirits Daily

FEBRUARY 19, 2013


The appeal of Judge John Heyburn’s declaration that Kentucky’s long-standing law forbidding certain grocery stores and gas stations from selling wine and spirits unconstitutional is underway. Four opening briefs have been filed, three that move to overturn the ruling and one in support.


KENTUCKY’S ARGUMENT: The Department of Alcohol Beverage Control in Kentucky (the state) believes the judge’s ruling should be reversed because 1) the Twenty-First Amendment technically gives the state the authority to regulate “where, when, how to whom and in whose presence” alcohol may be sold, 2) the court’s analysis was inconsistent and 3) because the court put the burden of proof on the state rather than the plaintiffs.


The state’s official legal brief leans primarily on the Twenty-First Amendment. It argues the alcohol law in question is a proper use of their Twenty-First Amendment authority and “treats all Kentucky businesses equally.” It believes the judge made a mistake by “[dismissing] one of the greatest sources of Constitutional authority granted to the States [the Twenty-First Amendment], in favor of the least of any protected interest under the Fourteenth Amendment,” according to the brief.


The state cited two different district court cases where a judge ruled states may classify and treat businesses differently to permit certain kinds of alcohol sales at one type of business, but not another, and treat alcohol businesses differently based on their sales of a product as a percentage of their total gross sales. The state claims these decision are ultimately inconsistent with the ruling on this case, which concludes basically the opposite.


PARTY SOURCE ARGUMENT: Intervening defendant Party Source liquor store supported the state’s Twenty-First Amendment argument, claiming the district court failed to apply the Twenty-First Amendment to this case and failed to balance that Amendment with the Equal Protection Clause.” Party Source also claimed the court’s opinion violates the separation of powers by usurping the state’s power to act on behalf of its citizens.


Party Source writes that the district court “ignores that its ruling is not just about grocery stores versus drug stores” and “failed to consider sales restrictions” in its analysis. They continued: “Any retailer selling staple groceries above 10% of its sales cannot hold a package liquor license. As a result, drug stores (and package liquor stores) could never compete with grocery stores in staple grocery business without losing their liquor license.” Thus, a drug store is not defined as a “staple grocery store” that unfairly gets a statutory exception to sell distilled spirits.


AMERICAN BEVERAGE LICENSEES ARGUMENT: Not to be left out, national independent alcohol retailer organization The American Beverage Licensees (ABL) also filed a brief on behalf of the original law. ABL claims the state has “no obligation” to give evidence to support its rationality behind the law, and once again because the Twenty-First Amendment “is just as much a part of the Constitution as is the Equal Protection clause.”


PLAINTIFF ARGUMENT: In response, plaintiffs Maxwell’s Pic-Pac and the Wine with Food Coalition (The Grocers) make two arguments on their behalf. First, challenging the “rational basis” for a law that allows a retailer like Rite-Aid to be licensed to sell wine and cheese in the same transaction but not a retailer like ValuMarket. “While the Kentucky laws that discriminate in this manner… limit the number of potential wine and liquor sellers, they do so arbitrarily,” which violates the equal protection clause, writes The Grocers.


“The fact that the State and Party Source both chose to ground their briefs in extolling the strength of the 21st Amendment, instead of offering a rational basis for the classification at issue, confirms that there is no rational basis for the classification,” they continued.


Their second argument is that the terms “staple groceries” and “substantial part of the commercial transaction” are “unconstitutionally vague.” The Grocers claims a law “so vague, indefinite and uncertain that the courts are unable, by accepted rules of construction, to determine… will be declared inoperative and void.”


Meanwhile, the Kentucky legislature is in the process of vetting a proposed bill that would essentially maintain the controversial provisions in the original law. We’re guessing this situation is only going to get more complex with so many different parties involved. We’ll keep you updated as it continues to develop.




Oregon: Responsible Retailing Forum and Oregon Liquor Control Commission to test new strategy to reduce underage alcohol sales


Source: RRForum

Feb 19th


The Responsible Retailing Forum (RRForum) and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) are partnering to examine a new approach to support alcohol beverage licensee compliance with underage sales laws to minors: Mystery Shopper programs.


OLCC and other regulatory and enforcement agencies conduct compliance checks in which the licensee and staff are both cited if underage decoys are sold or served alcohol. Mystery Shop programs use young, legal-age inspectors who attempt to purchase age-restricted products for the sole purpose of providing feedback to licensees on actual staff age-verification conduct. Unlike law enforcement inspections, licensees and staff face no legal penalties for failing to check the ID of someone young enough to trigger an ID check but not under age 21. Mystery Shops have proven effective with large national chains. Researchers working with RRForum hypothesize that they will similarly improve staff performance for independently owned and operated licensees.


To test this, RRForum researchers will partner with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to conduct 13 monthly Mystery Shops in 24 Oregon communities. In eight communities, licensees will receive on-the-spot feedback and follow-up reports; in eight others, they will receive reports on aggregate community-level performance and Responsible Retailing best practices; and the remaining eight communities will serve as controls.


“This is an extraordinary opportunity to partner with the Responsible Retailing Forum on this research project,” said Rudy Williams, OLCC Public Safety Program Director. “If proven effective, Mystery Shops will provide us with a low-cost tool to help licensees and the community reduce underage alcohol sales.”


The research project is funded by an award from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice / Delinquency Prevention to RRF Field Services LLC, RRForum’s research and technical services arm.



RRF                                                            OLCC

Brad Krevor, Ph.D                                                Rudy Williams

President                                                    Director, Public Safety Program

503-872-5191                                                      503-872-5017                                      




Connecticut: End State’s Liquor Price Restrictions


Governor is trying to cut costs for consumers, level playing field with Massachusetts


Source: Hartford Courant

February 15, 2013


Once again, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is attempting to bring in extra state revenue by giving consumers more reason to buy alcoholic beverages in Connecticut, thereby keeping both the sales and excise taxes in-state. His two-year battle with the well-entrenched package store lobby has seen some success, but so far the big prize – lowering prices – has eluded him.


If he wins this time, liquor purchasers and taxpayers will both benefit.


Last year, the state legislature approved Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages. Many package store owners grumble that the change meant no extra income, even a loss of revenue, and some are probably right: For many customers, six days’ purchases were simply spread over seven days.


But allowing Sunday sales did slow the Sabbath exodus to nearby states, thus keeping more tax money here. And opponents of the law never convincingly explained why liquor retailers should be given a competitive break when other mom-and-pop operations have no such protection.


The major issue, however, remains price, not convenience.


Liquor manufacturers set suggested retail prices; in Connecticut, no store may sell below those prices. The law benefits small package stores by making it no cheaper to buy at big-box outlets.


Mr. Malloy wants to change that. Under his proposal, alcoholic beverage retailers, if they wish, may sell spirits and wine at the wholesale price plus delivery costs. That could cut the per-bottle price by several dollars, making it much more attractive to buy in Connecticut. (Beer is not included in the plan; it should be.)


Connecticut’s main foe in liquor sales is Massachusetts, which has no minimum pricing, no sales tax on alcohol, and a lower excise tax. Plus, it’s right next door – as untold consumers have found. To keep liquor sales here, our state must be more competitive.




Turkey: Turkey’s Creeping Alcohol Ban Reaches New Heights


Source: Al-Monitor

By: Kadri Gursel

February 19


The neo-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) that has ruled Turkey for more than 10 years, parallel to boosting its strength and effectiveness, has for a while also been pursuing a multi-phase campaign to exclude alcohol consumption from public life and make it invisible.


None of the underhanded alcohol bans systematically expanded over the years were ever justified on religious grounds. Rather, the justification for banning alcohol sales and consumption has always been to protect public health and public order.


The latest example of these stealthy moves comes as the national Turkish Airlines (THY) stops serving alcoholic drinks in all its domestic business-class flights, apart from those to six particluar destinations. Alcohol was already unavailable on domestic economy-class flights.


As usual, the latest ban was justified by officials on non-religious grounds. The chairman of the THY executive board, Hamdi Topcu, said in a statement published by Radikal on Feb. 19 that abolishing alcohol service was “purely for economic reasons.” A communiqué issued by THY on Feb. 13 had announced that alcohol service in business-class flights was being eliminated because of “low demand and logistical reasons.”


Of 36 domestic flights, 16 offer business-class service. The destinations of 10 out of the 16 flights now without alcohol service are conservative Anatolian cities where alcohol has been practically banned for a long time.


Alongside the alcohol ban in domestic flights, it was announced that the number of THY international flights that will not serve alcohol have increased from two to eight since the beginning of the year. The first two countries were Iran and Saudi Arabia, where there is a strict ban on alcohol. To these two countries were added the destinations of Karachi and Islamabad in Pakistan, Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt, Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq, Mogadishu in Somalia, Dakar in Senegal and Niamey in Niger. THY gave the reason for expanding the list as a “‘requests by concerned countries.”


Alcohol is freely available in some of these countries, fully banned in some and partially banned in others.


In Turkey, there is no question of banning the sale of alcohol and its consumption in all parts of the country. No such move is to be expected anytime soon. But since the AKP took over power in the central government and local administrations, it has been implementing a gradual “salami-slice” strategy against the sale and consumption of alcohol in public spaces.


A citizen of the Turkish Republic who enjoys shooting the breeze over a couple glasses of wine or raki with friends after work now has a diminishing number of locations and even towns where he can do that.


Turkey has had alcohol-free provincial towns for a long time. In the Black Sea region and inland towns governed by local AKP administrations, there is no question of alcohol sales in public spaces. You can drink only in bars and restaurants of five-star hotels. One reason for this is the social pressure imposed by conservative circles, and the other is the bureaucratic pressure applied by the AKP, which utilizes public-administration tools and privileges to curb alcohol consumption.


For the first time, in 2011, just before the month of Ramadan, Istanbul banned pubs and restaurants from serving alcohol in the city’s cosmopolitan leisure center Beyoglu (formerly Pera) from putting tables on sidewalks, under the pretext of obstructing pedestrian and vehicle traffic. This was a step to make alcohol consumption invisible during Ramadan.


In April 2012, for the first time ever, the governor of the inland province of Afyon issued an edict declaring consumption of alcohol in spaces open to the public “indefinitely prohibited.” Only after the public’s reaction was the step scaled back, applying “only to parks.”


Forcing alcohol-serving facilities to move to outside of Anatolian towns was already a widespread practice. In 2012, we witnessed the ban of alcoholic-beverage sales in the restaurant of the Grand National Assembly. In 2012 sale of alcohol and its consumption were banned in university campuses. In July, beer sales in a music festival sponsored by a beer company at an Istanbul university campus were banned shortly before the festival was to begin, through direct intervention by the government.


Government officials admit that there is no alcoholism problem in Turkey. Nevertheless, it is impossible to justify the government’s persistence in trying to declare it an illegal commodity as an effort to protect public health. Protecting public health has nothing to do with stopping serving of alcoholic drinks in official state functions and at high-level diplomatic receptions.


It is all about the government and the state’s new Islamist/conservative masters imposing their politicized beliefs on others and thus building a new exclusionist and intolerant political culture.


The same goes for banning alcohol in most of THY’s domestic flights, but there is also a socio-economic dimension to this. Social pressure is now working on business-class travel.


It is generally the AKP elite who uses the business-class in flights to Turkey’s stiffly conservative cities, where it is impossible to drink in public spaces. This elite is the AKP ministers, members of parliament, provincial party heads, governors, senior officials and businessmen of the conservative bourgeoisie, who are labeled “Anatolian tigers.”


These powerful people who support alcohol bans or approve of them in their towns tend to become visibly irritated if a passenger sitting next them asks for a glass of wine and begins to sip it. Complaints and even direct interventions are common. Social pressure works because this intolerance corresponds to the conservative political culture that is prevailing in the country.


The six THY flights on which alcohol is still served are to Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, Bodrum and Dalaman. These are the cities and regions that are open to the world and to tourism, without serious problems with a liberal lifestyle. The powers that be do not yet have the power to ban alcohol on these flights, but THY no longer deserves to use its “Globally Yours” slogan on all its flights.


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