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No stranger to the courts or challenging state laws that interfere with its biz model, largest US indie wine/liquor retailer Total Wine & More is at it again.  Lawsuit in US Dist Ct alleges combo of Connecticut’s price posting laws and bans of selling “below cost” and volume discounts “facilitate and impel wholesalers to combine, conspire, and agree, either tacitly or explicitly, to fix and maintain wholesale and retail prices.... Total Wine & More sees evidence of price-fixing and resale price maintenance by wholesalers on a monthly basis.”   Producers participate in price fixing too, Total alleges, via price-posting info that’s shared among competitors.  System prevents Total from providing lower prices to consumers by leveraging its “market and business efficiencies.”  Suit cites study by Distilled Spirits Council that found CT residents pay up to 24% more for same products than consumers in neighboring states.  With no CT regulators “actively” supervising system that upper tiers use to post, match and coordinate both bottle and case prices, scheme violates fed antitrust laws barring horizontal and vertical price fixing, Total claims.  Total seeks declaration that laws “void and of no force and effect,” plus injunction against their enforcement.  Specifically, price posting law allows wholesalers…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 18
  • Issue # 152
Just not getting any better for beer and most brewers in GuestMetrics database of over 9K on-premise accounts, in data for 4 wks thru Jul 8 reported by Exane BNP Paribas.  All in, beer volume -6.5%, $$ sales -4.3% for those 4 wks, each a slightly steeper dropoff than in Q2.  Craft $$ -3% but gained share, premium lights -7.1%, continued to lose share.  Constellation and “smaller” craft brewers were the winners.  AB continued down, volumes -6.3%, $$ -4.1%, but AB gained modest share as it outperformed the mkt.  Bud Light and Bud down 7.2%, 5.5% respectively.  But Michelob Ultra +8%, Stella off just 1%.  Each of MC, Heineken, Boston and Pabst saw volume dip 9% or more this period. MC volume -9.5%, $$ down 7.8%; each of Miller Lite, Coors Light and Blue Moon off about 7% in $$.  HUSA even softer: volume -11.4%, $$ down 10.1%.  Brand Heineken off near 13%, Dos down 6.6%.  And Boston and Pabst even softer than that, with respective $$ sales -13.8% and -12.8%.  Even Lagunitas down 7%.  Outside of Constellation, among top 25, only Stone, Firestone Walker, Founders, Sapporo and Victory increased dollar sales in GuestMetrics universe for 4 wks, Exane BNP…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 18
  • Issue # 152
Annual Tamarron Survey allows distribs to rate suppliers across various relationship and performance categories.  This yr’s version focused lots on “evolving tier responsibilities” and included both distrib and supplier views on those responsibilities. Tho tiers aligned in some areas, interesting and wide gaps in others.  This year, Tamarron got results from 226 distribs selling 1/3 of industry volume.  Avg volume was 4.3 mil cases, in same range as last 6 yrs (just under 4 mil cases to just over 4.3 mil).  A little over half (54%) of distribs reported revs over $50 mil, 46% were below that amount.  Just 7% were over $300 mil.  Since 2005, distribs went from avg of 13 suppliers to 35, 63 brands to 251 and 268 SKUs to 1,082.  MC won the overall performance rating, scoring 3.61 (range is 1-5), edging out Boston Beer (3.59) which had won previous 7 yrs.  Constellation came in a strong #3 at 3.46.  MC ceo Gavin Hattersley and sales prexy Kevin Doyle sent e-mail to employees on Friday, noting this was MC’s first win of Tamarron and pointing out that “we ranked above the industry average in all 13 functional areas and all 74 questions.”  Avg mark distribs gave…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 18
  • Issue # 136
As scan data shows significant craft slowdown so far this yr and several biggest players flat-to-down in first half, craft segment as defined by BA posted 8% growth Jan-Jun, estimates Bart Watson.  Craft scored double-digit gains each of last 6 calendar yrs.  Elusive craft definition complicates reported trends.  Bart’s growth estimate based on brewers that will be in BA-data set in 2016.  That excludes fast-growers Lagunitas and Ballast Point (Founders already out), as they’re not BA-defined craft brewers anymore.  Another fast-grower, AB’s Goose Island, ain’t in the number either.  Trend would be higher with ’em.  Recall, BA does not include big brewers’ craft brands/acquisitions, nor Craft Brew Alliance. But BA does include Yuengling, which softens trend.  So do first-half downturns at Boston, Sierra Nevada and a coupla other big craft brewers.  But “long tail of craft continues to smoke,” sez Bart, “there's very little evidence of much of a slowdown there.”  Tail and newbies adding incremental and oft-missed on-site/taproom volume not measured by other data services.   Speakin’ of newbies, no slowdown in folks entering the biz.  A whoppin’ 917 new operating brewers in US since same time last yr and brewer count now sits at 4,656.  Oh yeah, there’s another…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 18
  • Issue # 132
Big news out of Ballast Point today.  Two top Ballast Point execs have left the co as of today, including chief commercial officer Earl Kight, who has been the face of the company with distribs for years, as well as prexy/ceo Jim Buechler, top exec of co.  On Earl’s Facebook page, he talks of “the final Longfin from my manZach Borba...all good things must come to end...my last day at Ballast Point...on to the next project (s).”  One distrib comments: “Dude…????  WTF???”  Ballast Point of course was bought by Constellation for a billion bucks late last year.  And so far, at least from a numbers perspective,  going swimmingly.  Constellation just reported that Ballast Point up 60% in latest qtr Mar-May. And Ballast Point virtually doubling yr-to-date in IRI multi-outlet + convenience data in what’s become a very tough craft environment for many.   More as story develops.  

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 18
  • Issue # 130
Multiple participants and observers have put their own spins on Dept of Justice’s deal with ABI to clear ABI-SAB (see below).  How does DoJ describe the deal?  Govt headlines that “settlement” maintains competition in US, “prohibits ABI from disadvantaging rivals” and “provides review of future ABI craft beer acquisitions.”  So even DoJ views this as win-win-win: for ABI, competing brewers and distribs, as well as consumers.  First, divesting SAB’s MC interest “prevents any increase in concentration in the US beer industry,” a fundamental DoJ concern.  Second up, in DoJ view: settlement “prohibits ABI from instituting or continuing practices and programs that limit the ability and incentives of independent beer distributors” to sell beer of “ABIs high-end and other rivals.”  DoJ Review of Future Buys; New or No?  Further, settlement “precludes ABI from acquiring beer distributors or brewers including non-HSR [Hart-Scott-Rodino law] reportable craft brewer acquisitions without allowing for department review of the acquisition’s likely competitive effects.”  DoJ explains this provision by noting that settlement requires ABI to notify govt of deals that would not otherwise be reportable under current law.  They include acquisitions of “any interest” in brewers that do over $7.5 mil in annual revs and distribution rights to…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 18
  • Issue # 129