Sunday, June 1, 2008

Market Watch Part II - The BLCs

The majority of the world's wine is controlled by the Big Liquor Companies (BLCs) around the world.  These empires make far more money selling spirits than wine, but having wine allows them to fill trucks, control restaurant wine lists and has relatively little additional costs since they already have warehouses, sales people, offices and trucks on the road.  Some of the BLC names include Diageo, Foster's Group, Constellation Brands, Bacardi USA, E&J Distillers and Pernod Ricard. Just how much money and control are we talking about here?  Diageo recently bought 50% ownership in Ketel One Vodka for $900 million and Bicardi USA bought the name and logo for Grey Goose vodka for $2.2 billion.  That's just the name, not the distilleries or the recipe.  In fact the recipe is irrelevant for spirits like vodka.  It's all about marketing and image.

Here are the top spirit growth brands of 2007 from Market Watch:  
  1. Smirnoff (Diageo) 9,290,000 cases 
  2. Captain Morgan (Diageo) 6,335,000 cases
  3. Jose Cuervo (Diageo) 4,290,000
  4. Crown Royal (Diageo) 4,150,000
  5. E&J Brandy (E&J Distillers) 3,720,000
  6. Grey Goose (Bacardi USA) 3,325,000
  7. Svedka (Constellation) 1,600,000
  8. Patrón (Patrón Spirits Co.) 1,580,000
  9. Seagram's Vodka (Infinium Spirits) 890,000
  10. Three Olives (Proximo) 885,000
Other top growth brands you may know in the list: Burnett's Vodka, Jose Cuervo Golden Margarita, Jameson, UV, Admiral Nelson, Pinnacle.

Again, these are not the top selling brands, just the brands with the most growth in 2007.  Remember there are brands like Maker's Mark, Jack Daniel's, Sky, Ketel One, Jägermeister, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo, Jameson, etc. still out there strong. 

When you add up the numbers involving spirits it's easy to see why the wine business is a side thought.  It takes pennies or nickels to make many of these spirits.  They sell for premium prices in the $20, $30, $40 or more range.  The top growth wines sell for dollars or at least under $15 in most instances and cost far more to produce per bottle.  

Most spirits drinkers are loyal to a brand for image, but are told they are drinking for flavor. Case in point the popular Tanqueray commercials right now featuring "Tony Sinclair."  The image they project is that drinking their gin is cool and therefore tastes better.  

BLCs exist in NC right now through wine on most retail store's shelves and in the ABC stores, but their presence is more behind the scenes.  They are working right now to get laws changed and move into NC in a big way.  We will most likely see the state run ABC store go away in the near future and then everything will change in NC when it comes to BLCs and their presence here.  We will see giant liquor warehouses move in, the price clubs will sell liquor and the wine playing field will change radically, dramatically and rapidly.

Fortunately not all wine is owned by the BLCs and you can find honest brands, real wineries and estate grown wines still in the world. That's what we do at Wine Authorities.  Our mission is to represent estate grown wines from around the world.  Most of these wines won't fit the BLC model.  - Salamanzar


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