Constellation Brands has acquired a majority stake in Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, a Tennessee-based whiskey producer, marking the first time one of the company’s venture capital investments has been fully integrated into the company’s wine and spirits portfolio.
Constellation made its initial minority investment in the distillery through its venture capital arm in 2016, and the company decided to increase its stake after three years of collaboration with the distillery.
According to the company, the collaboration broadened Constellation’s knowledge of the craft whiskey space, and the acquisition of a majority stake has enhanced its presence in the high-end spirits space.
Nelson’s Green Brier was initially founded in 1860 but was forced to close following the introduction of prohibition in Tennessee in 1909. The distillery was then reconstructed in 2014 by Andy and Charlie Nelson, who began producing a whiskey using the distillery’s original recipe.
This is the latest investment in the premium spirits space, following on from the purchase of a minority stake in US-based Black Button Distilling earlier this year, which was also conducted through Constellation’s venture capital arm.
Constellation’s president and CEO Bill Newlands said: “Our ventures group was created to identify up-and-coming brands, and we’re excited about one of our first ventures investments being folded into our portfolio.
“Whiskey is a red-hot category, and Tennessee whiskey fills a white space for us.
“Once integrated into our wine and spirits division and benefitting from our market reach, distributor partnerships and consumer insights, we see Nelson’s Green Brier scaling even further in the next few years.”
Nelson’s Green Brier co-founder Charlie Nelson added: “Our family distillery was one of the largest producers of whiskey and spirits in the country prior to Prohibition.
“Ever since we revived the company, our dream has been to return the Nelson’s Green Brier profile to the national, and even international, marketplace.
“The relationship we’ve enjoyed over the past several years with Constellation has made it clear they’re the ideal partners to help us achieve the kind of growth we’ve been moving toward all along, while honouring the principles our customers have come to appreciate.”
Last month, Constellation revealed that its full-year net sales increased 7% to $8.12 billion in 2018, though net sales registered by the company’s wine and spirits unit fell 0.2% to $2.91 billion over the year.
The release of the results came just a day after the company announced that it would sell 30 of its wine and spirits brands and six US winemaking facilities to E & J Gallo Winery for $1.7 billion.
Most brands included in the sale fell under the $11 price category in the US, and so the move hinted that Constellation would seek to focus more on its portfolio of premium beverages.
By Martin White
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