The deals keep comin’. Artisanal Brewing Ventures is venturing outside of craft beer realm, acquiring Bold Rock Hard Cider, the #2 hard cider brand in the US. Bold Rock “signed a partnership agreement to become part of Artisanal Brewing Ventures,” marking ABVs 4th brand family along with Southern Tier, Victory and Sixpoint, co announced. Deal expected to close by end of yr. Founders John Washburn and Brian Shanks will remain in “leadership roles” while Bold Rock integrates into ABV platform. (ABV backed by PE firm/family office Ulysses Management.)
This “signals ABV’s move to continue to extend beyond craft beer” and catapults ABV platform to new heights among US alc bev suppliers, co touts. Recall, ABV surpassed 300K bbls last yr after acquiring Sixpoint, shipping 311K bbls in total. Bold Rock is growing low-double-digits again this yr and expects to finish near 80K bbls in 2019, ABV CEO John Coleman told CBN. And current ABV platform is growing mid-to-high single digits YTD. So ABV on pace to surpass 400K bbls. That puts em among “top-10 regional craft adult alcohol beverage platforms,” sez co. ABV has already been dabbling in beyond beer categories with Southern Tier spirits, RTD canned cocktails, vodka-based hard seltzer line and hard cider on smaller base. But Bold Rock bolsters ABV’s platform considerably in beyond beer realms and widens scope of oppys going forward. It now touts “leadership position in eight of the country’s top 50 markets for craft beer, hard cider, hard seltzer and premium spirits-based cocktails.” Collectively, ABV will look to “leverage” all 4 suppliers’ “collective consumer data and insights to build an impactful innovation program and marketing approach.”
Lotsa Expansion Oppys; ABV Sales Team Over 100 Strong Bold Rock has maintained very tight distribution footprint while going deep in home mkts since opening in 2012. About 80% of sales are in VA and NC where Bold Rock operates its two production cideries with taprooms along with 2 additional seasonal retail outlets as well. ABV distrib footprint is mostly aligned with Bold Rock since they’re aligned in VA and NC. Bold Rock also has distribution in SC, WV, MD, DC, TN, GA, DE and some of PA, according to co’s website. So expanding distribution is an easier lever to pull, and “we can extend our brand to new consumers up and down the east coast” in particular, Bold Rock’s John Washburn sez in released statement.
Bold Rock will also have access to ABV’s 9 retail locations (including Sixpoint in Brooklyn and Victory in Philly still in build-out phase), as well as various production facilities. Plus, Bold Rock will now have access to ABV’s sales team of over 100 folks with “deep and dense” presence in key mkts including 11-person key accounts team. Since Bold Rock does most of its biz in chain-heavy states, VA and NC, there will be oppys to take it to other states with same chains, Coleman noted. “Many consumers, distributors and accounts have urged us to expand to their areas,” and “now we have the resources and capabilities,” added Brian Shanks.
Hard Seltzer Just Getting Started Bold Rock also launched hard seltzer and canned cocktail lines earlier this summer, and those are both really just getting started, John Coleman pointed out. Bold Rock Hard Seltzer launched statewide in VA and NC this Jun with unique apple-based alcohol, clocking in at just 82 calories, 4% ABV and 1g sugar, available in two flavors, Grapefruit and Cucumber Melon (see May 7 issue). But they’re still very small for starters, sez John, especially since it only launched brands in 6pks, yet to launch a variety pk.
Bold Rock $$ Up 7%, Vol +10% in IRI; Total ABV Nearly as Large as Firestone & Bell’s in Scans Taking a closer look at scan data, Bold Rock cider $$ sales were up 7% to $21.2 mil, volume +10% to 577K cases YTD thru Oct 6 in IRI data provided by Bump Williams Consulting. So total ABV leapfrogs Deschutes, SweetWater and Stone to become the 22nd largest supplier in natl IRI with $64 mil in sales, 1.5 mil cases. Not far behind Bell’s ($65.5 mil) and just ahead of Firestone Walker ($63.3 mil). And growing low-double-digits collectively. Bold Rock is still a distant #2 player in cider vs Angry Orchard, yet Bold Rock continues to build its lead over large brewers’ cider portfolios, including AB ($13.1 mil), HUSA ($13 mil) and MC ($10.1 mil). Bold Rock flagship apple cider continues to grow double-digits collectively, John told CBN, tho Virginia Apple is flattish while Carolina Apple is up 20% in IRI. Seasonal program continues to grow as well, tho currently not tracking correctly in IRI data, according to John. And co has strong innovation pipeline including recent Harvest Haze fall seasonal, he added.
Cowen (Townsend) Was Bold Rock’s Financial Advisor Lastly, gotta note that Cowen Company served as “exclusive financial advisor” to Bold Rock for deal, per release. That’s first time we’ve seen Cowen as lead advisor for beer/cider M&A in our memory. But the man behind the advisory role should read familiar: Townsend Ziebold moved to Cowen earlier this yr from Cascadia Capital and First Beverage before that.