CBC - If you ask me... 42 Below
While the hip vodka brand 42 Below has made quite a splash in the premium vodka market, it is the brand's growth potential in this vibrant category that tempted Bacardi to part with US$91m, and few observers think the company has taken a major risk in doing so. Chris Brook-Carter runs his eye over Bacardi's latest acquisition.
Well, you have to take your hat off to those boys and girls at 42 Below. They have achieved what every entrepreneur sets out to do - take an idea, build a start-up business around it, and then flog it for millions of dollars. The owners clearly couldn't hide their delight last week, as the 42 Below homepage flashed "We're ****ing loaded!"
The message didn't last long before it disappeared from the ether - a quiet word from Bacardi that this wasn't really appropriate marketing for a brand with international aspirations perhaps? Who knows. But let's not forget that it was this irreverent attitude that built the success Bacardi was attracted to in the first place.
And it was an attraction that Bacardi felt was worth paying NZ$138m (US$91m) to satisfy, without, let us not forget, 42 Below ever turning in a profit. This is all about potential.
The Bermuda-based spirits giant will be acquiring the 42 Below brands, which include four flavoured vodkas - Manuka Honey, Kiwifruit, Feijoa and Passionfruit - along with the newly developed products South Gin, Stil Vodka, Seven Tiki White Rum, Tahiti Dark Rum and 420 spring water.
"It's a fantastic success story to come out of New Zealand," one New Zealand analyst was quoted summing up in the press. "The boys at 42 Below have built up such a good profile; Bacardi recognises that it will generate returns."
42 Below may have reported a net loss of NZ$3.3m on sales of NZ$17m in the 12 months to 31 March, but few industry insiders just-drinks has spoken to doubt Bacardi is making a shrewd acquisition. The spirits producer was New Zealand's fastest-growing company on Deloitte's Fast 50 last year. It has a stable of desirable premium brands and its products are already available in 25 markets worldwide.
As Bacardi president and CEO Andreas Gembler said: "Bacardi is acquiring young premium brands in 42 Below. With substantial investment by our company, 42 Below brands show long-term potential in the global spirits industry with a particular focus on the growing Asia Pacific markets."
There will no doubt be a few raised eyebrows to Bacardi's decision to acquire a second premium vodka brand so soon after it bought Grey Goose. However, the brands do fit neatly together.
Both have unusual origins for vodkas, but from opposite sides of the world: Grey Goose from France, 42 Below from New Zealand - the brand derives its name from New Zealand's geographical position 42 degrees below the equator. Both are priced at the super premium end of the market, but have differing marketing platforms, with Grey Goose playing the sophisticated older brother to the irreverent upstart 42 Below.
Having two brands in the fast-growing premium vodka category may be no bad thing anyway, and it also gives Bacardi options. It can expand Grey Goose's distribution beyond its traditional style bar market, which risks a "dumbing down" of the brand, knowing that it has 42 Below up its sleeve with which to continue to attract the fashion-led, more fickle high-end consumer. It can also target separate markets with the brands. And, Bacardi has already hinted that 42 Below's Asia Pacific origins are a big draw.
One would expect that Grey Goose, having cost US$2bn, would remain the flagship brand. But rather than just sit in its shadow, Bacardi will hope that 42 Below will benefit from a halo effect.
As industry analyst Datamonitor wrote last week: "Bacardi is no doubt counting on the success of Grey Goose - the group's second largest brand in the US - to rub off on 42 Below...Although 42 Below is not likely to become such a leading star as Grey Goose in Bacardi's spirit portfolio, the rapid success of the company in New Zealand bodes well for the distribution of its premium brands further afield - and this is something which Bacardi no doubt plans to embark upon with no small degree of enthusiasm."
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