South Africa's Distell has purchased a 10% stake in its Canadian distributor as it makes its first tentative acquisition outside Africa.

The Ontario-based Peter Mielzynski Agencies has had a 10-year relationship with Distillers Corporation before it merged with Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery, to form Distell.

It was invited into the partnership by the Canadian national distributor, which handles other global brands such as Glenfiddich, Grand Marnier and Cinzano and in 1999 celebrated its 20th anniversary.

"Peter Mielzynski's approach was prompted by the merger and the creation of a significantly expanded portfolio of strong South African liquor brands with international potential, particularly Amarula Cream Liqueur," said André Steyn, corporate affairs director at Distell.

The perception of Distell as a global player had also been central to the recent joint venture concluded between Distell and prominent US marketer and distributor Brown Forman, which had very successfully launched Amarula Cream Liqueur in that country in February, he said.

"Canada, where the total market of imported alcoholic beverages was valued at Canadian $1,4 bn in 2000, represents a significant growth opportunity for Distell," said Steyn.

"Peter Mielzynski Agencies enjoys close ties with Canada's provincial liquor control boards, responsible for retailing all alcoholic beverages virtually throughout the country.

"They are keen to grow the market for all Distell's product categories, including wine.  It currently represents the company's Fleur du Cap, Durbanville Hills, Two Oceans and Drostdy-Hof wine brands," he said.