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The news stories that shaped the year - just-drinks' review of 2020 - FREE TO ACCESS

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With the end of the year looming, we take a look back at 2020. Here are the ten biggest news stories on just-drinks in the last 12 months.

Here are the ten biggest news stories - COVID notwithstanding - on just-drinks in 2020

Here are the ten biggest news stories - COVID notwithstanding - on just-drinks in 2020

10. US hard seltzer sales to jump by 270% in 2020 - analyst

Hard seltzer is set to almost triple in value in the US this year as demand for the booming beverage category refuses to subside, an analyst has forecast. As the leading companies in the category race to release new brands and build production facilities, Cowen & Co estimated in January that sales for 2020 will hit US$4.3bn. 

Speaking to just-drinks in September, Loon Water co-founders Fabio and Francesca Bruni talked about the difference between the US and UK markets, why distillers risked brand dilution with big-name launches and where the global hard seltzer category will go from here.

9. The Coca-Cola Co to drop Tab in snowballing portfolio redraw

The Coca-Cola Co is to discontinue its Tab diet soda as the company continues a clear-out of underperforming brands.

In soft drinks, the adage has long been that The Coca-Cola Co leads where others follow. This holds true in so many areas, it can only be because the owner of Coke, Fanta and Sprite so often gets it right.

8. Anheuser-Busch InBev silent on CEO Carlos Brito departure claims

Anheuser-Busch InBev chose not to comment on a news article in September claiming that CEO Carlos Brito was set to step down from the role. The Financial Times said that the brewer has engaged with a recruitment company to find a replacement for Brito.

If September's reports were to be believed and Anheuser-Busch InBev's CEO was readying his exit, then the depth of the pool of potential replacements seemed rather shallow.

7. Vital Pharmaceuticals "fires" PepsiCo as Bang Energy distributor

The owner of Bang Energy launched a scathing attack on PepsiCo after terminating a distribution partnership between the two companies after just seven months.

There's a certain lop-sidedness to the announcement of distribution deals. When signed, they're accompanied by bold statements and fulsome praise. Less fanfare is produced for their termination, a process that often takes place quietly and behind closed doors. Which made November's statement from Vital Pharmaceuticals (VPX), the owner of Bang Energy drinks, all the more interesting.

6. Constellation Brands' wines, spirits offload to E&J Gallo approaches closure

Constellation Brands' long-running divestment of a swathe of brands and assets to E&J Gallo appeared in November to be approaching the home straight, 19 months after being first announced.

In September, as the grape harvest hit its peak in the northern hemisphere, category commentator Chris Losh surveyed the devastation wreaked by COVID-19 and asked: Just what are we going to do with all our wine?

5. Alcohol industry split on social media ad pause

In August, we reported that global alcohol producers had diverged on whether to continue a social media advertising pause started in July after a row about hate speech.

The 'Black Lives Matter' movement prompted us all as individuals to question our views on our fellow humans. Companies were not immune from this self cross-examination, with beer commentator Stephen Beaumont suggesting the brewing community has a big part to play in driving future equality for the black community.

4. Beam Suntory wades into "sexist" whisky guide row

Beam Suntory and other whisky distillers backed a campaign accusing the author of a leading industry guide of using crude and sexist language. In a statement, Beam Suntory said it would re-evaluate its marketing after a whisky writer highlighted reviews in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible that compared drinking to having sex. 

The campaign against Jim Murray's 'Whisky Bible' shone a light on sexism in whisky, and there's no turning it off now. Brands will need to take a proactive, as opposed to merely reactive, stance to show that their condemnation of misogyny and commitment to inclusivity goes beyond lip service, said category commentator Amy Hopkins.

3. China slaps import tariffs on Australian bottled wine in anti-dumping probe

The Australian wine industry reacted with disappointment to China's implementation of substantial trade tariffs on bottled wine imports from the country. The Chinese commerce ministry announced in November it would place preliminary tariffs ranging from 107% to 212% on Australian packaged wine under two-litres.

When China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) advanced an on-going anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine with the announcement that bottled imports from the country would face preliminary tariffs of as much as 217%, the comments from the Australian wine industry that this was a disappointing outcome were, to say the least, an understatement.

2. William Grant & Sons CEO Simon Hunt departs

In a just-drinks exclusive, we reported in October that Simon Hunt had left William Grant & Sons after an almost-five-year stint as the group's CEO.

In March, sustainability expert Ben Cooper examined how COVID-19 has given progressive companies the chance to show the ideals of conscious capitalism in action, and how corporate engagement in addressing major global issues, such as climate change and poverty, might be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Heineken CEO Jean-Francois van Boxmeer announces exit

In February, Heineken confirmed its CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer would step down in June, ending a 15-year tenure at the helm of the world's second-biggest brewer. Van Boxmeer, who joined Heineken in 1984 as a trainee, was replaced by Dolf van den Brink, the brewer's Asia-Pacific president. 

When Anheuser-Busch InBev CFO Felipe Dutra announced in February that he would be stepping down, the prospect of his replacement - another Brazilian man - did little to reflect today's widening global beer market. Those who decry beer's lack of diversity had even more to shout about after Heineken said it would replace Belgian CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer with Dutchman Dolf van den Brink.

Click here for all of just-drinks' reviews of 2020


Expert Analysis

Top Trends in Alcoholic Drinks

Top Trends in Alcoholic Drinks

Alcohol as a sector is highly mature, with stable categories, but a vast choice of individual products. This maturity, along with the relative conservatism in the category, makes innovation difficult ...

VIEW REPORT

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