Carlsberg to acquire Canadian craft brewer Waterloo Brewing

Carlsberg moved to strengthen its position in Canada, striking a deal to buy Ontario craft brewer Waterloo Brewing for CAD144m (US$106m).

The Tuborg brand owner said it would produce both its own and Waterloo Brewing’s brands at the craft producer’s production facility in Kitchener, Ontario, following the deal.

Just Drinks thinks: The only (disclosed) triple-figure beverage industry deal in December saw Danish giant Carlsberg move to acquire Waterloo Brewing Co. in Canada. Carlsberg said the purchase of Waterloo Brewing – Ontario’s largest Canadian-owned brewery – would “deliver significant supply chain and revenue synergies” for the group.

Waterloo Brewing’s experience in contract brewing and packaging will have appealed to Carlsberg, as will the close ties the Tuborg brewer already enjoys with the Ontario outfit (Waterloo Brewing has made Carlsberg’s Somersby Cider brand for sale in the Canadian market since 2020). The move significantly increases Carlsberg’s presence in North America, where it had previously had no manufacturing presence.

For Waterloo Brewing, the deal “provides immediate liquidity” in a time of rising input costs in brewing. The brewer had hardly been pulling up trees with its domestic performance, and Carlsberg will hope to return the company to profit, as well as increase revenues, which had dipped by almost CAD7m in the nine months to September.

Toast Ale receives investment from Heineken to fund food-waste mission

UK social enterprise brewery Toast Ale has raised GBP2m (US$2.5m) in a new fundraising round that attracted investment from Heineken. The exact figure invested in the business by Heineken and the equity the Dutch brewer received in return, were not disclosed.

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Just Drinks thinks: Brewers big and small will be heading into 2023 looking at how they can reduce raw material costs, whilst also delivering on the commitment for sustainability demanded by more modern-day consumers. Buying into Toast Ale – which uses surplus bread to brew its beers and tackle food waste – could prove a shrewd slice (pun very much intended) of business from Heineken.

The Amstel brand owner won’t be making a return on this investment, as Toast Ale’s profits go to charity and any gains on its shares must be reinvested into the business. Instead, the Dutch multinational said it intends to use the partnership with Toast Ale to “scale innovation and research to develop best practices”.

Exactly how scaleable Toast Ale’s concept – which involves buying excess bread from sandwich shops and bakeries across the UK – is remains unclear.

Pernod Ricard makes ready-to-serve play with Cockorico investment

Pernod Ricard acquired a majority stake in Cockorico, a France-based ready-to-serve cocktail company.

The Paris-headquartered group will provide distribution and guidance to the brand’s founders, who will remain with the business. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Just Drinks thinks: Although this domestic acquisition by Pernod Ricard isn’t going to leave any of its competition quaking in their boots, it represents a divergence of strategy from the French wine-and-spirits major’s prior ready-to-drink (RTD) approach, which had previously focused exclusively on RTD expressions of its flagship spirits brands, including BeefeaterMalfyJameson and Malibu.

Of course, it’s unlikely Cockorico will ever reach the heights of some of Pernod’s international brands but it demonstrates the broad avenues for growth that exist within the ready-to-drink/ready-to-serve segments. Some spirits brand owners, including William Grant & Sons, have tended to steer clear of canned RTDs in favour of premium bottled cocktails, whilst other spirits majors – and now Pernod – have been happy to dip their toes in both kinds of pre-mixed drinks. As consumers continue to seek quality and convenience, we expect both to continue to grow in popularity through 2023 and beyond.

Symington Family Estates makes Vinho Verde vineyard buy

Symington Family Estates has purchased a 28-hectare estate in the Vinho Verde-producing region of Portugal.

The wine company and Port wine house is to produce a range of farmhouse wines from the Casa de Rodas vineyard in the sub-region of Monção and Melgaço in the north of the country. The first wines will be produced this year.

Just Drinks thinks: Symington Family Estates has looked beyond its primary activity, the production of Port and DOC Douro wines, in recent years. The acquisition of Casa de Rodas follows the group’s strategy of focusing on Portuguese wines it believes have significant export potential. In 2016, the group acquired a 42-hectare property – Quinta da Fonte Souto – in the Alto Alentejo province, while in 2022, it purchased a 50% stake of Caves Transmontanas, a sparkling wine producer.

This latest deal hones in on the in-vogue Vinho Verde-producing region of Portugal, wines from which have been finding favour among European consumers for their zippy flavour, lower alcohol content, light carbonation and affordable price points. Wines from the vineyard will be released in 2023 and should complement Symington’s existing still and sparkling offering.

Other notable beverage M&A news in December:

Kirin ‘seeks US craft beer expansion’ after strong sales growth

France wine investor Artémis Domaines takes sole control of Champagne house Maison Jacquesson

A.G. Barr buys rest of oat-milk maker Moma Foods

Compagnia dei Caraibi acquires Elephant Gin

Spain’s Torre Oria winery sells 35% stake to Portobello Capital

Lactalis buys out Fonterra-Nestlé dairy venture in Brazil

Read more: Why Drinks M&A isn’t set to fizz in 2023