Blavod Extreme Spirits has agreed to form a joint venture company with Suntory International Corp, the US subsidiary of Suntory Limited.

Blavod had previously announced on 16 May 2005 that it had signed a Letter of Intent to form a joint venture company. The new joint venture will be a 50:50 partnership in the form of a brand-owning company called Diamante Spirits LLC.

The joint venture will focus on developing premium spirits brands, with ownership of all new brands developed by Diamante to be held within the joint venture company.

Blavod CEO Jeff Hopmeyer told just-drinks today that the JV was looking to launch its first brand in October in the Chicago and Miami markets in the US. Details of the launch were still secret, although Hopmeyer confirmed it would be from the top alcoholic beverage categories.

It is hoped the product will receive a national US roll out in early 2006. If that is successful Diamante will consider an international launch.

Suntory will provide the funding for the joint venture to cover development, operating and marketing costs, while Blavod will be responsible for creation of new products, as well as marketing and distribution.

Blavod will be responsible for the day to day management of the new company. Blavod's existing products (Blavod Black Vodka and the Players Extreme range) are not involved in the agreement. 

Hopmayer said: "We are very excited by our relationship with Suntory and the opportunities this partnership will create.  Suntory's global reach, production expertise and years of market experience, combined with Blavod's success in creating new, exciting products, will give the joint venture the tools to create an instant presence in the spirits industry."

"The potential of our joint distribution with Suntory will provide Diamante's brands with an opportunity to penetrate marketplaces across the world and develop a large consumer following."

Yasuhiro Fukuyama, president of Suntory International Corp said:  "We are very pleased to be entering into this joint venture with Blavod, a company with proven expertise in developing premium spirits.  This is a significant new venture for us, and we look forward to rapidly bringing some new and exciting products to market."

Meanwhile, Blavod confirmed that trading in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, versus the same quarter last year, is showing significant case sale increases in both the UK and US, up by 38% and 206% respectively.

These increases have been primarily driven by the growing popularity of Blavod Black Vodka and Players Extreme range.

A full report on the joint venture and an interview with Blavod CEO Jeff Hopmeyer will appear on these pages next week.