Constellation Brands has become the sole US distributor of the portfolio of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, including the top-selling US import Corona.

Constellation has signed a 10-year agreement with Modelo to form a joint venture that will import and distribute the Modelo stable across the US. The venture will go live on 2 January next year.

The US drinks giant, which has been the distributor of the Modelo portfolio in the western half of the US, will now have nationwide control of five of the top 20 brands in the US import category. The opportunity to extend its distribution of the Modelo portfolio across the US came in March after the Mexican brewer won a contract dispute with distributor the Gambrinus Co.

Grupo Modelo chairman and CEO Carlos Fernandez said yesterday (17 July): "We are pleased with the creation of this joint venture and believe that it offers Modelo brands excellent long-term growth opportunities in the US with the establishment of a unified import system."

The venture will be based in Chicago and headed by Bill Hackett, president of Constellation's Barton Beers arm.

Constellation chairman and CEO Richard Sands added: "This is a unique opportunity for Grupo Modelo and Constellation Brands to build a business alliance that was never before possible, and to build it in such a way that the joint venture will seek to maximise the future growth potential for the top Mexican beer portfolio."

Constellation added that its distribution rights for German beer St. Pauli Girl and Chinese brand Tsingtao would continue, subject to the approval of their respective brand-owners.