Stoli Group is the spirits division of SPI Group and handles brands including Stolichnaya vodka

Stoli Group is the spirits division of SPI Group and handles brands including Stolichnaya vodka

SPI Group's US spirits division, Stoli Group USA, is to up its focus on control states with the creation of a dedicated sales team.

The control states unit will be led by Justin Ashton, who joined the company from Beam Suntory in May. The team currently has six members and is expected to increase to eight.

Stoli Group said control states, where alcohol sales are governed by a state monopoly, are becoming "increasingly important" to the company. There are 17 control states in the US, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina.

Other spirits companies focus on control states with dedicated teams. Diageo's former president of US control states & Canada, Claudia Schubert, was in May named as the Johnnie Walker owner's president of US spirits & Canada.

According to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, control state spirits volumes for the first three months of the year were up 2.8%. Growth was ahead of last year's 2% increase in Q1 but lagged Q1 2016's 4% rise.

"In other companies, it would have taken us three years to do what we have done in past six months" - just-drinks meets Stoli Group CEO Hugues Pietrini

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