Canadian beverage company Symbev has lined up further acquisitions in craft beer and spirits following the purchase of three brewers in its domestic market.
The company – founded in 2021 by drinks industry veteran and former Diageo and Molson Coors executive Dave Clarke – acquired the three Canadian breweries using Series A funds late last year, and is now seeking a further CAD10m (US$7.46m) via a second Series B raise this month. The proceeds will be used to complete three further deals the company has lined up in spirits and craft beer.
Speaking to Just Drinks, Clarke said that the company’s model would focus on growth “partly through acquisition and partly through innovation” but warned not to expect big money deals due to the “crazy” valuations in the spirits and CSD categories.
“We’re looking to raise CAD10m right now, and that will fund these acquisitions, give us some more scale,” he said. “It’ll also give us a little bit more breadth because one of them is a spirits company and one of them is a brewer that services British Columbia.”
“Our model is going to grow partly through acquisition and partly through innovation,” he continued. “The problem with other categories like spirits and aerated drinks, right now in my mind at least, is the valuations are crazy. They’re in their kind of growth cycle the way that brewers were seven or eight years ago.
“We will do some acquisitions, but we’ll also be innovating from a marketing perspective in the other categories and then using our infrastructure… to grow those brands through our systems.”
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SymBev’s model is based around giving owners of the acquired businesses shares in the company, which Clarke said would eventually be listed publicly, without giving a timescale for floatation.
When asked about his ambitions for the future size of the Symbev portfolio and business, Clarke said: “I’ve not got an ambition to build a CAD200m company. You know, for me, it’s about building a business that I’m proud of. It’s going to sound trite and a bit punchy, but it’s true.
“Geographically speaking it could stetch across Canada and into the US as well, but nothing crazy internationally… We don’t want a huge portfolio, we will try and keep it tight but across enough consumer segments where we can we can be successful.”
The first three companies acquired by Symbev – Railway City Brewing, Crank Lite Lager and Locker Room Lager are all craft brewers based in the state of Ontario. Clarke said of the decision to focus on craft beer for Symbev’s first purchases: “At a macro level, consumers are still really enjoying craft beer. There is still a consumer trend towards wanting to support brands where there’s some sense of provenance.
“The market itself is still solid and alcohol in general is a category that during good times and bad times continues to be reasonably stable.”
One area Symbev is not looking to immediately enter is cannabis beverages, despite drinks infused with THC being legal in Canada. “Cannabis is a very tough environment to be in right now,” Clarke said. “In five years’ time once it starts to be demystified and de-stigmatised, and with the pace of technology cannabis beverages certainly could be a significant alcohol disrupter, but it’s a long way to go yet.”
Last month, Danish brewing giant Carlsberg made a move of its own in Canadian craft beer, striking a CAD144m deal to acquire Waterloo Brewing. The Ontario brewer has produced Carlsberg’s Somersby Cider brand for the Canadian market since 2020.