Diageo boosts low-abv offering with Belsazar acquisition

Jane Ryan

19 March 2018

Diageo has today announced it has bought Belsazar, a range of vermouths from Germany’s Black Forest, making it the first low-abv brand in its reserve portfolio.

In purchasing the company, Diageo is hoping the vermouths, which include Belsazar Red, White, Dry and Rosé, will boost the company’s position in the apéritif and low-abv cocktail market as trends continue to shift towards these lighter style drinks.

The move to include Belsazar in the reserve brands signals that Diageo has been paying close attention to the recent success of brands such as elderflower-flavoured St-Germain liqueur and Cocchi Americano, as well as the launch of new vermouths such as Italicus, all tapping into the aperitif lifestyle.

The news also means this is the first product to have graduated from the Distill Ventures’ programme, which invested in the brand in 2014, a year after it was launched by entrepreneurs Maximillian Wagner and Sebastian Brack. Solely funded by Diageo, Distill Ventures is an independent company geared towards growing spirit brands, with a portfolio that includes non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip – further evidence that Diageo is making heavy investments away from its typical bread and butter of full-strength spirits.

As part of the agreement with Distill Ventures, which leaves owners with a majority share hold of their business, Diageo is given the option to buy companies after their investment has driven a certain amount of growth. While Diageo has purchased the brand, its co-founders Wagner and Brack will remain involved in Belsazar’s future.

‘Today is the first day of an exciting new chapter for Belsazar as we integrate into Diageo’s portfolio of world-class brands,’ said Belsazar co-founder Maximilian Wagner.

‘Our ambition right from the beginning in 2013 has been to share our aperitif with as many people as possible and we’re excited that this next step will help bring the spirit of Berlin to new consumers.’

‘Belsazar was one of the first Distill Ventures investments,’ said Frank Lampen, global head of Distill Ventures, ‘and we’ve worked closely with the founders over the past four years.

‘This first acquisition is therefore a very exciting moment for us, Diageo and the Belsazar team.’

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