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    M&A Activity Remained Strong in 2020 Despite COVID-19

    Despite the shock to the economy that COVID-19 dealt last year, several companies went through with plans for mergers or acquisitions in 2020. Perhaps not surprisingly, the beginning of the year started off slow, but the number of deals picked up in the summer. During the pandemic there was M&A movement in all categories in the alcohol industry. There were 48 deals between companies or brands with a significant presence in the U.S. The spirits category experienced the most mergers and acquisitions totaling 21, followed by wine at 18 and beer at 8, plus one non-alcoholic deal. Most Active Companies The companies that participated in the most M&A deals will come as no surprise to anyone in the industry with Constellation Brands, Pernod Ricard and Diageo rounding out the top three busiest companies.   Below is a compilation of the most significant M&A deals that took place in 2020. January Two Rivers acquires majority stake in Bare Arms Brewing (Beer) Molson Coors Acquires Atwater Brewing (Beer) Diageo’s Distill Ventures acquires majority stake in Ritual Zero Proof Distilling (non-alcoholic) Halewood Wine & Spirits acquires 48% stake in Vestal Vodka (Spirits) Suntory Holdings acquires 10% Edrington (Spirits) WX Brands acquires True Myth, Tangent, Baileyana, and Zocker wine brands from the Niven Family (Wine) February Constellation Brands acquires stake in Press Premium Alcoholic Seltzer (Beer) March Kings & Convicts Brewing Co. acquires Ballast Point Craft Beer from Constellation Brands (Beer) Pernod Ricard acquires equal stake in Italicus Aperitivo (Wine) Pernod Ricard acquires remaining shares in Monkey 47 Gin (Spirits) MGP Ingredients acquires Green Hat Gin (Spirits) Integrated Beverage Group acquires Ransom wine...

    O’Neill Vintners Buys Rabble Wines in Paso Robles

    O’Neill Vintners & Distillers has acquired Rabble Wines of Paso Robles, California. Rabble Wines was founded in 2010 by Rob Murray and found a following among a younger demographic as the first winery to use augmented reality on its wine labels. “O’Neill is laser-focused on creating sustainable growth through our innovative brands and offering approachable wines to Millennials and upcoming Gen Z consumers,” said Jeff O’Neill, CEO of O’Neill Vintners & Distillers. “Rob has created a unique brand that maintains relevance in an industry that frequently finds itself a little behind.” Source: Paso Robles Daily News, January 2021...

    FDA Reverses Course on $14K Fee for Distillers Making Hand Sanitizer

    Last week, US distillers were shocked to learn the Food and Drug Administration planned to charge them $14,000 for producing hand sanitizer in 2020. However, industry advocacy groups jumped into action, and within 48 hours, leadership at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services had withdrawn the scheduled fees. In a statement sent in conjunction with the reversal, Brian Harrison, HHS Chief of Staff, said: “Small businesses who stepped up to fight COVID-19 should be applauded by their government, not taxed for doing so. I’m pleased to announce we have directed FDA to cease enforcement of these arbitrary, surprise user fees. Happy New Year, distilleries, and cheers to you for helping keep us safe!” Source: Distillery Trail, January 2021...

    New US Dietary Guidelines Rejects Recommendations to Cut Alcohol Intake

    New dietary guidelines from the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services rejected the recommendation that men lower their alcoholic beverage intake to one drink per day from the current standard of two. The committee’s recommendations did not meet a “preponderance of the evidence” standard required by law, according to Brandon Lipps, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the USDA. The decision has received praise from the beverage alcohol industry for choosing to maintain a long-time standard of what is already considered moderate alcohol consumption. Source: WSJ, December 2020...

    TTB Adds Seven New Standards Of Fill For Wine And Spirits

    The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has published a final rule to add seven new standards of fill for wine and distilled spirits. The rule change will allow 700 mL bottles to be imported from the EU for the first time. 700 mL has been the standard size for spirits in the EU for more than three decades. The new sizes also include 1.8 L, 900 mL, and 720 mL for spirits, as well as 355 mL, 250 mL, and 200 mL for wines.  Source: TTB and WhiskeyCast, December 2020...

    President Signs Permanent Extension of Federal Excise Tax Relief

    Distillers and brewers across the country are rejoicing as the President signed a permanent extension of federal excise tax relief into law. Distillers had been facing a 400% tax increase on January 1, 2021, as FET rates were set to revert back to $13.50 from $2.70 for the first 100,000 proof gallons annually. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) was supported by over 350 members of the House of Representatives and 75 members of the Senate and the extension was included as part of an omnibus and stimulus package for COVID relief. For the American Craft Spirits Association, the legislation marks the culmination of five years of lobbying Congress for FET relief. “Finally, this permanent FET reform eliminates what has become a cycle of uncertainty around temporary or even permanent reform,” said Mark Shilling, ACSA Past President. “Our industry has a long road ahead as we crawl back from the impact of COVID-19 on our small businesses, but permanent FET reform is one massive roadblock we no longer need to face.” Source: ACSA and Yahoo! Finance, December 2020...