Dutch beer maker Bavaria N.V. has acquired Latis Imports, a Connecticut-based importer of Belgian speciality craft beers.
Terms of the deal, announced Monday, were not disclosed, but Latis co-founder David Van Wees told Brewbound that he sold 100 percent of his stake to Bavaria.
The move will give Bavaria a dedicated presence in the U.S., which the company called one of its “five key regions,” as well as an experienced beer industry professional in Van Wees, who will join Bavaria N.V. as its managing director of U.S. operations. Prior to launching Latis Imports, Van Wees served as the director of sales and marketing for Labatt and Rolling Rock, the global vice president for Stella Artois and the vice president of marketing for InBev.
“This acquisition allows us to further expand Bavaria’s presence in the U.S., a country with a strong beer culture and deep appreciation of specialty crafted beer,” Bavaria N.V. chief commercial officer Peer Swinkels said in a press release. “We are excited about our growth opportunities and introducing new products to a thirsty U.S. audience under David’s continued leadership.”
Latis was already the U.S. importer of Palm Belgian Craft Brewers, which, in May, was purchased by Bavaria. As part of that transaction, Bavaria acquired a 60 percent majority stake in Palm, with a plan to fully absorb the company by 2021.
“Following our acquisition of Palm Belgian Craft Brewers, it is a natural next step to expand geographically,” said Swinkels, whose family has owned the 300-year-old brewery for seven generations, in a press release.
Bavaria also said it will would continue its sales agent partnership with Radeberger USA.
Van Wees told Brewbound that he first met with representatives from Bavaria in July, following the PALM acquisition.
“The seventh generation of the company — the board — their goal is to double the family beer business in the next five years through organic growth, partnerships and acquisitions,” Van Wees said.
So what drove Van Wees to sell the business?
“It was a combination of a few things: a willing buyer, a willing seller, market dynamics and business challenges,” Van Wees said.
The acquisition of Latis will give Bavaria the infrastructure it had lacked in the U.S. to support its brands, Van Wees said. Similarly, Latis, which imports PALM and Rodenbach, will be able to expand its portfolio to include the Bavaria brands.
Van Wees said he believes there is a “great opportunity” to build the Bavaria-backed Habesha Cold Gold Ethiopian lager brand in the United States and grow sales of Hollandia, a European discount lager that is already about 350,000 cases in the Miami area.
Bavaria is investing in the U.S. market at a time when nearly 5,000 craft breweries are fighting for shelf space and as consumer brand loyalty wanes. But Van Wees said he’s excited to be working with a “young, aggressive group from the Netherlands” that has recently invested 150 million Euros in its brewing operations.
“I think they’re coming into U.S. at an interesting time,” Van Wees said. “They’re a good sized brewery that doesn’t have debt, and they’re a real low-cost producer, and they’re looking to grow the business. That’s an exciting group to work with.”
Bavaria, with distribution in 120 countries, produces about 6 million hectolitres of beer a year.