Last Call: Drake Strikes Partnership with Canopy Growth; Walmart Adds Curbside Pickup for Alcohol Purchases

Drake, Canopy Growth Partner Up

Canopy Growth, the Canadian cannabis company in which Constellation Brands invested $4 billion, announced yesterday that it will partner with Drake to launch the More Life Growth Company, a cannabis producer in Toronto.

“The idea of being able to build something special in an industry that is ever growing has been inspiring,” Drake said in a press release.

Drake, a Toronto-based rapper and entertainer whose full name is Aubrey Drake Graham, will own 60% of More Life, while Canopy will own the remaining stake in the business. Canopy will hold distribution rights and manage operations and maintenance at More Life’s facility in Scarborough, Ontario.

Drake posted a photo to his Instagram account Thursday with More Life’s logo and tagged the new company’s still-private account.

Constellation Brands — which produces Mexican import beers Modelo, Corona and Pacifico — closed on a $4 billion investment in Canopy last year. Last month, Constellation Brands CFO David Klein was appointed Canopy’s board chairman.

While Constellation’s investment has so far recorded at least $484 million in losses, CEO Bill Newlands has expressed confidence in the company’s future.

Walmart Curbside Pickup Extends to Include Alcohol Purchases

Walmart last week extended its curbside grocery pickup service to include alcohol purchases at 2,000 stores in 29 states.

“Now, without ever leaving their car, customers can pick up the perfect bottle of wine for dinner or beer for the big game,” Walmart senior vice president of digital operations Tom Ward said in a press release. “That’s something worth raising a glass to.”

Through its grocery pickup program, Walmart shoppers will be able to place orders online in advance using the store’s website and choose a pickup time. Store employees will then deliver the orders to customers at designated parking spots. Customers must provide photo ID to verify that they are 21 in order to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Walmart also delivers alcohol from 200 locations in California and Florida and the company is looking to add more locations in accordance with local laws.

Truly Hard Seltzer Now Available on JetBlue Flights

JetBlue passengers will be able to purchase Boston Beer Company’s Truly Hard Seltzer Wild Berry on flights, making it the first hard seltzer available on flights year-round, according to the beer company.

“Just like JetBlue, Truly is always looking for ways to innovate, push the status quo and deliver more of what drinkers and customers want, and we can’t think of a better partner for Truly’s first flight,” Boston Beer chief marketing officer Lesya Lysyj said in a press release.

Truly will be available year-round in 12 oz. cans on JetBlue flights. Other Boston Beer products that have been available on JetBlue’s menus include Angry Orchard Crisp Apple and Samuel Adams Boston Lager and OctoberFest.

NBWA Beer Purchasers Index Expands in October

The National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index — a survey of wholesalers’ purchasing behavior — expanded in October, with a reading of 70, which the trade organization called the “highest reading recorded” over the last five years. The October 2019 reading was also up considerably over October 2018’s reading of 48.

Wholesalers were ordering more FMBs, namely hard seltzers, with an index of 85 — “the highest reading for the segment ever recorded.” The NBWA compared the rise of FMBs/PABs to the “craft index readings of 80+ that lasted from October 2014 through May 2016.”

Only two other segments expanded in October: imports, with a reading of 64, and craft, with an index of 55.

September US Beer Shipments Grow

For just the second time in 2019, U.S. beer companies shipped more barrels of beer than they did in 2018.

The Beer Institute (BI), citing unofficial estimates of domestic tax paid shipments from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), reported that shipments increased 1.6%, to 14,386,000 barrels, in September, snapping seven months of consecutive declines.

The September rebound follows a 7.3% decline in August, the steepest drop of 2019. According to the BI, retail spending on domestically produced beer increased 3% during September.

“Trade-up (increased spending on a smaller volume of beer) continues to drive softness in domestic beer performance, but a confluence of mitigating factors led to domestic volume growth during September,” the BI reported.

Through the first nine months of 2019, U.S. beer companies have shipped nearly 126 million barrels of beer, down 2%, or about 2.6 million barrels, compared to this time in 2018.

City Brew Tours Acquires Beervana in Portland, Oregon

Boston-based City Brew Tours, a multi-city brewery tour operator, has acquired a majority stake in Brewvana, which offers tours highlighting craft breweries, cideries, distilleries, and purveyors of coffee and donuts in Portland, Oregon, according to a press release.

“I’ve been a 100% owner for nine years, and it’s time to let someone else handle the business operations,” Brewvana founder Ashley Rose Salvitti said in the release. “I will still be a minority owner and plan to continue to lead tours – that’s the fun part and the reason I started the company originally.”

Salvitti founded Brewvana in 2010 and has sold the business to spend time with her family. Chad Brodsky started City Brew Tours in 2008 as Burlington Brew Tours in Burlington, Vermont. The company operates tours in Baltimore, Boston, Burlington, Cleveland, Montreal, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, southern New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

Heineken Discontinuing Plastic Packaging

Heineken will roll out cardboard toppers — instead of plastic rings — to 6-packs of Heineken, Foster’s and Kroenbourg 1664 in the United Kingdom next spring, according to a report in the Drinks Business.

The company has invested 22 million pounds to transition to the new packaging, which is expected to occur in April 2020. By the end of 2021, the cardboard toppers will roll out to other brands in the Amsterdam-headquartered company’s portfolio, including Strongbow and Bulmer’s ciders. Heineken’s goal is to remove 517 million tons of plastic from its production lines.

Ex MillerCoors Execs Launch Sparkling Water

Two former MillerCoors employees have launched GHeywell, a wellness-focused sparkling water line.

Founders Britt Dougherty and Ashley Selman met as co-workers at MillerCoors, where they worked on marketing, innovation and product development. The brand launched last month in Chicago in three flavors: energy + immunity is grapefruit flavored; energy + focus is strawberry and lemon flavored; calm + reset is blackberry and ginger flavored.

The drinks have between 10 and 15 calories and come in 6-packs and 12-packs of 12-oz cans and a variety pack of all three flavors. For now, heywell is available at some retailers in Chicago and for purchase online at $24.99 per 6-pack and $45 per 12-pack.

Shiner Maker, A-B’s Karbach Brand Clash Over Billboards

After billboards advertising Anheuser-Busch-owned Karbach Brewing’s Crawford Bock went up in Shiner, Texas, Shiner Bock makers the Gambrinus Company fired back with a full-page ad in Thursday’s edition of the Shiner Gazette.

“We’ve heard some chatter about uncommon sights around town last month — three billboards and a concert sponsorship touting ‘There’s a new Bock in Shiner,’” the letter said.

“A-B does not want you to know that Karbach is produced at the formerly craft Karbach brewery and at its large, low-cost A-B plant in Houston,” the company continued. “This is a huge company with deep pockets seeking to force its way into our town.”

Last year, Gambrinus produced 523,351 barrels, making it the sixth-largest U.S. craft brewing company, according to the Brewers Association.

The billboards and banner were connected to the Shiner Music Fest on October 19, which was sponsored by Del Papa Distributing, which distributes A-B brands. One billboard read, “Come join us at the 2019 Shiner Music Festival October 19” above logos for Karbach Brewing, Karbach Crawford Bock and the Lions Club. The banner, which was strung between the posts of a pop-up tent inside the festival, said: “There’s a new Bock in Shiner.”

“When we got the call from Del Papa Distributing in Shiner, Texas, asking us to help them support the Lion’s Club Shiner Music Fest, the partnership was an easy ‘yes’ from us,” Karbach brand manager David Graham told Brewbound. “Shiner Music Fest not only has a rich history in the area — it’s also important to our community — and we’re honored to do our part.”

A-B’s Babe Canned Wine Becomes Official Wine of the NFL

A mere four months after acquiring the remaining stake in Swish Beverages, Anheuser-Busch has struck a deal to make Babe canned wine brand the official wine sponsor of the NFL.

Three Babe varieties — Rosé, Pinot Grigio, and Red — are now available at 12 NFL stadiums, with more to be added this season. Among the franchises Babe has relationships with are the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos.

As part of the deal, Babe will be allowed to use the NFL trademarks, including its iconic shield logo, as well as the terms “Super Bowl,” “Draft,” Pro Bowl” and more. A-B is also planning Babe activations at major events, including the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.

In late June, A-B’s innovation and growth unit, ZX Ventures, acquired the remaining stake in Swish Beverages, a relationship that began with a minority investment in 2018.

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