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Beam Suntory ‘keeping close eye’ on cannabis market

Beam Suntory is “keeping a close eye” on the cannabis market in the US, but its business “hasn’t seen a big impact in terms of substitutions”, the group’s CEO has said.

Matt Shattock, chairman and CEO of Beam Suntory

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Matt Shattock, chairman and CEO of Beam Suntory, said that to-date, mounting legalisation of cannabis across the US has not posed a “material impact” on the group’s business.

As legalisation spreads across the country, a number of drinks producers have experimented with cannabis-based drinks.

Last year, US drinks group Constellation Brands acquired a minority stake in Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corporation for C$245 million (US$191m), announcing its intention to develop cannabis-based drinks in the future.

For Shattock, as the cannabis industry evolves, “it needs to become regulated and operate to the same standards as our industry does”.

He added: “Whether that be taxation and regulation, legal purchase age, road safety – making sure that there is an appropriate standard and measurement capability for people who might be driving under the influence. So we will continue to watch how it evolves in the years ahead.”

While moving into cannabis drinks may not be on the cards any time soon for Beam Suntory, the company is “always open” to making further acquisitions. In 2016, the company bought a controlling stake in London gin maker Sipsmith.

Any further acquisitions would be part of Beam Suntory’s “increasing focus on premium brands,” said Shattock. In particular, the group is attracted to brands that have “passionate founders” who want to “stay part of the family”.

“We still have a number of members of the founding families of Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, obviously Suntory, and Cruzan still working in the business,” he said.

“They can come and join us and we can help them fulfil their long-term ambition, and build brands of great quality and craftsmanship. They seem to be a good cultural fit with our company.”

To read SB’s full interview with Matt Shattock, see the February 2018 edition of The Spirits Business magazine, out now.

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