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Diageo buys Belsazar vermouth

Diageo has acquired German vermouth Belsazar, which was one of the first brands to join the UK drinks group’s growth accelerator programme, Distill Ventures.

German vermouth brand Belsazar consists of four variants: Dry, Red, Rosé and White

Through its start-up spirits investment business, Distill Ventures, Diageo first purchased a minority stake in Belsazar in 2014.

The acquisition, the cost of which has not been disclosed, allows Diageo to “strengthen” its position in apéritif drinking occasions as the demand for lower-abv cocktails grows.

Belsazar becomes Diageo’s first apéritif brand and will sit within the Reserve portfolio. It will have access to the firm’s marketing and distribution expertise to “accelerate” growth across Europe.

First founded in 2013 by entrepreneurs Maximillian Wagner and Sebastian Brack, Belsazar Vermouth is made from selected grapes that are infused with herbs and a “dash” of fruit brandy. The liquid is then aged for up to three months.

Created in Baden at the edge of the Black Forest in Germany, Belsazar’s range consists of four variants: Dry, Red, Rosé and White.

Wagner and Brack will remain “actively involved” in Belsazar, and will work with Diageo to help grow the brand.

Belsazar has performed “strongly” in key markets Germany and the UK. It is available in more than 750 on-trade outlets in Germany and in a number of on-trade venues in the UK.

Since its launch in 2013, Diageo-backed Distill Ventures has “significantly” grown its portfolio and expanded into North America.

Through Distill Ventures, Diageo has made minority acquisitions in Danish distillery StauningAustralian whisky producer Starward and alcohol-free distilled ‘spirit’ Seedlip.

“Working with Distill Ventures these past few years has given us an invaluable base of knowledge and experience that we’ll undoubtedly call on as we continue to grow the business with Diageo in Europe,” said Brack.

David Gates, managing director of Diageo Futures, said: “We are thrilled that Belsazar is joining our wonderful portfolio of brands.

“Partnering with entrepreneurs like Max and Sebastian, and nurturing the global drinks brands of the future is core to our strategy. It’s been very exciting to follow Belsazar’s development and we look forward to working to deliver the next phase of the brand’s growth.”

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

“This success story is proof that venturing adds value to both corporates and entrepreneurs and we look forward to welcoming more great founders to Distill Ventures.”

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