Constellation buys minority stake in Black Button

6th February, 2019 by Nicola Carruthers

US drinks group Constellation Brands has acquired a minority stake in New York-based grain-to-glass spirits producer Black Button Distilling for an undisclosed sum.

Founded in 2012, Black Button Distilling produces Straight Bourbon Whiskey

The deal was made through the US firm’s venture capital arm, Constellation Brands Ventures, which makes investments in emerging brands that “provide strong scalability, consumer appeal and a point of differentiation in the market”.

Rochester-based Black Button produces Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Citrus Forward Gin, seasonal Lilac Gin and Bespoke Bourbon Cream. Each expression is distilled from New York state grains and then aged, bottled and labelled in Rochester.

Founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Jason Barrett, Black Button is thought to be Rochester’s first grain-to-glass craft distillery. In 2016, the site expanded to include a tasting room and retail store.

The company’s sales have more than tripled since 2014, and in 2017 Black Button expanded to Buffalo, New York with the opening of a tasting room and bottle shop.

Last year, Black Button launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a smallholding where it can grow produce such as juniper berries and American white oak for its own spirits production.

“For us to continue the growth rate we believe we are capable of, it was time to find an equity partner,” said Barrett. “But we didn’t want just any equity partner. We wanted someone who understood our business, our culture and our goals.

“We found that partner right in our back yard. Constellation shares our love of western New York and they are also committed to the agricultural roots that are so important to Black Button.

“This partnership is great for our employees, our ownership, our farmers and our consumers because we will be able to bring more great Black Button products to our community.”

Constellation Brands’ president and chief operating officer, and incoming CEO Bill Newlands, said: “Black Button has a proven track record of producing premium craft spirits that resonate with consumers and they have a variety of products that are aligned to consumer trends and fill white space within Constellation’s spirits portfolio.

“With our shared knowledge, experience and guidance, we will work together to help Black Button grow and expand the brands that craft spirits enthusiasts have come to know and love.”

The past 12 months have seen Constellation Brands make a number of investments in the alcohol industry.

In December, the firm completed its first investments in Texas-based bottled cocktail company Austin Cocktails and premium alcohol producer Vivify Beverages through its venture capital arm. The deals were announced as part of plans to invest US$100 million in women-led alcohol businesses over the next 10 years.

Last January, Constellation Brands acquired minority stakes in two spirits firms: the Copper & Kings American Brandy Co and The Real McCoy Rum.

In 2016, the US drinks group acquired craft whiskey producer High West Distillery for around US$160m.

Constellation also made a move into the burgeoning cannabis sector in 2017. The group upped its investment in Canopy Growth Corporation to US$4 billion – the largest investment in the cannabis industry to date. The firm first bought a stake in Canopy Growth in October 2017.

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