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Campari Group takes stake in Catalyst Spirits

Aperol owner Campari Group has acquired a minority stake in Catalyst Spirits and recorded double-digit gains for the first nine months of 2022.

Catalyst Spirits owns Howler Head
Howler Head Bourbon is described as one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands in the States

In August this year, Italian firm Campari Group purchased a 15% stake in banana-flavoured Bourbon brand Howler Head from Catalyst Spirits for US$15 million.

Campari Group has now taken a minority stake in London-based Catalyst Spirits, the spirits incubator and main shareholder of Howler Head.

Catalyst Spirits aims to build and grow ‘digitally-native’ premium brands. The firm’s portfolio also includes The Oceanus Hibernicus, a blend of Irish whiskey and Scotch malt whisky, and Scotch bottler Alexander Murray & Co.

Howler Head is currently available in the US, UK, and Canada, with further global expansion planned for 2023. In its first full year of operations, Howler Head sold more than 50,000 nine-litre cases, and generated overall net sales of US$6.7m.

The deal was announced at the same time as Campari Group’s nine-month financial results, which saw sales rise organically by 19% to €2 billion.

The company’s third quarter sales rose by 18.6%, and followed double-digit growth for the first six months of the year.

Campari Group said its nine-month sales were boosted by the performance of its apéritifs in their key peak season, enhanced by favourable weather conditions, as well as brown spirits.

Bob Kunze-Concewitz, CEO of Campari Group, said: “Overall, our strong top-line performance continued over the key summer season thanks to strong brand momentum, continued on-premise strength and favourable weather, as well as the initial impact of the price increases, which have been successfully implemented during the nine months.”

Brand performance

The firm’s ‘global priorities’ recorded a 21.2% organic increase. Aperol soared by 31.4% thanks to Italy (up 25.5%), Germany (up 35.4%), the US (up 56.7%), Spain (up 100.8%), France (up 29.4%) and the UK (up 21.6%).

Campari liqueur delivered a 29.9% growth, driven by Italy, the US, Brazil, Jamaica, Nigeria, Argentina, global travel retail and Spain.

Wild Turkey Bourbon rose by 22.1%, led by the US and South Korea, while the high-end Russell’s Reserve increased by 36.6%.

Skyy vodka declined by 3.7%, mainly due to the US and China.

Sales of Grand Marnier liqueur were ‘positive’ while the Jamaican rum portfolio, including Appleton Estate, increased by 16.4%.

The company’s ‘regional priorities’ rose by 23.5%, with Espolòn Tequila growing by 32%. The Glen Grant Scotch whisky and non-alcoholic aperitivo Crodino increased by double digits.

Campari’s ‘local priority’ brands rose by 7.2%, driven by Campari Soda, ready-to-drink (RTD) Skyy and Cabo Wabo Tequila. Wild Turkey’s RTD was flat due to ocean freight constraints in Australia.

Geographically, sales in the Americas increased by 18.7%, with the US rising by 14.6%.

Sales in Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa climbed by 23.3%. The company’s home market of Italy rose by 21.5%, and France was up by 10.7%.

North, Central and Eastern Europe increased by 18.3%, including 22.5% growth in Germany. The UK was up by 13.1%.

Sales in Asia Pacific grew by 5.6%, with Australia rising by 1.3% after being affected by continued ocean freight constrains. South Korea skyrocketed by 111.6%, driven by high-end Wild Turkey expression, The Glen Grant, X-Rated and Skyy.

China’s performance was negative due to lockdown restrictions, and Japan also declined.

Kunce-Concewitz added: “Looking at the remainder of 2022, we remain confident about the positive business momentum with the outperformance of our key brands versus reference markets thanks to their strong brand equity.

“From a shipment standpoint, we expect trends to normalise in the last quarter, reflecting seasonal sales mix as well as supply chain challenges in selected areas.

“Concomitantly, volatility and uncertainty remain due to the ongoing pandemic, geopolitical tensions and elevated inflationary pressure, with the latter to be mitigated by pricing.”

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