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Pernod buys majority stake in RTD player

Pernod Ricard’s Corby Spirit and Wine division has agreed to acquire a 90% stake in Canada’s leading ready-to-drink (RTD) producer, Ace Beverage Group, for CA$165 million (US$124m).

Canadian RTD brand Cottage Springs
Cottage Springs is the leading RTD brand in Ontario, Canada

Corby said Ace Beverage Group (ABG) is the largest independent player in the ‘fast-growing’ RTD category in Canada.

Under the deal, Pernod’s Canadian affiliate could take full ownership of ABG through two call options on the remaining shares in 2025 and 2028.

ABG was established in 2020 following the merger of Cottage Springs (founded in 2013) and Ace Hill (founded in 2015).

The company’s flagship Cottage Springs product is the leading RTD brand in Ontario, with best-selling products such as Cottage Springs Vodka Soda, Vodka Water, and Tequila Soda.

ABG’s portfolio also includes beer and canned vodka soda brand Ace Hill, RTD cocktail Cabana Coast, and Liberty Village cider.

Pernod Ricard said the agreement allows Corby to ‘add scale, expertise, agility and efficiencies in the dynamic Canadian RTD category’.

Canada is described as one of the top global RTD markets. The segment is one of the fastest-growing alcohol categories, with a 20% year-on-year boost between 2016 and 2021, Pernod Ricard said. It is expected to report double-digit increases in the coming years.

“With ABG, Corby becomes a key player in the Canadian RTD market, giving the scale and synergies needed in this category,” said Fredrik Syrén, global managing director of RTD and convenience at Pernod Ricard.

“It is well aligned with our ambition of building a global RTD business and capturing our fair share.”

ABG will also benefit from Corby’s ‘extensive’ distribution network, enabling it to increase its presence in Canada.

Nicolas Krantz, president and CEO of Corby, said: “Corby’s sustained growth, as well as Pernod Ricard’s, relies on our ability to bring even more exciting choices to our consumers, by continually expanding into new and promising categories.

“RTDs are one such category and we are excited to partner with such visionary entrepreneurs to further develop our rich portfolio of RTDs now made up of ABG, Corby, and Pernod Ricard brands.”

Based in Toronto, Corby is Canada’s second-largest marketer and distributor of spirits and wines, and is majority owned by Pernod Ricard.

The investment in ABG was announced on the same day as Pernod Ricard’s purchase of a minority stake in New Zealand-based non-alcoholic cocktail brand AF Drinks through its venture capital fund.

Last month, Pernod Ricard acquired a minority stake in spirits distribution system EcoSpirits.

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