Diageo buys Belsazar vermouth from Distill Ventures

Diageo has acquired German vermouth brand Belsazar – the first company to have “graduated” from innovation incubator Distill Ventures, which is funded by Diageo.

Belsazar was launched by entrepreneurs Maximillian Wagner and Sebastian Brack on the Berlin food and drinks scene in 2013, and is the first company to be acquired by Diageo through Distill Ventures.

While Distill Ventures is independent, Diageo has been working with the company since 2013 and is its sole investor. The company helps fund innovation within the spirits world, drawing on industry expertise to identify, invest in and accelerate aspiring drinks brands, while affording Diageo an effective route to invest in new spirits brands.

Belsazar joined Distill Ventures in 2014 and has performed strongly in its key markets, Germany and the UK. The brand’s heartland is Germany, where it is available in over 750 on-trade outlets as of summer 2017.

“Belsazar was one of the first Distill Ventures investments and we’ve worked closely with the founders over the past four years,” said Frank Lampen, CEO and global head of Distill Ventures. “This first acquisition is therefore a very exciting moment for us, Diageo and the Belsazar team.

“Diageo have a great new brand and Max and Sebastian can continue to realise their vision for Belsazar with the full resources and expertise of the world’s largest drinks company. 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.”

The acquisition gives Diageo a stronger footing in the aperitif category, a trend it sees growing as consumers shift towards “more casual occasions” and demand for lower ABV cocktails and long drinks grows.

Belsazar is made from select grapes including Pinot Noir among others from South Baden right at the edge of the Black Forest, infused with herbs to give it a unique natural character, and finished with a dash of fruit brandy. The liquid is then aged for up to three months and is available in four varieties: white, red, dry and its signature rosé.

Wagner and Brack will remain actively involved with the brand, which will sit within Diageo’s Reserve portfolio and will benefit from this team’s marketing and distribution expertise to accelerate the brand’s European footprint.

David Gates, managing director of Diageo Futures, added: “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.”

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