Heaven Hill Brands Signs Agreement to Acquire Black Velvet Canadian Whisky

Heaven Hill Brands, the largest independent, family-owned and operated distilled spirits supplier based in the U.S., has signed an agreement to acquire Black Velvet Canadian Whisky, the second-largest selling Canadian whisky in the world, from Constellation Brands Inc. The purchase will be made through a subsidiary of Constellation, The Black Velvet Distilling Company located in Lethbridge, Canada. The sale is expected to close in the second half of 2019, subject to regulatory approval.

Black Velvet is the second-largest selling Canadian Whisky worldwide, named for its velvety smooth taste. The Black Velvet brand fills an important gap in Heaven Hill’s broad distilled spirits portfolio by substantially expanding sales activities in the Imported Whisky category and fits perfectly with its portfolio of high volume, quality brands like Evan Williams Bourbon, Burnett’s Vodka, Deep Eddy Vodka, Admiral Nelson’s Rums, and Christian Brothers Brandies.

“We are excited to add Black Velvet to our iconic group of brands and look forward to growing this historic brand in the months and years ahead,” said Max L. Shapira, President of Heaven Hill Brands. “As we continue to build our business based on strategic acquisitions and innovation, Heaven Hill’s commitment to quality continues to steer the positive outlook for our diverse portfolio.”

In addition to acquiring Black Velvet, Heaven Hill will purchase the historic Black Velvet Distilling facility, one of the eight traditional Canadian distilleries in operation. The acquisition includes all the distilling operations, aging and bottling facilities and the remaining portfolio of Canadian Whisky brands owned by Constellation, which includes Black Velvet, MacNaughton, McMasters, and the international business of the Schenley brands – Golden Wedding and OFC. Canadian Whisky made up 7.3% of total distilled spirits volume in 2018 according to Beverage Information Group, the largest segment of all total Imported Whiskey. The Canadian Whisky category is approximately 16.8 million cases, with Black Velvet volume representing almost two million cases in the U.S. in 2018. Perella Weinberg Partners LP acted as exclusive financial advisor to Heaven Hill Brands with respect to the transaction.

Black Velvet was developed in 1946 and was first introduced to the market in 1951. Brothers Walter and Alfred Gilbey entered the spirits industry in England in 1857. After experiencing tremendous growth, the brothers expanded the business opening their first gin distillery in England in 1872, and eventually expanding to Canada in 1906. Due to high demand in Canada, the brothers built the W&A Gilbey Distillery producing the first drops of Canadian Gilbey spirits on September 11, 1933. Distillers Crosbie Hucks and John S. Napier joined the team developing a number of Canadian Whiskies, with Black Velvet rising to the top due to mass consumer interest. The 1970’s brought growth for the Canadian Whisky category and in turn, IDV, now Diageo, built Palliser Distiller in Lethbridge, Alberta. The distillery has since been re-named The Black Velvet Distilling Company where the product is still produced today.

Lauren Cherry
Heaven Hill Brands

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Premium Products Continue to Drive Distilled Spirits, According to the 2019 Liquor Handbook

Norwalk, Conn., (Aug. 14, 2019) –  The distilled spirits industry posted another increase in 2018, marking its 21st consecutive year of volume growth, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2019 Liquor Handbook. The spirits segment ended the year up 2.0%, reaching 232.2 million 9-liter cases.

As with last year, consumers’ ongoing interest in high-end and superpremium products across the spirits segments—at home and within on-premise venues—has been a key factor in boosting consumption. Innovation in new product offerings and line extensions that resonate with current consumer preferences and changing tastes have also influenced spirits category growth.

The popularity of brown spirits, especially straight whiskeys and bourbons, continues to climb. Domestic whiskey brands have been successfully in expanding their core consumer base while also attracting new consumers into the category via gentler flavored offerings. The tequila, Cognac and Irish whiskey categories also posted significant gains in 2018.

As for popular liquor brands, Tito's Handmade Vodka and Jameson Irish whiskey were among those attaining notable growth levels. Tito’s rose by more than 1 million cases, surpassing Bacardi to become the U.S. market’s number-two spirits brand, behind Smirnoff. Tito’s has posted average growth of 45.3% from 2013 to 2018—more than doubling in size in the past three years and showing no sign of slowing.

Crown Royal Canadian whisky, the Jim Beam family of bourbons and Jack Daniel’s also remained in growth mode last year. Whisk(e)y brands in particular capture the interest of consumers who appreciate the heritage background and authenticity, which drives their purchasing behavior.

The way that Millennials perceive and consume beverage alcohol has significantly affected the industry. Suppliers have had to adapt to the fast-changing nature of the business and strive to position brands that resonate as authentic to succeed and win consumers’ drinking occasions. 

About the 2019 Liquor Handbook

The Beverage Information Group’s 2019 Liquor Handbook is the most comprehensive source of information on U.S. spirits and sales trends. It includes consumption and projection information by category and by market, tracks leading brands and reports historical data. The publications can be purchased at or by contacting Marybeth Came at or  763-383-4400 ext. 2216.



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Just Released: The 2019 Handbook Advance. Check out the video for highlights of the content

Just Released: The 2019 Handbook Advance.  Check out the video for highlights of the content

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Norwalk, Conn., (April 2, 2019) — Consumers are drinking less: Beverage alcohol consumption levels in the U.S. fell 0.8% for a second consecutive year in 2018, according to the Beverage Information Group’s Handbook Advance 2019. Declining beer sales held back the alcohol industry’s overall performance, as did slower sales in the wine category.

Distilled spirits continues to be the bright spot, achieving its 21th consecutive year of volume growth, up 2.0%. Irish whiskey was the big winner, increasing 9.9% to 4.5 million 9-liter cases, although the category’s growth has slowed from 17.8% in 2017 and 11.8% in 2018. American whiskey remains hot, with a 6.0% increase, driven by interest in straights and bourbons.

Tequila kept up its hot streak with a 7.3% gain to 18.6 million cases. The Brandy and Cognac category grew 6.5% in 2018 to 14.4 million cases, thanks in part to the premiumization trend, and expanded its share of the distilled spirits market slightly to 6.2%. Vodka managed a scant 1.1% increase, retaining its 33% market share, while gin and rum again posted declines.

The wine category was up 1.2%, to 348.8 million 9-liter cases, led by a 5.6% rise in consumption of sparkling wines and strong growth at the $15+ per-bottle price points. Wine may be challenged to remain relevant with consumers as it competes with the spirits and beer categories for share of beverage alcohol occasions.

Beer continues to struggle, with 2018 volumes decreasing 1.3% to 2.76 billion 2.25-gallon cases—the sixth consecutive year of declines. The craft, imported and flavored malt beverage (FMB) categories posted gains of 4% to 5%, but super-premium and premium beers fell 3.6% in 2018 to 358.0 million cases.

And while light beer still dominates the overall category, with a 42.6% share of market, it slid 3.8% in 2018 to 1.2 billion cases. The craft beer explosion in recent years has helped erode the light category, as U.S. consumers seek more flavor and variety in their brews.

About the Handbook Advance

The Handbook Advance provides the earliest and most complete data, statistics and analysis in the industry, reporting on preliminary projections of 2018 beverage alcohol sales and consumption.

The Handbook Advance 2019 hard copy or PDF edition is $1,150; Handbook/PDF with Excel file is $2,050 plus shipping. To purchase, go to or call Marybeth Came at 763-383-4400 ext. 2216.

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Beer Volume Declines Drag Down On-premise Sales of Beverage Alcohol

Norwalk, Conn., (November 27, 2018) – On-premise consumption of beverage alcohol fell 1.1% overall in 2017, to 1.7 million cases, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Cheers On-Premise Handbook. Much of that is due to the 1.6% decrease in cases of beer sold on-premise, while wine was up just 0.5%.

Spirits continues to be the bright spot, up 2.5% in 2017, although that’s down from the 4.7% increase the segment saw in 2016. Craft and classic cocktails are driving spirits sales in bars and restaurants, and consumers are also still interested in brown spirits, namely bourbon: On-premise sales of American whiskey increased 4.2% in 2017.

Although total consumption was down, retail dollar sales of beverage alcohol on-premise increased a bit in 2017, an indicator of the continuing premiumization trend. For instance, retail dollar sales of spirits grew 8%, wine rose 2.2% and beer was up 3.2% over 2016.

Wine consumption in the U.S. is driven primarily by women, who account for 52% of all on-premise wine consumers. Millennials have been an increasingly driving force in the wine category as they are an explorative group, and a generation more interested in trying new flavors than adhering to one style or one brand.

Champagnes and sparkling wines in particular are gaining share of on-premise consumption. The segment now comprises 7% of all on-premise wine. Thanks in large part to the continued prosecco boom, imported Champagne/sparkling wines grew 8% vs. domestic options, which increased 7%.

Why is beer struggling on-premise? Wine and spirits have been stealing the spotlight at traditionally beer-dominated events/venues, such as sporting events, concerts, outdoor activities and festivals. And while people are still interested in craft and imported beer, the strong economy, low unemployment and high consumer confidence is inspiring some guests to turn away from the beer category in favor of spirits and wine.


About the 2018 Cheers On Premise Barometer Handbook

The Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Cheers On Premise Barometer Handbook is the comprehensive source of information on U.S. on-premise trends. It includes consumption and projection information by category and by market, tracks leading brands and consumer preferences and demographics. 

The 2018 Cheers On Premise Handbook is available for $5,250; the handbook with Excel file is $5,950. The publications can be purchased at or by calling Marybeth Came at 763-383-4400, ext. 2216.

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Beer Volume Declines Continue, Despite Gains In Craft And Imported Brews

Norwalk, Conn., (October 2, 2018) – It was another rough year for the beer category, as total volume fell 1.1% to 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases in 2017, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Beer Handbook. While the craft and imported beer segments showed growth and increased market share, total beer consumption has declined for five consecutive years, as U.S. consumers turn more to spirits and wine.

The Craft beer segment grew 4.9% in 2017 to 310 million cases. While craft beer’s growth has slowed from 6.0% for the past two years, the category has pushed its market share to 11.1% in 2017, up from 10.4% in 2016 and 9.8% in 2015. Still, the oversaturation of some local/regional markets has hurt craft beer. Another factor impacting craft beer: U.S. consumers have never been more experimental or less brand-loyal.

The Imported beer segment was up 3.5% to 470.7 million 2.25-gallon cases, increasing its market share a bit to 16.8% in 2017. Beers imported from Mexico continue to thrive, as consumers see these brands as a step up in flavor and quality from macro U.S. lagers, while also representing a product that’s appealingly authentic.

Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs) were up 1.3%, reaching 112.3 million cases in 2017. The category’s growth has cooled considerably, as it was fueled largely by gains in the Bud Light Rita’s line, which has slowed in recent years.

Beer segments that have dropped include Light beer, which slipped 3.1% in 2017 to 1.22 billion cases; Popular beer, down 2.5% to 180.9 million cases; Super-premium and premium beers, which fell 3.7% in 2017 to 371.5 million cases and Malt Liquor, down 4.3% to 52.8 million cases. These segments of the beer category don’t represent the current trend of “craft” or “premium” beverages, which makes it more difficult to connect with modern consumers.                               

About the 2018 Beer Handbook

The Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Beer Handbook is the most comprehensive source of information on U.S. beer industry sales trends. It includes consumption and projection information by category and by market, tracks leading brands and reports historical data. 

The 2018 Beer Handbook is available for $925; the handbook with Excel file is $1,625. The publications can be purchased at or by calling Marybeth Came at 763-383-4400, Ext. 2216.

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Norwalk, Conn. (September 4, 2018) – The U.S. wine market reached 344.7 million nine-liter cases in 2017, an increase of 1%, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Wine Handbook. That’s down from a 2.4% gain in 2016, perhaps a sign of the category’s struggle to compete with spirits and beer for share of beverage alcohol occasions.

As with the previous year, sparkling wines—up 5.8% in 2017—drove the growth. This marked the 16th consecutive year of increases for the total sparkling category. Strong sales of rosé and wines in the $15+ per-bottle price points also contributed: Consumers have discovered that sparkling wines are not just for special occasions and rosés are not just for warm weather.

Table wine saw modest growth of 0.8% to 311.8 million cases sold in 2017, led by a 1.2% increase of imported wines. This amount represents 90.5% of the total U.S. wine category, the Wine Handbook notes, although some of the major table wine brands are struggling to capture consumer attention that’s been lost to other products such as bourbon and craft beer.

Millennials are more interested in trying new flavors than adhering to one style or one brand, so they buy across different categories, countries and varietals of wine. These consumers are interested in specific wine varietals and drawn to eye-catching label art and a strong brand story.

Higher quality boxed/canned wines are changing consumers’ negative perceptions of this wine packaging. Two of the major boxed wine brands posted double-digit growth in 2017, according to the Wine Handbook.

Red wine blends have also increased in popularity. Consumers no longer look at the term “blend” as a negative but rather a sign that a wine is fine-tuned and flavorful.

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Distilled Spirits Post Another Year of Volume Increases, According to the 2018 Liquor Handbook

Norwalk, Conn., (July 17, 2018) –  The distilled spirits industry saw its 20th consecutive year of volume growth, rising 2.1% in 2017 to 227.7 million nine-liter cases. According to the Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Liquor Handbook, consumers are spending more and drinking more—an increase of 6.7 million cases over the previous year. The ongoing interest in high-end and super-premium products across the spirits segments, combined with continued confidence in the U.S. economy, helped fuel the growth.

What’s driving the premiumization trend? Consumers today have more opportunities to expand their knowledge of all beverage alcohol categories. They can explore their increasing options with the help of brand ambassador programs, experiential events/tastings and the bartending/mixologist community. Unique cocktails and flavor pairings created by industry experts help guide consumers in their beverage selection process and encourage them to new things. 

At the category level, interest in brown spirits—especially straights and bourbons—continues to grow. Brand heritage and authenticity increasingly drive purchasing behavior in the whiskey category. Domestic whiskey brands have successfully expanded their core consumer base while also attracting new customers with flavored expressions. Straight American Whiskey continued its roll, expanding 6% to 22.5 million cases. Blended American Whiskey increased 1.3% to 5.3 million cases.

The Tequila, Cognac and Irish Whiskey categories also posted significant gains in 2017. Tequila was up by 6.1% for a total of 17.3 million cases. The Brandy and Cognac category grew 6.8% in 2017, reaching 13.5 million cases. Irish and Japanese Whiskey combined increased 12.2% for a total of 4.1 million cases.


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Craft, Flavored Malt and Imported Beers Continue to Experience Growth While Traditional Beers Struggle

Norwalk, Conn., (October 17, 2017) – While certain segments of the beer category demonstrated strong gains in 2016, the overall category decreased by 0.3% to end the year with 2.83 billion 2.25-gallon cases, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2017 Beer Handbook.  Continued economic growth, employment gains, and evolving consumer preferences are contributing factors in the evolution of the beer industry.

The Imported beer segment enjoyed another year of strong volume performance, growing 6.7% to 454.4 million 2.25-gallon cases.  This continued success helped push the import’s market share to 16% in 2016.  The segment last peaked in 2007 when it reached 13.8% with 408.3 million 2.25-gallon cases before slipping each year until 2014, which began a string of years with positive sales gains.

The Craft beer segment grew 6.0% in 2016 to 300-million 2.25-gallon cases, the same growth rate as in the prior year.   Remarkedly it surpassed the 10% market share for the first time, reaching 10.4% up from 9.8% in 2015.  The craft explosion, however, is beginning to show signs that it’s losing steam.  As the numbers of Millennials continues to grow so does their penchant for experimentation across brands and categories.  On the upside for the craft segment is the growing number of regional and micro- breweries, topping 5,234 in 2016.  With so many new offerings hitting the marketplace, Millennials may still find crafts appealing.

Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs) leveled off in 2016 after experiencing growth of 7.5%, 8.2% and 21% the last three years, respectively.  In 2016 FMBs accounted for 110 million 2.25-gallon cases, growing just 2.4%.  The reason for this slow down begins at the top.  Segment leader Bud Light Rita’s line had been growing at double and triple-digits since its introduction in 2012.  In 2015 that momentum suddenly halted to just 0.5% growth, with growth in 2016 of only 0.1%.  Still at 30.7 million 2.25-gallon cases, the brand is still a powerhouse and the segment leader.

The Super and Premium beer segments suffered in 2016 from the same problem as the Light beer segment: there’s a general malaise towards them for not being craft beer.  Overall, the segment lost 13.3 million 2.25-gallon cases in 2016, shrinking to finish the year with 385.8 million 2.25-gallon cases.  The super and premium segment commanded a 13.6% share of beer industry.

The Light beer segment is also under fire, slipping 2.6% in 2016, despite it being the largest segment in the industry with a whopping 44.5% market share.  The light segment sold 1.26 billion 2.25-gallon case in 2016, 33 million fewer cases than in 2015.  Among the 23 beers included in the 2017 Beer Handbook’s top light brands, only Michelob Ultra registered positive sales, finishing in 6th place with 70.8 million 2.25-gallon cases sold, an uptick of 18.4% over 2015.

The Popular beer segment continued its steady decline in recent years with only 6.5% of the overall beer market.  The segment was down 1.7% to 185.6 million 2.25-gallon cases.  The Malt Liquor and Ice segments were also down, roughly 4% verses 2015.

About the 2017 Beer Handbook

The Beverage Information Group’s 2017 Beer Handbook is the most comprehensive source of information on U.S. beer industry sales trends. It includes consumption and projection information by category and by market, tracks leading brands and reports historical data. 

The 2017 Beer Handbook is available for $850; the handbook with data CD is $1,450.  Shipping and handling is $15 for U.S. residents and $35 for international orders.  The publications can be purchased at or by calling Marybeth Came at (203) 855-8499, Ext. 2251.

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U.S. Wine Consumption Increases Led by the Upsurge in Total Sparkling and Champagne According to the 2017 Wine Handbook


 Norwalk, Conn. (August 29, 2017) – The U.S. wine market, the largest in the world, continued to show strength in 2016 growing 2.4% to 341.1 million 9-liter cases led by a 6.6% upsurge in the consumption of total sparkling wines, according to the Beverage Information Group’s 2017 Wine Handbook.  A strong U.S. economy, employment and wage gains, and larger discretionary incomes all contributed to the category’s growth.

Total domestic wines accounted for 76.8% of the wine category, up slightly from last year.  Table wine grew to 309.4 million 9-liter cases, a 2.2% increase over 2015.  The champagne and sparkling wine category grew for its 15th consecutive year to 22.1 million 9-liter cases, up an impressive 7.8%.  Domestic sparkling wine reached 11.9 million 9-liter cases resulting in a 5.2% increase in volume, continuing an eleven-year growth streak.

According to the Wine Handbook, the premiumization trend in the wine market has not slowed but rather continued to evolve in 2016.  Consumers continued to seek premium and high-end brands to enjoy at home and in on-premise venues. Sales of wines priced under $10 weakened again this year with wines in the $10 to $20 range thriving.  In fact, many major brands had trouble staying top of consumers’ mind as was also the case last year.  Smaller brands are becoming more attractive as word of mouth and social media platforms create unique awareness that is not found in traditional advertising mediums.

The number of U.S wineries also continued to grow, topping almost 8,300, up 4%.  California, the largest wine producing state, continued to capitalize on the increasing popularity of its premium and super-premium wine segments in 2016.  Wines produced in Oregon and Washington also continued to show promise as consumers are demonstrating their willingness to explore wine beyond the California segment. 

About the 2017 Wine Handbook

The 2017 Wine Handbook is the most comprehensive source of information on U.S. wine industry sales trends. It includes consumption data and projected sales by category and by market, as well as leading brands and historical information.  Categories include table, fortified and dessert wines, sparkling and champagne, vermouth and wine coolers.  The 2017 Wine Handbook is priced at $925 for hard copy or PDF version and $1,525 for hard copy with accompanying MS-Excel data CD at or by calling Marybeth Came at (203)-855-8499 ext. 2216.


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