South African spirits industry receives international backer
Beam Suntory, one of the world’s largest premium spirits companies, has announced the acquisition of a 50 percent equity stake in ABV Brands Proprietary Ltd., an independent distributor of spirits, based in South Africa.
ABV Brands has been the appointed distributor in South Africa for Beam Suntory since its foundation in 2010, during which time ABV Brands has grown sales of Beam Suntory’s brands by more than 260 percent, driven in part by consistent double-digit growth of its Jim Beam and Courvoisier brands.
The transaction is a crucial part of a strategic extension of this partnership, unlocking growth potential by allowing for further sales and marketing investments which will expand distribution to reach more consumers.
Albert Baladi, International President at Beam Suntory, said: “The African spirits market has phenomenal growth potential for Beam Suntory and our global whisky and cognac portfolio is ideally suited to capture the growth of premium spirits. This partnership gives us a beachhead, and we will continue to look for opportunities to become a key player in Sub-Saharan Africa by expanding our footprint, growing our brands and securing strong routes to market.”
Beam Suntory is aiming to accelerate growth in the country, which represents the continent’s largest spirits market and also to establish a strong foothold in Sub-Saharan Africa. ABV Brands aims to be among the top five distributors in South Africa by 2020.
Ross Calow, Managing Director of ABV Brands, commented: “ABV Brands is at the forefront of marketing and distribution of some of the world’s best-loved premium spirit brands, and this transaction will allow us to take Beam Suntory’s exceptional premium brand portfolio to new customers. This is a fantastic opportunity to combine ABV’s local expertise and agility with Beam Suntory’s global scale and portfolio of premium brands.”
Daniel Hawkins, Managing Director of ABV Brands, added: “We know the South African market inside out and see a clear opportunity here to grow Beam Suntory’s share. This deal will allow us to more aggressively target that growth by aligning our strategies and investment priorities.”
The 50 percent stake was purchased from from Cyprus-based FIX Wines & Spirits Ltd - the remaining 50 percent will continue to be held by ABV Brands’ co-founders and management team.
Igor Boyadjian, of FIX Wines & Spirits, said: “As co-founders of ABV, we are extremely proud of the success ABV Brands has had in growing a phenomenal and exciting portfolio of brands from Beam Suntory, Edrington, Berry Bros. & Rudd and others over the last five years. FIX Wines & Spirits has played a pivotal role in fueling ABV Brands’ early success and providing full support to the executive team. We now feel it is time for ABV Brands to play in a different league, so we are delighted to pass the baton to Beam Suntory to define a new and even more ambitious vision for the business. We wish them every success in this new partnership.”
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SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”