Drinkworks’ GM armed and ready for market with an expanded portfolio

January 11, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

Drinkworks, owned and operated by global powerhouse HEINEKEN, has acquired three cider brands: Strongbow, Bonamy’s Cider, Little Green and distribution rights in Australia for Stella Artois, and Beck’s.

The acquisition of Strongbow in Australia reunites the brand with the global Strongbow portfolio under HEINEKEN after 17 years.

General Manager of Drinkworks, Judd Michel, said: “The reintroduction of Strongbow in particular is a huge excitement to us…Strongbow is HEINEKEN’s largest cider brand globally and the team is very excited at the chance to apply global learnings and assets to what is already a strong success story in Australia.

“We have some great plans for Strongbow, some of which I need to bite my tongue on a bit as we have only just taken the brand back. All I can say for now is that we want to maintain the existing strengths of Strongbow in Australia but then build on that using global learnings and some new energy.”

The brands were divested by Asahi Beverages as part of the ACCC’s approval of the acquisition of Carlton & United Breweries.

The expansion of the Drinkworks portfolio means that there is a Drinkworks brand suited to any drinking occasion, be it beachside, BBQ or out on the town.

“Not only does this deal provide straight inorganic growth through the new suite of brands, but it also provides opportunity for further organic growth as our expanded field sales teams and brands expand accordingly to be able to cater to new customers,” Michel said.

The acquisition aligns with what Michel describes as the business’ “serious growth ambitions”.

“In terms of challenges, whenever you acquire brands off your competitors, especially when they didn’t necessarily choose to divest them, there will be challenges but that comes with the territory.

“Probably one of our challenges is to prove to some new customers that we’re a viable alternative to the status quo and we’re here to stay. We are more than up for that challenge though and look forward to continuing to surprise and delight our customers,” he said.

Michel returned to Drinkworks as General Manager last year, attracted by the brands, people and those ambitions for serious growth and, ultimately, to redefine the landscape of the Australian drinks industry. He was last employed as General Manager of Drinkworks from 2006-2013. 

“I’m passionate about quality and returning to Drinkworks provided the opportunity to service the trade really well, and surprise and delight our customers.

“I’m also excited and honoured to be part of the DB and HEINEKEN family again. It’s an intoxicating mix, excuse the pun, to be able to play the role of challenger to the status quo in Australia while at the same time having the brand-building talents and resources of the HEINEKEN company behind you,” he said.

Strongbow, Bonamy’s Cider, Little Green, Stella Artois, and Beck’s can be ordered directly from Drinkworks via Drinkworks’ preferred wholesaler network. However, to make things easy for customers during peak season, customers who currently order these brands via CUB may continue to do so until 30th April 2021. From this date, orders will need to be placed through Drinkworks’ wholesale network.

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