AB InBev’s growth and innovation unit ZX Ventures has acquired UK-based spirits company AtomGroup for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition will comprise Atom Group’s three business units, online spirits retailer Master of Malt, drinks producer Atom Brands and distributor Maverick Drinks. Included is also That Boutique-y Whisky Company (established 2012) and That Boutique-y Gin Company (established 2017), which are small batch whisky and gin bottling companies under the roof of Atom Brands.
Atom’s business model is to “make and select liquids that are the best they can possibly be, and package them in a way that is awesome.” ZX Ventures will, like in other acquisitions before, not change leadership at Atom Group, which includes founders Justin Petszaft, Ben Ellefsen and Tom McGuiness.
While AB InBev and ZX Ventures at its start focused predominantly on craft breweries, it can be noticed that ZX Ventures has recently made a shift towards related industries. It all started in October 2016, when ZX Ventures bought US home brew supply shop Northern Brewer and its sister company Midwest Supplies (inside.beer, 19.10.2016).This was followed in 2017 by beer rating platform RateBeer (inside.beer, 5.6.2017) and Canvas, a company to produce a milk-like product composed of about 50% spent grain isolate (inside.beer, 14.8.2017).
In 2018 AB InBev has continued its inroad into related industries by buying Israeli startup Weissbeerger for $80m. The company has developed analytics tools that include sensors in the beer taps, refrigerators and other important points in the supply chain to provide bar and restaurant owners as well as brewers and beverage manufacturers with a full picture about the quality of their products, the inventory situation, consumer habits and more.
AB InBev wants to process this data in a special unit within ZX Ventures together with other data achieved from RateBeer and online purchasing behavior data from its in 2016 acquired Belgium beer web shop Hopt.be and similar web shops in France and the United Kingdom. The beer giant understands that data is the new power and learning about the needs and the behavior of its customers will give the company a leading edge over its competitors.
It also seems, that AB Inbev does not want to rely entirely on beer. After buying a stake in Electric Sky Wine, a company selling single-serve wine cups, ZX Ventures bought a minority stake in California-based wine maker Swish Beverages just one month ago. (inside.beer, 13.3.2018)
In this context, the purchase of Atom Group makes a lot of sense.
Atom Brands spirits portfolio includes brands such as Ableforth’s (Bathtub Gin, Rumbullion! Rum and The Collection Cherry Brandy, Summer Fruit Cup, Christmas Mulled Cup and Cold-Distilled Absinthe), Darkness! Whisky, The Blended Whisky Co., “Hot Enough” vodka, Bitter Bastards, OriGin, 1897 Quinine Gin, Handmade Cocktail Co., Mr.Lyan premix cocktails and Drinks By The Dram.
“This deal is an amazing moment for our business, which has gone from working out of a shed in Kent, to one of the UK’s fastest-growing companies,” Atom Group’s co-founder and group managing director Justin Petszaft said. “We’ve always been a technology-focused business, building our eCommerce platform from scratch to give consumers the best experience possible and we recognised a kindred spirit in ZX Ventures, in its mission to innovate, grow and answer new consumer demands. We can’t wait to supercharge our business with ZX Ventures and share our tech expertise with their team as well.”
In a statement on its website Atom Brands commented: “This partnership will allow us to move even faster towards our goals of sourcing and bottling the best whiskies, gins, and other spirits available anywhere, and distributing them to more people than ever before across the globe.
“The implications of this investment in terms of our ability to source and produce the world’s finest spirits really can’t be overstated – the resources, distribution channels and opportunities that are opened up by this deal are simply epic in scale.
“This deal will give us access to the resources needed to scale up our operations considerably – that means more incredible whisky for TBWC, more brands in the Boutique-y stable, the removal of the constraints around creating ever more exciting new brands, and crucially – the ability to bring all of our portfolio to more people than ever before across the globe.”