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Diageo acquires premium aperitif Belsazar, the first company to graduate from Distill Ventures

Today, Diageo announces the acquisition of Belsazar GmbH, a premium aperitif from Germany’s Black Forest. Belsazar was launched by entrepreneurs Maximillian Wagner and Sebastian Brack on the Berlin food and drinks scene in 2013. Belsazar is the first company to be acquired by Diageo through Distill Ventures.

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Belsazar

Belsazar provides Diageo with an exciting opportunity to strengthen its participation in the aperitif occasion and expand the brand across Europe. As consumers shift towards more casual occasions, demand for lower ABV cocktails and long drinks are increasing and Belsazar fits this occasion perfectly.

The acquisition is also an important milestone for Distill Ventures, the drinks industry’s first accelerator for new and growing spirits brands. Since its launch in 2013, Distill Ventures has significantly grown its portfolio and expanded into North America. Independently run, Distill Ventures receives funding from Diageo, and draws on industry expertise and professional networks, to identify, invest in and accelerate aspiring drinks 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. These include gastronomy bars, Michelin starred restaurants, biergardens and smaller restaurants where people are looking for light, long drinks with food. In the UK, it is available in a number of on-trade locations including Soho House, Hakkasan and Chiltern Firehouse.

Belsazar is made from selected 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, allowing it to develop its range of complex aromas. There are four Belsazar varieties: white, red, dry and its signature rosé. Belsazar was created to be enjoyed as an aperitif served with tonic and as part of classic and modern cocktails. It was named one of IWSR’s Top Ten brands to watch in the Radius 2018 report.

Belsazar’s founders Maximilian Wagner and Sebastian Brack will remain actively involved, working with Diageo to ensure the brand’s future success. Belsazar 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.

Belsazar founders Maximilian Wagner and Sebastian Brack

Belsazar founders Maximilian Wagner and Sebastian Brack

Maximilian Wagner, Co-Founder of Belsazar, said: “Today is the first day of an exciting new chapter for Belsazar as we integrate into Diageo’s portfolio of world-class brands. Our ambition right from the beginning in 2013 has been to share our aperitif with as many people as possible and we’re excited that this next step will help bring the spirit of Berlin to new consumers.”

Sebastian Brack, Co-Founder of Belsazar said: “Working with Distill Ventures these past few years has given us an invaluable base of knowledge and experience that we’ll undoubtedly call on as we continue to grow the business with Diageo in Europe.”

David Gates, Managing Director of Diageo Futures, said: “We are thrilled that Belsazar is joining our wonderful portfolio of brands. Diageo is the home of many founder-led brands from Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray and Guinness to newer brands like Bulleit. 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.”

Frank Lampen, CEO and Global Head of Distill Ventures added “Belsazar was one of the first Distill Ventures investments and we’ve worked closely with the founders over the past four years. 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.”