The CEO of the global spirits company reflects on five years of success and looks to a promising future.
Amber Beverage Group (ABG) celebrated its fifth anniversary last month — how would you describe the company's progress?
It's a difficult question because we have achieved an enormous amount. We have gone from being very much a Baltic enterprise with some big customers, and we have truly transformed into a global organisation with world-class infrastructure. It's not only been about building or improving the things we already had; it's also been about bringing in new companies, like UK distributor Cellar Trends, Australian distributor Think Spirits, Russian producer Permalko and, of course, our Tequila factory in Mexico – Fabrica de Tequilas Finos. So, we really have transformed completely — we are not the same organisation at all.
Do you prefer a bolt-on or full-integration approach to the businesses you buy?
In many aspects we are merging with the companies we buy. They become part of our new DNA and we become part of their new future — it's a collaboration. We don't absorb, we don't take over; we want them to be part of our future. In most cases the management of the companies we have bought stay on board. We want it to be an experience that allows us to become better at what we do and helps us grow.
How would you characterise your recent performance?
We had a very busy year last year with the acquisitions we made, but also with consolidating and making sure the previous acquisitions were running properly. We have continued to be quite aggressive in our growth of the international core brands we have. So, our year-on-year performance has been quite exceptional. We have been lucky enough to triple our revenue over the past five years and we are on track to do it again. We are going to do it slightly differently to the past — it will be much more organic as we build the foundation of our core brands internationally.
Will your acquisition activity slow?
Tactically we will always be looking for acquisition opportunities, and they will be more on a smaller scale that allow us to improve our footprint or allow us to move into new categories faster than we might do if we were to do it ourselves. But we want to consolidate what we have already achieved and grow our base of core brands into international brands, and we also want to make sure we continue to build our distribution base so we can continue with our rapid growth.
Are you interested in any new categories in particular?
Everyone in any spirits business is interested in the brown spirits category, whether it's rum or Irish, American or Scotch whisky, and that's an area we are not in as a brand owner, but we are as a distributor. We are experienced in selling and marketing brown spirits, but we don't have anything in our portfolio.
ABG launched Cross Keys Gin last year — what other types of in-house brand developments can we expect to see?
There are a number of things that are being released, which is a reflection of our continued commitment to innovation. The most recent example is Moskovskaya Pink. It has been designed with our Spanish distributor as an opportunity to build on the interest in rosé and pink products. Recently we have launched our Cosmopolitan Diva variation, which is berry, and we are introducing for duty-free Riga Black Balsam XO, which is a specially aged Cognac-based version of the classic. It takes the whole brand into a new price category. We will continue to look at innovation as a way of building a position in categories we are interested in.
Where would you like to see ABG five years from now?
We would like to be in the top 10 of European spirits companies. There are big firms in the top five, but our ambition is to get into the top 10 and feel we are able to become part of the group that drives the business rather than follows it.
Source: The Spirits Business.