Jan State Shipments Volume Up 1%

Dear Client:

Good news from January state shipments: volumes grew 1%, per BI data. On a weak base. That’s the second consecutive month of growth.

And looking at a 12-month time frame, beer shipment volumes were only down 0.6%. That’s “the smallest decline since February 2017,” per BI.

(This may have provided some lift, at least in the month of January: As we’ve reported for seltzer brands like Boston’s Truly, some suppliers reported building inventories on hot products [like seltzers], to help prepare for the summer selling season.)

State by state trends were pretty diverse for the month, with just over half the states showing growth. The biggest beer states saw divergent trends, too: While Florida and New York were up in the 7% range, Texas was barely up, and California was actually down 1.5%.

CRAFT BREWERS GUILD LOSES APPEAL ON PAY TO PLAY CASE IN MASS’ HIGHEST COURT

It looks like Craft Brewers Guild’s final Hail Mary has fizzled.

Thursday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sided with a 2017 ruling by Suffolks Superior Court that the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission “correctly applied anti-bribery rules” in condemning Craft Brewers Guild’s pay-to-play tactics with local retailers, which resulted in a $2.6 million fine, the Boston Globe reported.

You may recall that the original case condemned CBG for some $120,000 in kickbacks to retailers over a period of 5-plus years.

“A spokesman for the owner of Craft Brewers Guild, Sheehan Family Cos., said the company is disappointed, but he also noted the decision provides important clarity to the industry,” per Globe.

A separate ruling reversed a retailer fine and clarifying that the punishment for kickbacks and inducements is shouldered only by the wholesaler tier.

Court dismissed antibribery finding against Rebel Restaurants, “owner of the former Jerry Remy’s bar in the Seaport that was accused of receiving the inducements, ruling the state regulation does not clearly prohibit retailers from accepting such offers.”

Recall that after the original $2.6 million fine, Craft filed a motion for judgement on pleadings delineating reasons why the Court should “set aside the ABCC’s decision” or remand it back to ABCC, for a host of reasons, including, that the pertinent statute (204 CMR, prohibiting inducements) was actually repealed in 1970 and never reinstated.

Further, Craft argued they never provided anything to actual retailers, but rather ABCC only found that Craft “entered into transactions with “certain Retailers’ management/marketing companies.” Moreover, Craft argued, the ABCC absolved some of the licensees accused of accepting payment from the distributor of any violations, so they argued ABCC’s findings against them to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

But then in October 2017, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas H. Wilkins ruled that the ABCC’s application of regulation was “entirely reasonable and consistent with the statutory prohibition against price discrimination.”

As for the argument that CBG did not technically pay any retailers, just the bars’ corporate restaurant parents, Judge scalled that “indirect scheme” a “closed loophole.” Basically he didn’t buy it.

ABI EARMARKING $230 MILLION TO RESOLVE EU ANTITRUST ISSUE?

It appears that ABI has set aside a $230 million reserve in their accounts to cover fines that could result from an EU investigation into potential pricing manipulation.

MLex reported last week that an EU probe alleged the company attempted to “manipulate beer prices in the EU’s single market,” according to a regulatory filing from last week.

Allegations say ABI “took several steps to stop supermarkets and wholesalers from selling beers in Belgium that have been bought at lower prices in France and the Netherlands. That allegedly included introducing different labels for beers sold in France and the Netherlands.”

Formal charges were lodged in November 2017 for hindering imports of beers like Leffe “into its home market of Belgium from neighboring France and the Netherlands.”

BEER BRIEFS:

ALUMINUM PRICING ACT REINTRODUCED. Last week, Representatives Al Lawson (D-FL) and Ken Buck (R-CO) reintroduced the Aluminum Pricing Examination (APEX) Act (H.R.1406), which would “enhance” the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Department of Justice’s (DOJ) “authorities over aluminum price benchmarking entities, including those that publish the Midwest Premium,” per Beer Institute communication.

Until tomorrow,

Harry, Jenn, and Jordan

“Luck is great, but most of life is hard work.” – Iain Duncan Smith

———- Sell Day Calendar ———-
Today’s Sell Day: 2
Sell days this month: 21
Sell days this month last year: 21
This month ends on a: Fri.
This month last year ended on a: Fri.
YTD sell days Over/Under: +1