VICTOR, N.Y., Dec. 06, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Constellation Brands, Inc., a leading beverage alcohol company, announced last week that Constellation Brands Ventures (CBV), the company’s corporate venture capital group, intends to invest $100 million in female-founded or female-led businesses in the beverage alcohol space and adjacent categories by 2028 through a new program, Focus on Female Founders. The company has completed its first investments in two specialty beverage companies: Austin Cocktails and Vivify Beverages.
“Our Focus on Female Founders program reinforces our commitment to supporting the advancement of women within our company, within our industry, and in our local communities,” said Mallika Monteiro, chief growth officer, Constellation Brands. “This program is designed to make meaningful investments in female-founded and female-led businesses doing disruptive and innovative work across beverage alcohol. Broadening our focus on this critical demographic will drive incremental growth for our business, enhance our relevance, deepen our consumer knowledge base, and broaden our pipeline of ideas and talent.”
Women-led businesses are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurship in the U.S.1 and generate two times the revenue per dollar versus the average non-women-owned businesses2, yet only two percent of venture capital funding went to female-led companies in 20173.
The Focus on Female Founders program supports emerging brands and technologies that are in or adjacent to the beverage alcohol space. Interested companies must be founded and/or led by women. In addition to an infusion of capital, funding recipients will have access to Constellation’s experienced staff and hands-on mentors; brand-building, supply chain, governance and finance expertise; strong relationships with distributors and retail partners; and a community of fellow women entrepreneurs who can share knowledge and offer support.
“Women are an underrepresented demographic in the beverage alcohol industry and we are committed to doing our part to help change this,” said Bill Newlands, president and chief operating officer, and incoming chief executive officer, Constellation Brands. “As consumer demographics, needs and choices continue to evolve, we believe the focus and point of view that women-led businesses bring to the table will help drive transformative innovation and accelerated growth for our business and, more importantly, for the beverage alcohol space at-large. And we are very excited to jump-start this effort with two fantastic companies, Austin Cocktails and Vivify.”
Co-founders and sisters Jill Burns and Kelly Gasink established Austin Cocktails, an Austin, Texas based bottled cocktail company, in 2012 using family recipes that originated with their grandfather, Fred.
“We’ve worked hard to get where we are, and we’re thrilled to have an investment from Constellation Brands to help us continue on our growth journey,” said Burns. “Constellation Brands’ reach, scale and influence will help take Austin Cocktails to a whole new level.”
“With the funding and the added resources that Constellation Brands has offered, we believe the opportunities in front of us are endless,” said Gasink.
Today, Austin Cocktails offers five bottled cocktails – Cucumber Vodka Mojito, Ruby Red Cocktail, Perfect Bergamot Orange Margarita, Peppered Maple Blood Orange Bourbon Cocktail and New School Gin Mule – that are made with premium spirits and fine, natural ingredients.
Funds have also been invested in Vivify Beverages, makers of innovative, premium alcohol beverage products that bring consumers “better for you,” flavorful options that fulfill unmet consumer needs in the beer aisle. The company’s first two products, Bravazzi Hard Italian Soda and Itz Spritz, a gluten- free, alcohol spritzer, are already gaining traction in markets across the country.
“Constellation Brands thinks like we do. They are focused on what is coming next, not on what has worked in the past,” said Sarah Ross, co-founder and vice president of marketing and innovation, Vivify. “We know we can leverage their investment in us and their expertise to keep our momentum going.”
Vivify’s leadership team of industry veterans – including Ross; Anne Ellis, co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing; and Bob Walkenhorst, co-founder and chief executive officer – will work closely with Constellation Brands to capture new consumers and market share and to ignite growth.
The Focus on Female Founders application and evaluation process aligns with Constellation’s ventures strategy of investing in emerging, unique and distinctive brands. Constellation Brands Ventures continues to look for brands that have a point of differentiation in the market; companies that want to welcome Constellation Ventures as an active minority investor; organizations looking to grow beyond their current markets; and entrepreneurs who want to grow their business with the support of Constellation’s investment, mentorship and involvement.
Terms of the Austin Cocktails and Vivify Beverages transactions have not been disclosed.
1According to the U.S. Small Business Administration
2According to June 2018 BCG Why Women-Owned Startups Are a Better Bet
3According to data from Pitchbook, an M&A, private equity, and VC database.