Diageo looks to aperitif drinks as consumers shift towards casual occasions

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Diageo to expand in the aperitif sector with Belsazar acquisition. Photo: Belsazar.
Diageo to expand in the aperitif sector with Belsazar acquisition. Photo: Belsazar.
Diageo has acquired Belsazar to expand in the aperitif sector as consumers shift towards more casual occasions, seeing demand for lower ABV (Alcohol By Volume) cocktails and an increase in long drinks.

Belsazar, a premium aperitif from Germany’s Black Forest, was launched by entrepreneurs Maximillian Wagner and Sebastian Brack on the Berlin food and drinks scene in 2013 and joined Distill Ventures in 2014. 

‘The spirit of Berlin’

Belsazar_Gruender Sebastian Brack und Maximilian Wagner

Wagner said from the very beginning it wanted to share its aperitif with as many people as possible and through this acquisition it will bring ‘the spirit of Berlin’ to new consumers. 

The entrepreneurs will continue to grow the business with Diageo in Europe, where it currently performs well in Germany and the UK. It will sit within Diageo’s Reserve portfolio. 

Diageo is the home of many founder-led brands from Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray and Guinness to newer brands like Bulleit​,” said David Gates, MD, Diageo Futures. 

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​.” 

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. 

Since its launch in 2013, it has significantly grown its portfolio and expanded into North America. 

White, red, dry, rosé

Belsazar is made from selected grapes including Pinot Noir among others from South Baden at the edge of the Black Forest, infused with herbs to give it a 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 aromas. 

There are four Belsazar varieties: white, red, dry and rosé. It was created to be enjoyed as an aperitif served with tonic. 

Frank Lampen, CEO, global head of Distill Ventures, said Belsazar was one of the first Distill Ventures investments and it has worked closely with the founders over the past four years. 

He said the acquisition is very exciting and the co-founders Max and Sebastian will have the full resources and expertise of the world’s largest drinks company.

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