When looking across various industries, representation among minority-owned brands remains low. Although this underrepresentation also affects the beverage industry, more companies are making an effort to reduce this gap through capital investments.
In May, Constellation Brands announced that it had acquired a minority stake in the fast-rising rosé label, La Fête du Rosé ― a brand created to cater to diverse drinkers who share common interests across travel, food, experiences and wine.
The investment was made through Constellation’s venture capital group and La Fête du Rosé is the first company to receive funding as part of Constellation’s Focus on Minority Founders initiative. Through the initiative, Constellation plans to invest $100 million in Black, Latinx and minority-owned businesses by 2030, it says.
At the time of the announcement, Donae Burston, founder of La Fête du Rosé, noted the significance of the new partnership.
“People like to see themselves in anything, and that’s what we're trying to do with La Fête du Rosé ― create an exceptional liquid and brand that's focused on reaching a wider audience,” Burston said in a statement. “It has taken a lot of hard work to get the brand to where it is today. Constellation Brands is the right partner to allow us to scale the brand in a way that stays true to its ethos.”
In a statement, Bill Newlands, Constellation’s president and CEO, highlighted the eagerness of the company to invest in minority-owned businesses ― particularly La Fête du Rosé.
“We’re thrilled to jumpstart our Focus on Minority Founders initiative with an investment in a fantastic consumer-oriented brand and with a dynamic and proven industry leader behind it in Donae Burston,” Newlands said. “Minority-owned businesses are underrepresented in our industry and there is a real need to make it more equitable for those businesses to receive access to capital.
“This initiative enables us to play a role in creating greater equity within our industry and provides an opportunity for us to work with bold leaders and brands with unique value propositions that align with our premiumization strategy,” Newlands continued. “La Fête du Rosé is certainly that, as Donae has taken a consumer-first approach to building a distinctive rosé brand that authentically reflects today’s multicultural consumer values.”
In a recent Sip & Learn podcast episode with Beverage Industry, Burston also notes La Fête du Rosé’s rapid growth in a competitive market as well as its inclusivity focus across multicultural consumers and genders have made the French wine an ideal investment for Constellation.
Also recognizing the importance of furthering representation among minority-owned beverage brands, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, a brand of Uncle Nearest Inc., announced the formation of the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund. The $50 million fund was created specifically to invest in rapidly growing, minority-founded and owned spirit brands.
According to Fawn Weaver, Uncle Nearest founder and CEO, it's by design that the timing of the announcement came on the 100th anniversary of the destruction of Black Wall Street, which decimated hundreds of homes and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Okla., in 1921.
“On June 1, 1921, an entire community of wealthy and successful African Americans was wiped out in a matter of hours. We are talking about 35 square blocks known as Black Wall Street,” Weaver said in a statement. “As an African American, learning about that history broke my heart because we, as a people, were really onto something in Tulsa, Okla. We were lifting one another up and creating wealth within our own community, and then showing others how to do it for themselves. We cannot go back and undo the past, but I do believe we have full power over our future, and that recreating a Black Wall Street of sorts within the spirits industry is a great place to start.”
For the initial investments from the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, the foundation announced its first two recipients: London-based Equiano, an Afro-Caribbean rum founded by Ian Burrell and Aaisha Dadral; and Jack From Brooklyn Inc., a Black-owned distillery based in Brooklyn, N.Y., that makes Sorel Liqueur, a bright red liqueur made with Caribbean hibiscus that can be consumed neat or in cocktails.
Each will receive initial funding of $2 million, respectively.
“Most people don't know how expensive it is to create and grow a premium spirit brand in America," said Jack From Brooklyn Inc. Founder Jackie Summers, in a statement. “I wasn't willing to compromise on the quality, and I did everything I could to raise the money to keep Sorel alive, including pitching the brand to the CEOs of some of the most well-known spirit conglomerates. Every single one turned me down. Many do not know this, but I went homeless for about 18 months as I pounded the pavement to continue growing my business. I never gave up because I knew it was special and that one day, someone would be willing to invest in it and in me. The moment the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund agreed to do so, we were ready — we'd only been waiting on capital.”
Through the investment from the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, Sorel Liqueur will return to market this summer as an exclusive offering via ReserveBar.com and its Spirited Change Initiative.
Although ongoing efforts need to be made to promote a more equitable beverage market, leaders in the space are doing just that.