Two Beers Brewing – and its fast-growing hard cider brand, Seattle Cider Company – have been sold to the Agrial Group, a leading French agri-business cooperative that does business across the beverage, dairy and food industries.
Official financial terms were not disclosed.
The transaction closed earlier this month, according to Joel VandenBrink, the founder of both companies.
Agrial — which collects more than 427 million pounds of cider apples annually, according to its website — is the largest cider producer in France, VandenBrink told Brewbound. A sale to the farmer-run cooperative will provide his company the capital it needs to grow both domestically and internationally, he said.
Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Company, located in adjoining production facilities in Seattle’s industrial district, had previously produced their offerings under separate manufacturing permits. Following the sale, the two entities have merged and will continue to operate independently as a single, wholly-owned subsidiary of Agrial.
VandenBrink will continue to oversee both brands as CEO, and all employees are being retained.
“There is a window of opportunity in cider that I need to step into really quickly,” he said, pointing to declining sales for the category’s largest brand, Angry Orchard, which is owned by Boston Beer Company.
“If I went about it alone, with my financial constraints, I wouldn’t have the chance to take advantage of the opportunity,” he added.
Sales of Angry Orchard were down more than 12 percent through August 14, according to market research firm IRI Worldwide.
Seattle Cider, meanwhile, has seen considerable growth since it launched three years ago. Currently ranked as Washington’s largest cidery, the brand is already sold in 12 states and production is expected to reach 21,000 barrels in 2016. Nevertheless, it’s a long way behind Angry Orchard, the largest cider brand in the U.S.
But VandenBrink has aspirations of growing Seattle Cider into a nationally-distributed brand – he said the company plans to enter as many as 13 new markets in the next two years — and feels the company should capitalize on Angry Orchard’s downward trend by expanding distribution quickly. A crowded craft beer and cider market, however, makes rapid expansion more costly, he said.
“It’s just not as simple as finding a distributor to take my product,” VandenBrink said. “There is a huge capital outlay on the front end and, if I were to do it on my own, I fear that I would overextend and put my business at an unnecessary risk.”
Enter Agrial, a company that had $4.7 billion in revenues in 2014, according its annual report.
“Agrial has impressed me with their belief in our mission and vision, and even more so with their desire to support Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing Co. as we continue to grow our brands the way we have in the past,” VandenBrink said in a press release.
The growth of Seattle Cider Company was a catalyst for the purchase, VandenBrink told Brewbound, and a deal with Agrial gives the Seattle-based company immediate access to international distribution opportunities in 30 countries.
For Agrial, an investment into Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider gives the French company direct access to a complicated and crowded U.S. beer and cider market. Agrial plans to begin importing its Louis Raison French Cidre to the U.S., VandenBrink added.
“Seattle Cider Company has changed the face of cider in the United States in the past three years and it’s been exciting to watch. We’re thrilled to now be a part of it, and watch the companies continue to push the boundaries of cider and beer in the U.S. and beyond,” Franck Malinowski, the CEO of Agrial’s beverage division said in a statement.
Agrial also has an equity investment in Brasserie Lancelot, a small brewery located in northwest France, VandenBrink added.
Cascadia Capital served as the financial advisor to Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Company. Miller Nash acted as legal counsel.
Additional information is available in the press release below. A letter from VandenBrink to his company’s customers is also included.
Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing Announce Merger with French Farmer-Run Cooperative
SEATTLE (September 27, 2016) – Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing have announced a merger with French farmer-run cooperative Agrial. The two Seattle based companies – which share the same leadership team and have seen immense growth over the past few years – will continue to operate independently in Seattle, while merging with the leading French cider producer.
The merger and further partnership will help Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing grow through Agrial’s international distribution network, gaining access to developing craft beer and cider communities around the world. It will also allow for needed capital expansion projects for the growing brewery and the cidery. Additionally, the partnership provides Agrial with the opportunity to gain access to the American craft cider and beer market, as well as distribute a selection of its French cidre brand, Louis Raison, to the US.
“The amazing growth and expansion we’ve seen over the past three years has taken us by surprise, and as I looked at where I wanted to take Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing into the future, I knew we would need a partner to be able to achieve our long term goals,” said Joel VandenBrink, founder and CEO of Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing. “Agrial has impressed me with their belief in our mission and vision, and even more so with their desire to support Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing Co. as we continue to grow our brands the way we have in the past.”
Through the partnership, Seattle Cider Company, Two Beers Brewing and Agrial remain dedicated to product quality, as well as maintaining the culture and dedication to craft built by Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing. Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing will continue to operate independently in Seattle, maintaining control of the day-to-day operations. Joel VandenBrink, founder of both companies, will remain as CEO. Leadership, staff, brewers, cidermakers, distributors and most importantly, the beer and cider people have come to know and love from the two companies will also remain the same.
“Seattle Cider Company has changed the face of cider in the United States in the past three years and it’s been exciting to watch. We’re thrilled to now be a part of it, and watch the companies continue to push the boundaries of cider and beer in the US and beyond. We feel strongly about the success of these brands, and share the same vision and mindset Joel has set forth for the companies,” added Franck Malinowski, the historical CEO of Agrial’s beverage division.
Seattle Cider Company, which celebrated three years in August, has quickly grown to become Washington’s largest cidery, seeing an expected production of 21,000 barrels in 2016. Now available in 12 states, it continues to push the boundaries of craft cider. Two Beers Brewing, nearing its ninth anniversary in November, continues to grow as one of Seattle’s beloved craft breweries, expecting to reach 8,000 barrels in 2016.
Famous for traditional French cidre, as well as a variety of brands valuing farmer developed products, Agrial is the number one cidre producer and seller in France. One of its missions is to support entrepreneurs transforming apples into value-added beverages and apples products. Owned by a large community of growers, Agrial offers more than 100 years of experience, a dedicated quality and innovation team, and distribution connections in more than 30 countries.
Cascadia Capital is serving as exclusive financial advisor to Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Company in the transaction, while Miller Nash is serving as legal counsel.
For more information about the joint venture and thoughts from Joel VandenBrink, founder of Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Company, visit the company’s blog at seattlecidercompany.com and twobeersbrewing.com.
About Seattle Cider Company
Not your standard cider. Seattle Cider Company was founded in 2013 as the city’s first cidery since Prohibition, bringing true craft cider back to Seattle and across the country. Bridging the gap between wine and beer with flavorful, uniquely dry cider, Seattle Cider Company’s year round and seasonal offerings break the mold of overly sweet cider, bringing the natural flavors of Washington apples to the forefront. Naturally gluten free and made from a custom blend of fresh pressed, locally grown apples, Seattle Cider Company’s products are handcrafted with all natural ingredients and never from concentrate. For more information, visit seattlecidercompany.com, or follow Seattle Cider Company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@seattleciderco).
About Two Beers Brewing Co. ® Two Beers Brewing Co. began operations in a small Seattle basement in 2007 and today, produces more than 14 unique beers including year rounds, seasonal and a host of intricate infusions in its SoDo-based brewery. Two Beers Brewing can be found in Seattle-area bars and restaurants, with tastings kegs and growler fill-ups available at their tasting room located at 4660 Ohio Ave. S. in SoDo, open weekly Tuesday – Thursday from 3-9 pm, Friday from 1-10pm, Saturdays from 1-10pm & Sundays from 1-6pm. Select brews can also be found in 12-ounce cans and 22-ounce bottles through the tasting room, as well as local retailers in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho. For more information, visit www.twobeersbrewery.com.
AGRIAL it is one of the leading French agricultural and food-processing cooperative groups. Its beverage division also produces and sells other types of apple-related products such as cider, apple juice, vinegar. A major player in agricultural production in its area, AGRIAL as a cooperative aims to create sustainable added value for its members by providing, on a day-to-day basis, technical, economic and environmental support for its members on their holdings.