Asahi Beverages has acquired premium Australian gin brand Never Never, as it looks to build its multi-beverage portfolio, with the gin to be sold through Asahi’s alcohol division, Carlton & United Breweries (CUB).

Speaking to The Shout about the deal, CUB CEO Danny Celoni said rather than simply being a response to Lion’s acquisition of Four Pillars, the purchase was part of CUB’s broader portfolio agenda and filling a gap in that portfolio.

“Partnering with Never Never, which is incredibly high quality with amazing founders and leaders who are the best in the industry and culturally aligned with a real sense of partnership, and a booming super-premium segment with a fantastic brand has won multiple awards, we just saw this was this was a great opportunity to take the relationship further,” Celoni said.

“Our portfolio strategy is grow core beer, accelerate growth in craft and amplify our participation in RTD and spirits, so this was always part of our portfolio play, along with what we do in non-alcohol which is post-mix and coffee etcetera. So the plan was always there, the team has been out there looking with a buy, build or partner lens, and we have continued building and refreshing the existing portfolio of spirits.

“We realised we had a gap in this part of the market and we thought to we need to fill that gap and we believe that Never Never is one of the best players out there and they will continue to do what they do.”

Never Never Co-Founder George Georgiadis told The Shout that having started in a 16-square-metre shed, the time was right to take the next stage in the brand’s journey.

“Even though we started small, we always had aspirations to share Never Never as wide as we could and to see the brand grow to a brand new scale and compete with the best brands in the world. And this partnership with Asahi is the time for us to take that next step in terms of that growth. Over the last five or six years we have put all the building blocks into place in terms of the brand, the quality, the advocacy, and now to go further we really need the support of someone who can help us reach all corners of the market.

“It doesn’t get much better in terms of a partner to help us with the investment to build on the brand activity that we’ve done. The mantra at Never Never is to always reach for the horizon and the way we see it now we have reached one horizon, and now we are setting off for the next one.”

In terms of growth plans for the brand, Celoni said an important part of the decision to acquire Never Never was the success the gins have already enjoyed and the potential for further growth.

“One of the things we are obsessed about is category growth and so when we looked at Never Never we needed to ensure that we were going to be bringing something different to the table,” Celoni said.

“When I think about what Never Never brings, not only is Triple Juniper a classic gin that is distinguished from a liquid perspective from the others, but I also look at Oyster Shell Gin and how that is cutting through in a different way with Martinis, so we can bring some new thinking to the category, which is all about category expansion.

“We are in this to grow the pie, because as we grow the pie the whole industry benefits. So for us it is absolutely about growth. We are going to leverage our advantage in the route to market, we are going to leverage the great relationships in the market and we are going to leverage it in the context of on-premise – we are very passionate about the on-premise. And now we’re not just going to talk to customers about beer and taps, but we go beyond beer with RTDs and now premium spirits. We will leverage George, Sean and Tim’s drive for innovation and make sure we are bringing new things to the market that are going to help the category to grow.”

The Never Never Co-Founders Georgiadis, Sean Baxter and Tim Boast will remain with the business and Never Never will remain a member of the Australian Distillers Association.

Speaking about what’s exciting for Never Never now as part of the Asahi portfolio, Baxter told The Shout, that the team is looking forward to having the resources to make their innovation ideas a reality.

“We’ve had to put a line through so many things because of resources. We are an incredibly creative and innovative brand and we’re constantly striving to be at the top of our game and competing against some of Australia’s biggest brands, but we were restrained by just trying to maintain Triple Juniper as our number one product.

“So what this allows us is an incredible opportunity for growth, and allows us to explore the far limits of what we have been trying to do from day one, which is be Australia’s most innovative spirit brand. And for us it is an incredible opportunity to engage on a level that we have not had the opportunity to do. One of the most exciting things for me is that we get to pull all the things out of the drawer that have just been gathering dust because we couldn’t afford these sort of things and so it’s incredibly exciting to explore the full capacity of what we have got.”

“This gives us so much more energy to explore Never Never beyond our initial expectations, I can’t communicate the level of excitement that have at being able to tell the Never Never story in a much more amplified way, it’s why we started the business.”

Asahi Beverages Group CEO Amanda Sellers added: “We are acquiring Never Never because we recognise Never Never’s incredible brand and success. Combining Asahi’s reach with Never Never’s amazing portfolio, extensive spirits knowledge and capability will enhance the value proposition for our customers.”

Never Never joins the Asahi portfolio of brands today and will be sold through Asahi’s alcohol division Carlton & United Breweries. Both Never Never and CUB declined to comment when asked how much the deal is worth.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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