In a move which is likely to send shockwaves through Australia’s retail and independent producer categories, ZX Ventures, a group within AB InBev has acquired online alcohol retailer BoozeBud.

ZX Ventures describes itself as a “global disruptive growth and innovation group within AB InBev” and Rodolfo Chung, Australia’s Head of ZX told TheShout that the plans are to now help BoozeBud develop its e-commerce capabilities.

“What really attracted us to BoozeBud was the founders,” Chung said. “We admired their skills a lot, we thought they brought some great entrepreneurship, as well as technical skills and a great vision of the market and a good understanding of the consumer.

“This was one of the most important things, but we also think that their platform is really special. We think that it sits at the cutting edge of the technology. They have built everything around being very consumer-centric, and this was very attractive for us.

“Also the BoozeBud mission was about connecting more suppliers to more consumers and this resonates a lot with ZX’s view and that was the big alignment that we found in the beginning.”

In terms of what ZX is expecting from the deal, Chung told TheShout: “We believe that we are in the right moment in terms of the growth of the e-commerce business in Australia. We do have experience in other countries, we have had some very good results and we see this growing a lot elsewhere and it is inevitable that this is going to happen here.

“Today we don’t think that BoozeBud has realised its full potential so we think there is a lot of room for growth going forward.”

TheShout also spoke with BoozeBud’s co-founder Andy Williamson, who said the plan is to roll out the changes and improvements to the platform as soon as possible.

“This is very much a continuation of the on-going growth and building of our business. We have spent the last four years putting in place, what we think are some of the best building blocks and now this is very much around working together to continue to improve our platform, improve our range and improve our logistical capabilities.

“This is just a natural extension of the plan that we have always had and most pleasing for us, we have now got the backing and the resources that we need to accelerate those plans and to bring that to market faster.”

Williamson also told TheShout that BoozeBud will “absolutely not” be focusing on AB InBev brands as a result of this deal, adding: “We already work with 400 suppliers in the country. We work with every major brand, we work with the majority of craft brands and boutique wineries right around the country and that has always been the mission to build an online marketplace that will allow any and every supplier to connect and engage with their customers. That’s what this is all about, it’s going to be a continuation of that mission, albeit with the resources, the backing and the global expertise to ensure that we build the leading online player for the benefit of every supplier in the market.”

With independence being something held dear by many craft brewers in Australia, Williamson had this to say about BoozeBud’s link with AB InBev.

“From our perspective nothing changes. We’ve always been about a business that represents every supplier and this should be a good thing for suppliers. The resources and the capital that we now have will allow us to build a much bigger business and that is going to allow every supplier to put more of their products in the hands of more people around the country.”

BoozeBud has offered same day delivery in Sydney for the last 12 months and Williamson said that a key priority will be rolling that out in Brisbane and Melbourne as soon as possible “and ideally before the end of this year”.

He added: “Then like any e-commerce business we are always going to be focusing on bringing down the delivery timeframe to make it as short and convenient as possible to consumers. We’ll always be looking at different ways to be doing that and definitely investing in the space, which you naturally need to do.”

ZX has been in Australia for nine months and Chung said that in other countries the group has a history of supporting craft brewers and to drinks beyond beer.

“It’s really not connected to AB InBev, it’s about other beverages as well. We have some interesting partnerships with some other players as well.”

He added: “The management independence, this autonomy of certain decisions was important from day one in our conversations. It was very important for BoozeBud and this is the way that we operate, so we are just helping BoozeBud to realise their mission which was about getting as many suppliers to as many consumers as possible.”

Previous moves by suppliers into the retail space, such as by Southcorp Wines and Moet Hennessy have met with large-scale opposition from retailers, with many groups refusing to stock products and brands. But Chung said that BoozeBud will be run independently and that customer data will not be shared with either AB InBev or CUB. TheShout also asked CUB about concerns that the deal will mean now BoozeBud will be able to offer AB InBev products at a price point other retailers can’t match, and a spokesperson said: “We will offer BoozeBud competitive prices in line with conditions offered to our longstanding retailer partners. Everyone will be treated fairly.”

TheShout also contacted the ACCC about the matter, with the watchdog saying it would not investigate the purchase.

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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