Lion acquires stake in Four Pillars

Brewing giant Lion has bought a 50 per cent share of Four Pillars Gin highlighting the strong growth in the craft spirits market.

Four Pillars was established by Stuart Gregor, Cameron Mackenzie and Matt Jones in 2013, and has grown to a 500,000 bottle-a-year business.

“The partnership with Lion really is a ripper for us,” Four Pillars co-founder Stuart Gregor said in a statement.

“It would not be untrue to say that more than a few organisations have shown an interest in us over the past 18 months and Lion just felt the best.

“We like their focus on craft, we like the fact we will be their first and most important craft spirit brand, and we like the fact that part of the deal is a slab of Furphy every month for the rest of our lives.

“We have a terrific relationship with the senior management at Lion and reckon this is the start of a really exciting new chapter for our business.”

Lion Managing Director James Brindley shared his enthusiasm for the announcement.

“The partnership with Four Pillars is really exciting for Lion, as we venture into new categories outside our core beer business,” Brindley said.

“What Matt, Cam and Stu have done in creating Four Pillars in just over five years is nothing short of remarkable and we want them to keep their hands on the wheel, while we offer advice, counsel and assistance.”

The move marks an interesting shift for Lion, which has focused on beer in Australia and is currently selling its dairy business.

The purchase highlights that while Lion has seen strong growth in brands such as Furphy, which has grown to a 20 million-litres-a-year brand, the beer market continues to decline as consumers drink less overall and beer faces strong competition from other categories.

Gin consumption continues to grow in Australia with consumption increasing by 16 per cent between 2016 to 2017. Consumption of locally-made gin grew at twice that rate.

Four Pillars sales were estimated to be $35 million this year. The sale price was not disclosed.

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