Constellation Brands Inc., maker of Corona beer for the U.S. and Svedka vodka, will invest $100 million in female-founded alcoholic beverage companies over the next 10 years in an effort to support women in the male-dominated liquor and beer industry.
“I don’t think that women are represented enough in alcoholic beverage in a lot of different ways,” Bill Newlands, COO and incoming CEO of Constellation Brands, said in an interview. “I don’t think there are enough products that are made and developed with women in mind. The marketing that has largely occurred has focused on men -- that’s particularly true in beer.”
The fund, launched through Constellation’s venture capital group, will only invest in alcoholic beverage companies, not marijuana, though that’s a business Constellation is increasingly interested in. If these smaller alcoholic beverage firms succeed and grow, Constellation could eventually take a bigger stake, Newlands added.
Men make up roughly 80% of executives in the beverage and tobacco product manufacturing industry, according to the most recent data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Not only are women a small minority within established companies, female entrepreneurs don’t get funded as readily as men. Only 2.2% of venture capital funding went to all female-founded teams in 2017, according to data from Pitchbook.
Constellation realized the discrepancy particularly impacted them because women control most consumer spending in the U.S. and are the fastest-growing segment of small business owners. Newlands said it may be more challenging to identify women running small breweries.
“A lot of it is just bad history,” Newlands said. “For whatever reason, many of the companies that were founded historically within our industry were founded by paternal sides of families. I think that then has just become the way it was rather than any good logic for it.”
Austin Cocktails, which makes bottled cocktails, and Vivify Beverages, a hard soda maker, will be the first recipients of Constellation Brands’ investment. The entrepreneurs said the backing from Constellation Brands gives them more clout.
“I think approaching retailers, venues and distributors and having that credibility really allows us to grow,” Jill Burns, co-founder of Austin Cocktails, said. “That’s really exciting as a small brand that’s been in the trenches for the last five years.”
Constellation will also give the female founders access to its supply chain, distributor relationships and consumer research. For their part, the female founders are bringing a needed perspective and insight into what women want from their beverages, Mallika Monteiro, Constellation Brands’ chief growth officer, said.
“It’s also a pipeline of talent that we can tap into broadly,” Monteiro said. “There’s the pipeline of ideas and products, of course, and access to talent.”
By Jordyn Holm