Walgreens Brews Up Big Flats

Drugstore chain debuts private-label beer; also launching new red wine

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Months after restocking alcohol on its shelves following a 15-year dry spell, The Walgreen Co. is offering Big Flats 1901, a private-label beer, said Crain's Chicago Business. The beer is brewed by Genesee Brewing Co., Rochester, N.Y., owned by Novato, Calif.-based Winery Exchange, a private-label alcohol company that also distributes to Costco, Trader Joe's and Cost Plus World Market.

Big Flats 1901 carries a suggested retail price of $2.99 for six cans and $11.49 for a 24-pack, according to the report, citing Beer Business Daily.

The [image-nocss] drugstore chain has been moving more heavily into private-label since acquiring the New York City-based Duane Reade drugstore chain last year, said the report. Walgreen now sells a selection of snack foods under the Delish label, which was Duane Reade's successful private-label initiative.

Walgreen recently opened a new Duane Reade in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. In order to assuage neighborhood anger that it was taking business away from a nearby independent pharmacy, Walgreen decided to open a "growler" beer bar in the store. The bar has eight beers on tap that customers can purchase in refillable glass bottles. (Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage.)

Separately, Walgreens and Australian winemaker Daryl Groom have launched Colby Red, a new table wine blend produced in partnership with Treasury Wine Estates. The brand is dedicated to raising awareness for heart disease as the Groom Family supports the American Heart Association and partners with the St. Jude Medical Foundation to identify other cardiac research organizations and families in need.

Colby Red is being sold through a collaboration with Walgreens and will arrive on store shelves in the coming weeks. Full rollout to more than 4,500 Walgreens locations is expected during American Heart Month in February.

The 2009 Colby Red is a California cuvee of cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, shiraz, merlot and petite sirah from select Treasury Wine Estates vineyards, retailing for $12.99. Groom was inspired to create the wine in honor of his 12-year old son, Colby Rex Groom, who was born with a hole in his heart and has undergone multiple surgeries to treat the defect.

"Colby Red will make a great addition to Walgreens wine selection, and it's an honor to feature a product that stands for quality and supports cardiac research," said Bryan Pugh, Walgreens vice president of merchandising.

Treasury Wine Estates, parent company of Australian icon Penfolds, where Groom once served as senior red winemaker, will match the contributions of the Groom family. Together they plan to donate a combined $100,000 to the American Heart Association with the first vintage. As the wine gains acceptance in the market place, so will the contributions from the Groom family. The Groom family also plans to donate their product for local American Heart Association events that raise funds for heart research.

Treasury Wine Estates is an international premium wine business with a leading portfolio of new world wines. The global business includes four regional units based in Australia and New Zealand, The Americas, Europe and the Middle East/Africa and Asia. Its brands include Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Lindemans, Wolf Blass, Penfolds, Rosemount, Stags' Leap Winery, Matua Valley, Etude and Castello di Gabbiano.

(Click here for previous coverage of Walgreens adding alcohol.)

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens is the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2010 sales of $67 billion. The company operates 7,655 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.