A toast to the Beam team

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The beefed-up marketing team at Beam Global Wine and Spirits appears to be making headway at growing the distiller's largest brands.

First-quarter-earnings data, due April 28, wasn't available by press time (see Late News, P. 2), but the most recent sales data available from ACNielsen showed flagship bourbon Jim Beam and Sauza tequila gaining ground on competitors.

During the four-week period ending April 8, Beam posted a 3% volume gain, compared to a 1.1% increase for its chief rival, Brown-Forman Co.'s Jack Daniels, which had gained ground on Beam during 2005. Sauza's volume increased 5.5%. Upscale Makers Mark bourbon, a smaller brand the company sees as key to its growth prospects, grew 19%.

But not all the Beam brands saw growth, Canadian Club and DeKuyper cordials fell 5.5% and 1.2%, respectively.

Wall Street analysts generally say they applaud Beam's growth initiatives to date. "It's too early to judge them," said A.G. Edwards analyst Greg Gieber, who rates Beam parent Fortune Brands stock a "buy." "They've got good brands in segments that are growing, but they have to show they can grow along with [the segments]."
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