Halewood International

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Halewood International Ltd
Industry Alcoholic beverages
Founded 1978
Founder John Edward Halewood
Headquarters The Sovereign Distillery, Huyton Business Park, Wilson Road, Merseyside, L36 6AD, England
Area served
Products Ginger beer, perry, cider, fortified wines, vodka, gin, rum, liqueurs and 'alcopops'/RTDs
Revenue c.£270 million
Owner The Estate of the late John Edward Halewood
Number of employees
Subsidiaries Halewood International South Africa Pty Ltd
Chalié, Richards & Co.
Halewood Romania
Website Halewood International

Halewood International is a manufacturer and distributor of alcoholic beverages in Merseyside.


It is headquartered west of Tarbock Island, the M62/M57/A5300 junction, off the A5080 and opposite the Chapel Brook Brewers Fayre.[1] There are 400 people on the 30 acre site in Merseyside.

Through its subsidiary it has 400 hectares (990 acres) of vineyards in Romania.[2] In South Africa since 1999, it has a manufacturing site and various distribution points.[3] It has an interest in a Chinese joint venture and licences the production of its products in other territories. It exports to more than 50 countries.


  • Crabbie's - Ginger Beer, Ginger Wine, John Crabbie's (a soft drink) and other products
  • Lambrini
  • Red Square Vodka
  • Caribbean Twist
  • Whitley Neill gin

Kirov vodka

The company also distributes:


The company was founded in 1978 by John Halewood (2 May 1947 - October 15, 2011) as Halewood Vintners. It is known as the UK's largest independent drinks manufacturer and distributor.[citation needed] The company headquarters moved to Huyton from Roberttown, West Yorkshire in 1993. John Halewood died in October 2011,[4] he is survived by four children and three grandchildren and the business remains family-owned.

Halewood International Ltd has gone from being a Yorkshire-based startup company in 1978 to become the UK’s largest independent drinks manufacturer and distributor. Today it has a turnover in excess of £270 million, and more than 1,000 employees worldwide. The business which became Halewood International was founded by visionary entrepreneur John Halewood, although the company name in those early days was Halewood Vintners Limited. Since its inception the company has grown and thrived on innovation, creativity and energy, and more than three decades on, John Halewood’s passion and enthusiasm for the business remains undiminished in his current role as the company’s Chief Executive and major shareholder. It is this passion and vision, combined with the wide-ranging talents of staff and management, that have helped this Liverpool company attain its current position manufacturing and distributing some of the UK’s best known alcoholic drinks brands from Lambrini to Lamb’s Navy Rum, from Tsingtao Chinese Beer to Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer and from Red Square Vodka to Reloaded.

The Group portfolio currently spans beers and ciders, wines and wine-style drinks, spirits and speciality and ready to drink (RTD) products. But success in the UK is only half the story. From its headquarters at the Sovereign Distillery in Wilson Road, the company controls operations in South Africa, Romania and China, and as well as manufacturing its own brands and products the company is able to offer the drinks industry some of the most sophisticated packaging and production facilities in the UK on a contract basis. John Halewood started his working life in the Liverpool drinks trade, working for a local company – Hall & Bramley Ltd. ‘H&B’ had been founded in 1860 by prominent local businessman Charlton R Hall. By 1892 the firm was based in Orange Street and was one of the most noted wholesale wine and spirit houses in the city. On the founder’s death in 1900 his son Charlton Hall junior took into partnership William Foulkes and JT Bramley. Hall & Bramley became a limited company in 1910 when two senior staff Harold Roughsedge and George Coonan acquired a major stake in the firm: they, and their sons, would run the firm for many decades thereafter. The firm eventually relocated to the Racecourse Industrial estate at Aintree.

Throughout its history H&B provided training for many young men in the trade. None more notable than John Halewood - although John recalled that his own ‘training’ amounted to no more than being given six bottles of sherry, car keys, a price list and a map of Yorkshire. In 1997 he returned to buy the firm during a period of rapid expansion of his Halewood Group. John was born on the Wirral in Wallasey to an Irish mother Eileen, and a father who was a naval officer and engineer. Both helped John when he eventually set up his own business as a ‘one-man band’. John’s mother Eileen Halewood was a director and shareholder of the business until her death, aged 87, in 2010. Although the business has grown organically, strategic purchases have also been a feature of the development, with two other Merseyside businesses being absorbed along the way: John Buccleugh, which was based in Kirkby, (to be more precise it was the equipment that was situated at John Buccleugh’s in Kirkby which was bought by Halewood International, not the business), and Lamb & Watt, a Warrington-based drinks company founded as long ago as 1847.

Despite Liverpool being Halewood’s home the genesis of the business took place in West Yorkshire, the area where John Halewood was living whilst he worked for González Byass, a sherry shipper. Having seen an opportunity to ‘do his own thing’ John started by using the garage at his home for storing cases of wine and delivering them himself. This soon changed to a separate ‘lock-up’, from where further larger premises were soon acquired, incorporating office accommodation, storage facilities and the building of a winery to produce British wine. The development of his British Winery was the first opportunity that John Halewood had to produce products ‘in house’; but because of the lack of any bottling capacity the finished wine had to be moved in bulk, taken to be bottled in Kirkby prior to most of it being shipped back to Yorkshire for storage and distribution. This was obviously not an ideal situation. (It was at this time that products such as Copperfield British Sherry and Mansion House British Sherry were introduced into the market, and gained rapid distribution in sales). Subsequent European legislation, however, meant that products such as these could not continue to be called British Sherry, but had to be re-described as Fortified British Wine.

During this period the sales force began to expand - originally the ‘sales force’ was simply John Halewood himself – along with finance and administration staff supporting the sales staff’s efforts. In the 1980s Halewood purchased what is the oldest wine merchant in the United Kingdom, Chalié Richards & Company, which was founded in St. James’s in London in the year 1700 and over the years received a number of Royal Warrants. The history of Chalié Richards began in 1685 when the Chalié family fled from Montauban to Holland after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Brothers James and John, already connected with the wine trade, soon came to London and established the business of ‘Wine Merchants, General Merchants and Bankers’. They took premises in Mincing Lane and had their cellars next door under the Clothworkers Hall. Their wine business grew rapidly, and gained the reputation of ‘One of the finest corners of the metropolis’. Anecdotes abound concerning famous or aristocratic customers whose ability to order wines far exceeded their ability to pay. The playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan was one such customer, with apparently a good taste in Burgundy, Port and old Hock. A shipping record of 1785 shows that, out of a total of 1423 hogsheads of Claret shipped to London, Chalié shipped 295, more than twice as many as any other trader. In the early nineteenth century, Matthew Chalié (son of James) was joined by William Parry Richards. With Richards’ arrival began a tradition of royal patronage, which was to last well over a century. In fact, the house of Chalié was to supply the six successive monarchs from George IV through to George VI. In 1820 five pipes of Port were delivered to Carlton Palace ‘for the use of His Majesty’. In 1837, the year of accession of Queen Victoria, one of the first acts performed by her Lord Steward was the appointment of Matthew Chalié as purveyor of wines and spirits to Her Majesty. By the end of the century, Chalié Richards and Company, as it had become known, had moved into large and spacious premises at 4 Pall Mall East, and maintained magnificent cellars in the Strand, within the royal precinct of the Savoy. A century later the role of wine shippers has been revived under the patronage of John Halewood as the ‘fine wine’ arm of the Halewood Group, selling wine which it either owns or through Agency arrangements from around the world. This range includes the highly successful One World range, which is the generic description of wines from Australia, South Africa, California, Italy, New Zealand and Romania, with each country having its own sub-brand, Ocean Point for example from Australia. In addition to alcoholic products, Chalié is also the brand owner of Eisberg the brand leading de-alcoholised wine – an ideal alternative for people who enjoy the taste and style of wine, but who for whatever reason – perhaps expectant mothers or designated drivers – choose not to drink at that particular time.

As bottling the wine took place in Merseyside, it made sense to look to relocate the business in that area. In 1993 the present Halewood site in Huyton was purchased (or rather part of what is the present site), half of it originally being occupied by a beer distribution operation. Because of John’s early involvement with sherry it was only natural that he had ‘kicked off’ the business with a sherry-type product, Montilla, which although not a fortified wine has a very similar style to sherry, and indeed Amontillado (a style of Sherry) means Montilla-like. The move to Liverpool saw the development of what became Halewood’s largest brand, Lambrini. Although this wasn’t the first of the Halewood products to receive television support it was certainly the first to receive national advertising support, along with poster and radio advertising. Today Lambrini is one of the largest brands in the take-home market. At this time Red Square Vodka was also developed into a leading brand vodka along with its ready to drink (RTD) flavoured counterparts. Wines from Eastern Europe have featured significantly in the development of the Halewood Group. John Halewood was one of the first shippers of Bulgarian Wine into the United Kingdom, and achieved early distribution through Asda supermarkets. However, because competition sprang up from the Bulgarian state, which didn’t seem to understand the concept of profitability, John Halewood moved his interests to Romania.

Despite the difficulty in doing business with a Communist state (during Ceausecu’s reign), John was still able to build a significant volume of business bringing Romanian wines into the U.K., and indeed at one time sales exceeded one million 9 litre cases. With the fall of communism in 1989, Halewood along with Pernod Ricard and a German wine importer, formed the first joint venture between western and Romanian companies. Since then Halewood has bought land and developed vineyards in all the key growing areas, as well as developing some of the wineries into tourist attractions. Within a decade the Group had founded its first Romanian subsidiary, and in so doing became the largest exporter of Romanian wines to Britain. After investing more than $10 million, the Halewood Group now owns three subsidiaries in Romania - in wine growing, wine making and wine distribution – and employs more than 200 employees. The Group manages over 400 hectares of vines in three major wine areas: Dealu Mare, Podisul Transilvaniei and Murfatlar. The average annual wine production is 42,000 hl and the storage capacity is 90,420 hl. Halewood Romania is one of the key wine agency companies in that country.

Meanwhile, a South African business Oasis Breweries was something of a ‘basket case’ when it was acquired in 1997. OVer the years, however, its fortunes have been turned round via strategic investment and dedicated management team. Despite all the international connections (which also includes a business in China) the majority of Halewood’s business is in the United Kingdom, supplying all major retailers and wholesalers as well as specialist wine & spirit and convenience stores.

Bringing the portfolio up to date, Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer, launched in February 2009, has been the most successful product launch that the Group has ever enjoyed. It has benefited from significant advertising support from quirky television and radio advertising to posters and the purchase of a London AEC Routemaster bus, heavily branded, which can be used for trade show events - it was used at the Scottish Open Golf Championship for example, and it is kitted out to show video presentations as well as offering on-board tastings. The original Crabbie’s Ginger Wine had been in the company portfolio for some time. John Crabbie & Co was established in 1801 in Leith in Scotland. To maintain the connection between Crabbie’s and the local community, Crabbie’s was the shirt sponsor of Hibernian FC for 3 seasons (2011-2014).

In 2013 the company became the sponsor of The Grand National via its Crabbie's brand.[5] The connection was a natural fit given that Halewood International owned the racehorse Amberleigh House which won the 2004 Grand National and which was trained by the late renowned horse racing icon Ginger McCain, a longtime friend of John Halewood.


  1. ^ Chapel Brook
  2. ^ http://www.halewood.com.ro Halewood Romania
  3. ^ http://www.halewood.co.za Halewood International South Africa (Pty) Ltd
  4. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-15333870 Drinks firm founder John Halewood dies
  5. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23852597

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