CPG Playbook   //   April 4, 2024

Full Glass Wine acquires DTC wine subscription brand Bright Cellars

A few months after acquiring Winc and Wine Insiders, Full Glass Wine Co is buying its third DTC wine company.

The brand acquisition and management firm is scooping up Bright Cellars, a subscription-based wine business, for an undisclosed amount. Upon acquisition, Full Glass Wine said it plans to take on some of the operational components of Bright Cellars’ business. In addition to the acquisition, Full Glass Wine also announced that it closed $14 million in a Series A funding round. 

Full Glass Wine has been making a streak of acquisitions in the DTC wine category. The company acquired wine subscription service Winc in June and in October it acquired wine marketplace platform Wine Insiders. Full Glass Wine Co-Founder and COO Neha Kumar told Modern Retail that the company aims to be a shared operations and marketing service provider for the DTC wine businesses in its portfolio.

“Bright Cellars has a very strong consumer base and brand affinity for the company,” Kumar said. “They were getting a little bit burdened down with some of the operational components, which our team can essentially take on. This [acquisition] allows them to go full force and really push on to continue to grow their share in the market.”

Full Glass Wine was founded in June last year. This year, the company expects its revenue to hit pro forma around $100 million in revenue. The brands in the company’s portfolio are available in all mainland U.S. states that allow alcohol to be shipped. 

“We knew that this consolidation is going to occur in the market across the board in various industries,” Kumar said. “What we’ve essentially done internally is we’ve created a marketing shared services and an operation shared services that can be leveraged for the brand.”

Bright Cellars was founded in 2013 by Richard Yau and Joe Laurendi after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The company’s main selling point was its ability to make personalized wine recommendations through quizzes. The company garnered as much as $20 million in funding by 2021, but the following year, both founders had left the company.

Kumar said that while the company’s portfolio of brands is all within the same category, they all cater to different demographics. For example, Wine Insiders has a more value-based offering and customers can easily bulk buy wines that they’ve tried on Bright Cellars or Winc. Although Bright Cellars and Winc are both subscription-based, Bright Cellars has a broad array of international wines and Winc is more focused on hipper domestic wines.

Full Glass Wine plans to expand Bright Cellar’s discovery platform, a feature that many of its customers have enjoyed. Kumar said Bright Cellars’ curated pack process and convenience will stay the same.

By managing the operation and marketing side of the businesses, brands under Full Glass Wine’s portfolio can focus on building the brand and maintaining its identity. Tasks like boxing and SMS communications will be done by Full Glass Wine, but the separate companies remain in charge of some aspects of their marketing. Thanks to this strategy, Kumar said, Winc achieved profitability within 45 days of it being acquired. 

Additionally, its freshly-secured $14 million funding, led by Shea Ventures, will allow the company to pay down some of the seller financing it took on when it brought on these new entities. Full Glass Wine also said it plans to enhance its technology as well as its logistics and fulfillment capabilities.

Over the past couple of years, the DTC wine category has been tumultuous. Winc filed for bankruptcy by the end of 2022. Another wine company, Underground Cellar, also went bankrupt in 2023 and reportedly owes millions of dollars worth of wine to customers. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley Bank’s most recent wine industry report showed consumer demand to be declining, with younger generations increasingly opting for other alcoholic beverages (or abstaining from drinking entirely).

Still, there’s an opportunity to combine the operations of these businesses. “You’re purchasing an established organization in the space so there’s less of a learning curve,” Melissa Minkow, director of retail strategy at digital consultancy firm CI&T, said. “This allows for market expansion really easily. And you become a more robust institution as well.”

However, Minkow said, companies will have to address redundancies when they make acquisitions, such as duplicative roles. Companies will also have to make sure that the brands in their portfolios aren’t cannibalizing each other. 

Full Glass Wine’s Kumar said Bright Cellars and Winc’s customers only have a 5% overlap. Bright Cellars’ founders have already left the company a few years ago.  

“There’s a very different brand identity for each one of these three,” Kumar said. “We want to keep that brand identity, we want to keep it whole. That’s part of the reason we love these companies that we brought on board and acquired.”