The MHW Story

In 1972, Vice President Nixon was set to make a visit to the Soviet Union. With their eyes on the goal of bringing Pepsi to the next level, PepsiCo executives asked Nixon to bring their signature soda beverage with him. This led to the famous image of Nikita Khrushchev drinking a cup of Pepsi. He loved the taste and approved for the United States to export Pepsi concentrate to the Soviet Union.

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However, given the low value of the ruble and strained trade relations between the countries, PepsiCo needed to come up with a trade mechanism. They started thinking of goods that would thrive in the United States market and decided on Russian vodka. At the time, all vodka sold in the United States was also distilled here, so Americans were ready for something new. PepsiCo purchased Monsieur Henri Wines in order to import Stolichnaya under the compliance standards of the Three-Tier System. This officially started the imported vodka category in the United States.

Seventeen years later, the Soviet Union disbanded, and trade opened with the United States. PepsiCo no longer had a need for Monsieur Henri Wines, especially given the fact that it made them players in all three tiers of the Three-Tier System. They sold the rights to Stolichnaya to the company now known as Diageo, and the rights to Monsieur Henri Wines to Sazerac.

John Beaudette, the CFO of Monsieur Henri Wines, saw an opportunity in the industry. He noticed that the larger importers were starting to consolidate and that wholesalers were following suit. This limited opportunities for brands to break into the United States market. John describes it like an hourglass. There was a proliferation of brands that wanted to get into the United States, and high demand from consumers who enjoyed the imported Russian vodka and were excited about trying other international beverage alcohol products. There was a narrow path to come into the country – a path that brands needed expert help to get through.

In 1995, John Beaudette and two other former Pepsi executives purchased the federal and state licenses from PepsiCo and started a company to facilitate importation and distribution. Their unique service model handled all back-office activity, including order transactions, compliance, licensing, warehousing, and accounting, while enabling brands to manage their own marketing and put their own dedicated salespeople on the ground. It became a cost-effective, innovative solution that accelerated the success and growth of companies such as Lucas Bols, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Bulldog Gin, Avion Tequila, and Hypnotiq. They named the company MHW Ltd. in homage to Monsieur Henri Wines, where they got their start.

Today, MHW has nearly 200 employees and manages the importation and distribution for thousands of products. Most of MHW’s original executive board, including EVP Scott Saul and CRO MaryAnn Pisani, are still with the company. They are some of the foremost U.S. beverage alcohol compliance, logistics, and operations experts in the world. CEO Gabe Barkley who joined the company in 2017, has been a pivotal force in evolving the MHW brand, including importation and warehouse expansion into the European Union, acquisitions of USA Wine West and USA Wine Imports, and new services such as product development, procurement, and supply chain management.