OMAHA, Neb. ( TheStreet) -- Berkshire Hathaway's ( BRK.B) latest acquisition of a private liquor distributor -- announced late Monday -- represents a new domain for Warren Buffett.

However, the acquisition of liquor, wine and beer distributor Kahn Ventures, and its Empire Distributors alcohol distribution affiliate, dovetails nicely with several major Berkshire investment themes.

As many commentators have noted, Buffett has long focused on the U.S. consumer. He's also known for taking small steps into a new sector before making larger acquisitions.

Another Berkshire theme, however, is Buffett's basic focus on the movement of goods. After all, the biggest bet ever made by Buffett -- Burlington Northern -- is a transportation stock. And Buffett's best-performing operating company last year was a grocery distributor.

Buffett's statement in the press release announcing the acquisition referred to leveraging the success of that grocery-distribution franchise, the McLane Co.McLane is a food distribution giant with 3,242 trailers, 2,309 tractors and 55 distribution centers, helping deliver groceries worth $31.2 billion in annual sales.

McLane, which booked record pre-tax earnings of $344 million in 2009, distributes to Wal-Mart ( WMT), one of the largest public securities' holdings in the Berkshire portfolio.

Buffett noted in his recent annual letter to shareholders that McLane was one of the few bright spots among U.S. cyclical companies in 2009.

Berkshire itself suffered last year -- one of its worst 12-month periods vs. the S&P 500 Index -- mostly because of its focus on U.S. consumer cyclical stocks and the housing market. Berkshire has huge holdings in retail companies from furniture to confectioners to jewelers.

Addressing the notion that the latest purchase could be a baby step into a new area of concentration, Buffett was typically direct. "We expect that the Empire acquisition will provide us with a solid platform for potentially acquiring other similar high quality wholesale distributors," the billionaire said in the statement.

Of course, Buffett's acquisition of Burlington Northern began a few years ago with initial stakes in several railroad stocks, before Buffett learned enough about the industry to zero in on one of them.

So what's next? Don't place a drink bet on anything near the scale of Burlington Northern, that's for sure. If Buffett is to focus on alcoholic-beverage distributors specifically, Berkshire won't be acquiring any public companies. In the U.S., all are privately held. The most famous is arguaby Arizona-based Hensley & Co., owned by the family of Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona Senator John McCain.

McLane may move tons of Eggo waffles and Burlington may move tons of coal, but distributing liquor is part of the social fabric that Buffett also wrote about in his annual letter to shareholders.

Of course, Buffett was referring more directly to the railroads and energy stocks being linked in a positive feedback loop with the U.S. economy overall, where "good behavior" on the part of one benefits the other.

Liquor may not always lead to good behavior on the part of individuals. Nevertheless, if Buffett were to make a quip of the type for which he has become famous, perhaps he could quote William Faulkner, who once said that civilization began when man learned that fermentation could lead to alcohol.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York


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