Geoff

Previous key positions: President/CEO Krombacher USA 2010-2012, President/CEO Warsteiner Importers Agency 2006-2010, Corporate Director of Malt Beverages Glazer's 1999-2006, Regional Sales Manager Gambrinus 1996-1998, VP Marketing and Distribution Texas Brewing Co. 1996, President Distributor Investment Group 1991-1995, General Manager Coast Distributors (Columbia) 1988-1990, Distributor Development Manager Coors Brewing Co. 1987, President Texas Beers Inc., 1981-1987, Executive VP and GM Coors of Kansas 1978-1981, VP Sales Coors NE 1976-1978, others were sales manager Mid-State Beers, District Mgr. Lone Star Brewing Co and route sales Willowbrook. Active member of many industry associations such as NBWA, WBDT, Oregon Beer, Washington Beer, Utah Beer, Kansas Beer and Louisana Beer assoc. Nominated or won: Inner Circle, Founders, Proud Lion and other awards. Named industry expert in US Bankrupcy, Federal and many state courts.

Dec 122017
 

By the mid 70’s, due to the continued success of the brand, Coors Brewing Company’s expansion into the southern half of Texas focused on two key must haves.  One must have, was naming wholesalers who were either sports idols, political icons or other famous people within the brewery’s major markets.  The other must have, was to ensure all of the brewery’s wholesalers would attain the volume necessary so as not to cause a problem for Coors.  The Dallas distributor, in the 70’s, sold three percent of Coors’ total business.  Coors appointed five wholesalers in the Houston area, and four wholesalers in San Antonio.

All the newly awarded wholesalers in South Texas were startups that distributed only Coors.  The distributorships were awarded the brand in the summer of 1975, with the opening projected to be in 1976.  Some appointed wholesalers included: Bob Lily in Waco and Roy Butler, the former major of Austin.

There were four wholesalers appointed in San Antonio, one of whom was Charles M. Duke, Jr. the 10th man to walk on the moon.  Charlie, at that time, was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, having been educated at the U.S. Naval Academy, MIT and eventually joined NASA as an astronaut.  Prior to becoming an astronaut, Charlie was a fighter pilot, stationed around the world.  Charlie and his partner, Richard Boushka, had originally applied for the Austin market, but when offered the northeast San Antonio market, Charlie agreed.

Charlie Stidham, who had been awarded the Coors Southwest San Antonio market, recommended that I join Charlie Duke’s team and run the operation.  I soon joined Duke’s team as VP of Sales.  Charlie had no beer industry experience, and really no business background, but during his tenure as the Coors Northeast Distributor, Charlie’s celebrity status attracted a multitude of visitors ranging from movie stars, athletes, astronauts and politicians The hospitality room, a common feature of distributors in the 70’s, held a multitude of famous individuals all coming to meet the 10th man to walk on the moon.

We were once visited by Tommy Nobis, the linebacker from the Atlanta Falcons, who grew up in San Antonio and had gone to The University of Texas.  Nobis had just retired from pro football and wanted a public relationship job with Charlie’s distributorship.  Charlie considered bringing Tommy on until I said that I thought Charlie, himself, was our PR person, which is what Charlie was!

Once we opened the business and settled in with a 13% share of market, Charlie seemed to drift away.  I always wondered if someone as accomplished as Charlie could be challenged by running a small Coors distributorship.  I felt that someone with a resume as outstanding as his would have been bored.

Coors Northeast did well, and we were awarded the highest grade Coors had given to any start-up operation at that point. The company was always profitable.  That being said, after only two years, Charles sold the business to the Azar family of El Paso in the spring of 1978.

Charlie continued on in the Air Force Reserves and eventually retired as a general.  He started a speaking career and was heavily involved in the church.  He and his wife, Dottie, have lived in New Braunfels since their Coors days.

The moon man…

2017 – Charles M. Duke, Jr. – Coors Distributor

2016 – Carter S. Huber – Schlitz/Miller

2015 – Albert Jaenicke – Hops

2014 – R.D. Hubbard – Coors Distributor

2013 – George Henricksen – Royal Imports

2012 – Diane Fall – Warsteiner

THIS IS THE LAST POST OF 2017.  I WISH EACH OF YOU A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS.  NEXT POST WILL BE ON JANUARY 2, 2018.  

Geoff

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Dec 052017
 

Do products or breweries have a life cycle, or does a brand manager have the life cycle?  Perhaps it is not the brand manager, but it is the CEO or Board of Directors that has a life cycle?  Ask the many regional brands from 50 years ago, or ask Schlitz or Coors about life cycle.  Yes, even Coors.  What happened to these fast growing and popular beers who hit the skids and either died or became a memory?

Schlitz and Coors were riding high in the 1970s, but then crashed.  Budweiser and Miller Lite took off like a rocket and maintained that momentum for many years.  Miller slowed some years ago. Budweiser, well we know that story and what has happened the last ten years.

We have seen brands and breweries come and go.  It is inevitable, and is once again happening.  The recent numbers from California indicate there is another brand coming to an end.

Thru the first half of the year, Constellation brands were up +14%, while AB and MC were down three percent.  What makes these numbers even more astonishing is the fact that AB and MC depletions were down seven percent and between five/six percent, respectively.  It has been estimated that both companies have lost 10% of their business in the last two years.  It could mean a total loss of up to 800,000 bbls. this year!  This finding is astonishing considering that 20 years ago, AB and MC had 85% of the California market.  This year they will come in at 50%, a drop of -35%.  AB has lost over 2.5 million bbls.

Through the 7th of October, in the state of California, Constellation has surpassed AB in terms of dollars.  In dollars, Constellation is now the number one brand in off-premise scan data!  Constellation has jumped 11%, and its share rose +2.9%, while AB numbers have dropped seven percent with a share loss of almost two percent, falling to 26%. This is verses 26.9% held by Constellation.  Consider the magnitude of the losses given that AB owns Michelob Ultra, a hot brand.

What is even more remarkable is that there are over 850 craft breweries in California!  In San Diego alone, there are 150 tap rooms possessing an estimated six percent share of the on-premise market!  Further impacting the market is the fact that that five of the top 10 crafts are down, with four of these crafts down double digits.

Does California, in 2017, look like the other states in 2020? Will Constellation be the dominate brewery along with hundreds of craft breweries and taprooms?  Will AB and MC continue to lose market share?  Will Constellation dominate the chain real estate?

Unless something very out of the ordinary takes place, the US beer industry should take notice of California, if they have done so already.  A wholesaler with Constellation brands is sitting pretty, but if not, then what?  Consider this scenario:  Constellation attains a 50% share of a major market, add in the taproom craft business, along with the business from other crafts.  How much, then, is left for the non-Constellation wholesaler?

There is much speculation in regards to the craft breweries and their future survival.  Perhaps there should be a similar discussion on the future of non-Constellation wholesalers?  If the trends in California continue and spread across the country, these wholesalers could follow distributors of the past,     Distributors like Schlitz and Coors, to name a few, who have come, and sadly gone.  Consolidate or become a minor player.

The future is purchased by the present…

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Nov 282017
 

The ongoing talent drain at AB, as discussed in last week’s post, has additional ramifications for other beer companies.  In a recent visit with a senior leader of a large MC distributor, this leader commented that when asked by his vendors to do a ride-with, he typically refused, under the assumption that he would not learn anything from a sales rep. After decades of leadership roles in various beer companies, he saw no upside to working with a vendor sales rep.

When InBev took over AB 10 years ago, and opened the gates for AB wholesalers to pursue new products, many of these AB houses promoted from within to handle to job of managing the new vendors.  The upside to this model was that these employees knew the market and their company.  The downside is that, as we now all know you cannot sell crafts or imports using the same techniques as selling AB products.  There was a learning curve for all of these people and beer companies, and unfortunately, it has taken much longer to learn the needed skill sets than anticipated.  Fortunately, however, the AB houses have had the resources to enable their staff the needed time to learn and grow.

That curve has now cycled through.  What the industry is currently experiencing is the next generation of craft managers who are moving into leadership roles and managing various portfolios.  At the moment, the typical career path to a vendor-manager requires promotion to a sales rep.  A number of these sales reps come from the on-premise retail, typically employed as a craft server or manager.   They have a passion for the industry and a good knowledge of craft beers which makes them desirable for the wholesalers to acquire these reps.  It makes sense.

The question becomes: are these craft-passionate young people qualified to lead a wholesaler’s portfolio?  Where the senior MC executive saw no reason to ride with an inexperienced sales rep, perhaps the reverse applies to an experienced team of successful beer people. Those working to develop a brewery’s brand could be assigned an inexperienced manager as the wholesaler.  This is a disconnect.

It is imperative that a wholesaler not only educate their young employees in regards to the dynamics of the three-tier-system, they must also assign portfolios accordingly.  In other words, putting a young inexperienced, or limited experienced, manager against a vendor whose team is highly experienced with a proven track record, is going to cause problems.  The reverse is also true.  Managing a portfolio means managing a vendor.  A vendor does not need to manage the portfolio manager.

When a vendor, at the request of the wholesaler, sets up tastings or samplings, the wholesaler must execute.  Vendors, when setting up a sampling must be in the position to also execute.  This includes carrying the right product and having ample inventory.  Many of you see this as a basic function, yet time and time again, someone drops the ball and the retailer loses.

Vendors and wholesalers need to communicate who, what, when, where, and how to manage and execute a vendor’s portfolio from the beginning.  This is not one sided, either parties must execute or both parties will lose.

Change is the end result of all true learning…

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Nov 212017
 

One by-product of the recent growth of crafts has been the noticeable increase in job openings across the country.  Industry pubs and websites list employment openings in the craft industry ranging from production to logistics.  The majority of jobs listed are, however, in the areas of sales and marketing, specifically district, regional or area sales.  A common title for such positions is “Brand or Beer Ambassador!”

Often we hear the same story over and over from beer companies trying to fill job openings. Universally, there is difficulty in finding individuals with the needed skill sets or qualifications for the company’s culture.  In some cases, these openings go unfilled for months.

HEB, a large Texas grocer, conducted several charitable fund raising events during the past year.  Two of these events were golf tournaments, one in the spring and one in the fall.  Last month, the fall tournament, which benefited The United Way, hosted more than 240 players.  To no one’s surprise, a majority of the participants were associated with the beer industry.

While players typically flock to such events to aid the selected charitable organization and the vendor, many view a golf tournament as a way to renew old friendships within the industry.  The night before the tournament is often viewed with great anticipation as players in the industry have the opportunity to meet over a beer and relive old memories.

At one of HEB’s most recent golf tournaments, it was interesting to see the number of former AB field people who had landed key positions with other beer companies.  Since this event was sponsored by HEB, many, if not all participants, were national or chain account pros.  This was logical, given the fact that many of the buyers for these chains were experienced and had been with their respective companies for years.  Experienced national account people are the most desirable for any company as they have developed relationships with multiple buyers over their many years in the industry.

Who better at this than AB?  For decades, AB dominated the chain business, both on-premise and off-premise, and only when InBev acquired the industry giant, did AB’s grip loosened.  This change has occurred primarily due to AB’s forced talent drain.  As fast as AB would cut employees, other competitors raced to grab the talent. This was evident at the recent HEB golf outing.  The acquisition of talent has given these companies a leg-up on their competitors.

Perhaps more than the positive results these companies have achieved are the negative results that AB has seen over the last ten years.  While last week’s post outlined a major cause of AB’s declining sales, this talent drain highlights another reason AB has continued down that same path. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results!

Last week, ABI again announced a change in U.S. leadership, this time inserting an American at the top instead of a Brazilian.  Perhaps this change will start improving the numbers for AB in the U.S.  Odds, however, say that this AB talent drain will continue regardless of management.

Again this Thanksgiving, other companies, many of them crafts, give thanks for AB’s generosity.  Have a great Thanksgiving…

Talent without working hard is nothing…

Editors note;  Brendan Whitworth, the new head of sales is from the US.

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Nov 142017
 

At last month’s annual NBWA convention, the topic of conversation was what ails the beer industry.  The issue was addressed by wholesaler and multiple panel discussions, in addition to on-stage discussions led by the leaders of ABI and Heineken.  For the most part, both leaders listed virtually the same reasons for the industry woes: “share of throat losses” to wine and spirits consumers, along with the loss of an entire generation which prefers wine and spirits over beer.  Of course, there is the cannabis intrusion as well.  More on that in upcoming posts.

The losses in overall beer volume in the last 10 years is eye awaking as the industry struggles to determine the cause.  So the question is: what can the beer industry do to turn the tides on such great volume losses?

Why is it that some beers are continuing to not only do well, but are accelerating their growth rate?  We all know them, Michelob Ultra, Modelo, Corona, and even Yuenglng.  One major component is that these four have consistent messaging, and the effectiveness of their marketing in relaying the message to the consumer is unsurpassed.

Recent scan data also has shown, not only what is happening, but what can happen with adjustments in pricing.  In IRI multi-outlet + convenience, Founders All Day IPA is up +49% and is now the number two best-selling IPA.  All Days growth comes from the 15-pack pricing which is priced closer to the 12-packs.  Recent data has also shown pricing on All Day dipped 2%, or less than $28 per case.  The average price is down 3%, or closer to 87 cents a case.  This puts the brand in the price range of Michelob Ultra!

Is acquiring volume in the industry really that simple, or is it that All Day is revealing itself as a truly strong brand?  Recent pricing adjustments to brands in the popular segment have also shown major increases in sales of Keystone Light, in addition to a jump in share-of-segment.  There are four economy brands now in the top ten growth brands in the recent scan data: Keystone Light, Rolling Rock, Hamm’s and Bud Ice.  Anyone see a trend here?

Time and time again when we see a brand that prices its products to ensure the consumer sees the value, the brand virtually flies off the shelf.  Of course the brand’s message echoes its branding in the same way.   Over the years, by far two of the very best at price positioning and value are the Modelo brands and Yuenglng.  You can add Ultra to that list, too.

The beer industry does not want to be like the mattress or auto industry. Can you ever recall a time when a mattress or a car was not on sale?  Just watch a football game, as it seems that every other commercial is a car with incentives.

These pages have addressed this same issue numerous times, always focusing on the same solution.  For the sake of the industry, let’s hope that we are not still addressing this topic five years from now.  Is anyone in New York and Chicago listening?

A good decision is based on knowledge, not on numbers.

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Nov 072017
 

In December of 1917, almost 100 years ago, the US Senate proposed the infamous eighteenth amendment, an amendment, as we all know, that banned the sale of all alcoholic beverages with an ABV greater than 1.28%.  This attempt by the government to legislate morality on the citizens of the US is considered to have been a great failure.  People continued to drink and populate speak-easys, breweries continued to produce beer in many areas of the country, and beer and alcohol were shipped across borders, thereby avoiding federal agents.  Simply put, this law was ignored by the majority of the US, and prohibition soon ended.

Fast forward 30 years from the repeal of the eighteenth amendment to the 1960s and the boomer generation is experimenting with drugs.  Marijuana became the go-to drug of choice, and has remained so for decades, becoming legalized in many states during the Obama administration.  Oregon, Colorado, Washington and California legalized marijuana, with many other states making the drug legal for medicinal purposes.  Now, more and more states are studying the possibilities of legalizing marijuana, not just for their citizens’ enjoyment, but also for the benefit of the tax generation for these states.

The success of legalized marijuana from a tax standpoint, and as a business, has not gone unnoticed by big companies.  While the impact of legalized drug sales, verses that of beer sales, is yet to be determined, we have recently learned that Constellation Brands purchased 9.9% of a Canadian company, Canopy Growth Corporation.  Canopy Growth Corporation is a marijuana producing company. Consider, in the future, a cannabis-infused drink from Constellation Brands. One can rightly assume that other large beverage companies will follow Constellation’s lead.

Legality aside, how will this impact companies who drug test their employees?  How many distributors conduct pre-employment drug tests or drug test their current employees? Consider the consequences to an employee of a distributor who is found to have cannabis in their system, yet the distributor for whom this employee works sells the Constellation brands?  If the employee is fired, or disciplined, the employee could sue the distributor because they represent a company that owns and sells cannabis-laced or infused products. What if a similar situation occurred with a Constellation Brands employee?  How can the employee be disciplined for using marijuana when Constellation Brands is in the marijuana business?

Perhaps drug testing will no longer be a requirement for employment for companies? If that is the case, how does a company deal with the opioid crisis sweeping the country? Or will the use of opioids be handled differently?

Then there is, once again, the legal issue of selling or consuming a cannabis-laden drink.  States in which it is still illegal to use, or consume, marijuana might not even approve the product for sale.  Those individual who lives in Kansas would have to drive to Colorado to purchase their cannabis-infused drink.

And of course, there is the licensing issue.  Would a beer distributor have to apply, and pay, for a permit to sell the drug?  One could assume that there would be similar restraints on depositing the cash acquired from the beer sales, as is the case with cash generated from marijuana sales in Oregon and Washington?

Expect something like a cannabis drink to hit the shelves in the US at some point in the distant future. Just like prohibition, people may react to something they cannot get or have.  Perhaps Constellation Brands has taken the first step in this long journey.

For every prohibition you create, you also create an underground…

 

 

 Posted by at 5:00 am
Oct 312017
 

Before the 1970s, it was rare for a wholesaler to roll out new beer products.  It was not until light beers, Miller Lite, Coors Light and Bud Light, became popular that line extensions came on the scene.  Of course times have changed, and now not only rolling new products, but, introducing new vendors, has become a wholesaler’s key function.

With a small portfolio, wholesalers worked on growing their business by gaining market share.  They focused on execution at the retail level, driving both new and existing distribution, developing off-premise domination at the shelf and display levels, increasing ad activity, and, of course, targeting on-premise key accounts with draft beer.  It seemed simple, and it really was when compared to what is expected of today’s wholesaler.

Wholesalers today are swamped with new products, many from existing suppliers, some products even from their main supplier AB, MC, or Constellation.  These suppliers are looking for successful roll-outs, while wholesalers are looking for help for the supplier with feet-on-the-street, chain authorizations, support dollars and, when possible, above the line media.  Without all of these parts, the supplier is not, in most cases, going to achieve their desired result.  This lack of result is due to other brands or products, also being being rolled out at the same time, which have their act together.

The same is true for seasonal beers, too. Seasonal products, however, require extensive inventory management to ensure the wholesaler does not get stuck with out-of-date product.  Again, such a situation as knowing the proper amount of product to buy or sell, can put the wholesaler at odds with the supplier.  One can make a case that perhaps the most important role of a wholesaler is to be the new product filter for the retailer and consumer.

It is easy to refuse your main supplier when a new product does not meet the required quality or taste specifications need to sell said product.  Consider the original Coors Extra Gold, a beer the Coors wholesalers in Washington refused to carry.  As it turned out, refusing to sell the product saved these wholesalers a fortune, as Coors Extra Gold was an immediate disaster.  Another poor quality product was Captain Morgan’s Gold.  A product not fit for consumption.

This attention to detail and filtering of products is important when a wholesaler looks at a new craft supplier who is expanding into their footprint.  Smart wholesalers take the time to look at any supplier who is hoping to expand in their market.  Most wholesalers have their own filters they use in determining if the craft brewer is a long term player, and if so, determining if the supplier’s product fits within their organization.

Again, these filters should have all the above areas of support including, but not limited to, feet- on-the-street if the market can so support.  Craft brewers complain about focus and access to market; major suppliers are dancing around their declining sales; and wholesalers are working to define their role now and what it will be in the future.  But at this time, providing the role of the beer industry filter is a role much needed by all tiers.

Great companies are built on great products…..

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Oct 242017
 

While building the beer portfolio at Glazer’s, I initially focused on acquiring either the number one or number two best-selling imported beer from each country.  In each case, these brands were from long established breweries and were committed to continuing to build the growth of their respective products through their investment in new countries.

Although Glazer’s had a descent, but small portfolio to start with, once it became known that Glazer’s was a viable option for going to market, many importers began taking the initiative to make the contact.  These brands included: Sapporo, Asahi, Singha, San Miguel, Tiger, Yanjing, and other small brands from Asia. These brands were solid and very successful, and while the volume was small, it was steady and growing.  The importer were easy to work with, and most importantly, realistic as to their requests and goals.

Fast forward to today’s environment and the change is astounding.  Wholesalers today spend a great deal of time analyzing potential suppliers to determine which of the suppliers will be long term players?  One would think importers or breweries that were long-established would be exempt from such scrutiny.  Not so with the craft breweries of today.

Look at some European breweries of today and how they are investing in the U.S.  Carlsberg and Bavaria both walked away from their U.S businesses, turning from their own importing operation, to instead being a part of an independent importer.  Warsteiner, once twice their current size, now merely survives while maintaining their own agency.  How long will this trend remain?

Most of the Asian brands continue to just take what is out there, with one exception, Sapporo.  Although Sapporo has extensive holdings in Asia, unlike others, they are focusing on North America.   After some time as a JV with Sleeman Brewery in Canada, Sapporo purchased the operation and then added Unibroue, a highly regarded brewery, also in Canada.  Sapporo then, not unlike ABI, MC, Heineken and Constellation brands, purchased the iconic Anchor Brewing Co. of San Francisco.  These three operations, when combined, have compiled a nice portfolio for Sapporo, and one that any wholesaler would love to represent.  You know Sapporo is not going anywhere.

So the question is: why does Sapporo see North America as the place to invest, and not China, India or Africa?  Europeans breweries are backing out of, or slowing in their investment in North America, yet, Sapporo is continuing to invest.  Beer sales in Japan are soft, just like in Europe, so why not invest where there is money!  North America!

There may soon come a day when these brands from Sapporo become a “must have” for a wholesaler!  Until then, we will just be watching how Sapporo continues to grow, and what will happen to those European imports who gave up!

You have to make it happen!

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Oct 172017
 

Last week’s NBWA convention was once again held at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas and hosted approximately 4,000 attendees, including 250 vendors who took up three massive halls in Caesar’s convention center.  AB, MC, Diageo, and Pabst had their large hospitality display booths open, as did a number of other suppliers.  The craft brewers had their own row of booths displaying all, or a majority of their products.  There were also the multitudes of vendors that sell their products to the wholesaler. Vendors who sold trucks, software, specialty items, uniforms, glassware, warehouse equipment, and many other industry- related items.  To see all the booths and visit everyone, it would have taken both afternoons of the convention.

A comparison of the NBWA of today, to that of four decades ago, is a study in contrast. The NBWA at Caesars in the late 1970s was much smaller, despite the fact that there were many more wholesalers in operation.  At that time, the middle tier consolidation was just beginning and the various topics of conversation between the wholesalers and the industry executives were strikingly different.

In the late 70s, the hot topic, by far, was the eastward expansion of Coors.  Since I was running one of Coors’ largest wholesalers, many hopeful wholesalers were looking for information and direction as they were preparing their RFPs for Coors.  A number of wholesalers, and even some non-wholesalers, were anticipating the opportunity to visit our operation, and many did visit.

By contrast, at the NBWA convention of 2017, Heineken had a huge Mexican booth behind their Heineken front, and of course, Constellation Brands had their usual blast across the street, taking over a large popular roof-top venue, complete with bands and entertainment.  These two brands were not even around in the late 70s.  At that time, imports were just beginning to catch the wholesaler’s attention, just like the crafts that have recently caught the attention of the wholesale market.

The main issue this year, as in recent years, was the topic of what ails the beer industry and why the industry is struggling to maintain volume.  The principle speakers from Heineken and AB, along with others brewers, had their ideas as to why the industry is struggling, and in upcoming weeks, these pages will address those issues.  That said there was one vendor at the NBWA who traveled a different path.

Many longtime European brewers, who have actively participated at the NBWA over the past decades, were not in attendance.  It seemed that these breweries have either given up, or just walked away from the industry.  After investing for years, they have quit, leaving wholesalers to fin for themselves.  This abandonment was befuddling to many in the industry.

This issue of abandonment, however, was not true for the Japanese brewer, Sapporo, who has, in recent years, invested heavily in North America.  Their last acquisition was the iconic brewer, Anchor Steam.  Sapporo began their upsurge in investing some years ago with the purchase of the Canadian Brewer, Sleeman, and subsequently Unibroue. Sapporo is definitely bullish on North America.

It is a fact that attendees at the NBWA have a good time every year.  Seeing old friends and making new ones is what this industry is about.  Until next year in San Diego, all the best to the NBWA!

Remember the most valuable antiques are dear old friends…

 

 Posted by at 5:30 pm
Oct 032017
 

Beginning this week, and until the middle of next week, the beer industry has two of its three largest and most important industry conventions:  the Great American Beer Festival, in Denver and the National Beer Wholesalers Convention, in Las Vegas.  Both conventions are extensive and important to each other.

For decades, the GABF has recognized breweries who submitted their beers for judging by awarding the top beers with gold, silver and bronze medals.  The winning breweries typically displayed their medals at their respective breweries, and leveraged their marketing materials to reflect their winning status, which also included displaying graphics on their product packaging.

This is really nothing new.  Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, whose label was the grand prize winner of the best beer blue ribbon at the World’s Fair in the late 1800s, did the same thing, and  Pabst has been leveraging that ribbon ever since.  Winning a medal at the GABF gives that beer, its brewery and the head brewer a celebrity status in the beer industry.

Award winning beers also help their wholesalers.  With today’s emphasis on beer styles, flavors, colors etc., and the role of the cicerone, an informed sales person can again use an award winning medal to gain placements and handles, not to mention promotional opportunities in the on-premise market.  These convention awards are a win-win for all parties.

Immediately following the GABF, the NBWA will begin this Sunday.  The key question for this year is: what does the industry need to do to once again jumpstart growth?  There will be many industry experts and executives talking about this particular subject, not to mention panel discussions.  Seminars, speakers and exhibitors will be everywhere. All eyes will be looking at reestablishing relationships and creating new ones, as vendors hope to gain new business.  The exhibition floor will be full, and, of course, the Monday night get-together, with all the various vendors, will be the place to be and be seen.  As a wholesaler, one year I had 16 invitations just on that one Monday night.

Like the industry itself, the number of conventions and industry events seem to have become unmanageable.  This is most likely more so for wholesalers with their multitude of brands and the various conventions like the GABF, the CBC and the NBWA.  While at Glazer’s we used to flip a coin to see who attended what?  It is crazy.

I feed on conferences….

Editor’s note; As reported last week the BBUP blog is still down and not fully working.  I hope to have it back up and working this month so please bear with me.  It will not be long and thanks to all who have responded with encouragement!

Geoff

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am