Like most Schlitz distributors in the early 1980s, we were very concerned about our future. Schlitz was in the early stages of self-destructing and the sale to Stroh was looming nearby. While Coors had expanded in south Texas, they had achieved a market share of less than 5%; however, most of the Coors distributors were not yet ready to sell.
There were a number of small distributors with regional brands in our marketing area. All had several imports and within two years we had purchased three of them, thus creating the foundation of our import portfolio. Because we were located on the Mexican border our import volume was predominately Tecate and Carta Blanca. Corona was still shipped in the brown bottle.
Corona’s shift to a clear bottle changed everything and the brand started taking off. A small Lone Star distributor nearby, however, started selling the brand on top of us. Since Texas law requires appointments made by suppliers, not importers, I called the brewery in Mexico, and with Modelo’s export director, Carlos Alvarez, (yes, of Gambrinus) I obtained the necessary paperwork.
It was during this time that Barton had taken over the importation of Modelo. We met their sales manager, Bill Hackett, who was working for Mike Mazzoni, the President. As is well known, Bill took over from Mike when he left Barton in the early 90s, and has since remained the President.
Jim Koch has continued on as the head of Boston Beers having founded the brand around 1984. Koch has lead Boston to the top of the craft industry over the last 30 years. Both Boston and Modelo have been great winners for those wholesalers who were fortunate to have these beers in their portfolio. The continued growth of these two mega companies has taken place even with the economic downturns and the growth of the craft segment. I call this the supplier Y factor.
Just like the distributor X factor, the supplier Y factor includes many other suppliers, not just Bill and Jim. These suppliers are composed of: Kim Jordan, David Casinelli, Sam Calagione, Greg Koch, and Ken Grossman, just to name a few. There are, of course, many others.
Distributors with the X factor and suppliers with the Y factor are similar. They are committed and work hard at achieving mutual goals, but what makes both really special is the direction in which these people are heading. They are not influenced by outside distractions and have stayed the course. In fact, they all adhere to the old adage “say what you will do and do what you say.”
Such leaders have built relationships with all tiers and honored their promises, commitments, and stand by their beliefs. They have been in their positions for decades as either owners or top executives who were given the authority accomplish the required goals. That is the key.
Investment groups are not the answer. Just look at companies such as North American Breweries, Iron City, or even Pabst. Add in a number of importing companies or foreign owned ones, and you can see that the supplier Y factor is not there. Yes, just as there is a distributor X factor, there exists a supplier Y factor. Both Crown and Boston are leading the way.
Beer Fodder; http://www.linkedin.com/