Coors expansion into the eastern United States in the early 70’s created quite a stir as it was not unusual for Coors to receive more than 1,000 franchise applications in a major market. The applicants came from various backgrounds, but most had no experience in the beer industry. Because even small franchises were worth several hundred thousand dollars the minute the first case was sold, applicants spared no cost with their presentations in their attempt to gain the brand.
Other then the Coors expansion, there was very little activity in the way of new brands. Sure, Molson expanded south, which created some initial excitement, but most other brands, including Corona, struggled. Then in 1983, the clear bottle appeared. Many distributors, to their detriment, turned down the brand at that time.
By the 90’s, consolidation started to gain momentum and many distributors expanded their portfolios to include imports and early craft beers, among them Anchor and Sierra. By the time I got to Gambrinus, Corona was on fire and I was receiving multiple calls from distributors requesting the brand. Many of the distributors wanted me to terminate the existing wholesaler and award them the brand. They had not wanted Corona 10 years earlier, but now they did.
In the early 2000’s, Glazer’s had Modelo for all of west Texas and a large portion of east Texas. The AB network, who serviced these markets, offered to buy the brands from Glazer’s. Glazer’s responded with a price of $50.00 per case, AB felt this too high, so Glazer’s kept the line. Now, after all these years the AB guys might be kicking themselves for not jumping on that price.
Several years ago, as President of Warsteiner, we had a distributor change in southern California. There were a hand-full of distributors who expressed interest, so I met with them and presented the marketing and business plans. I also contacted all the other distributors in those markets. From many, I did not even receive a call back, but from those whom I did hear from, they were either not interested or wanted us to put a rep in the market to sell the beer for them. Not one distributor was interested in reviewing our business and marketing plans.
While at Glazer’s, it was my responsibility to seek out and acquire viable brands for all the states. Some brands obtained were New Belgium (prior to my time at Glazer’s), Stone Brewing, Cristal, Asahi, Sleeman, Mike’s, Boston, and many others. We were very successful in building the portfolio.
These days, with all the new craft brands, distributors are swamped with requests from breweries. Not too many years ago, the mind-set was, if my company does not take a brand, my main competitor will! Now all that has changed. It has become very difficult for any vendor to get a meeting with a distributor. So the question should be, how can a distributor make any kind of informed business decision about a vendor without first seeing and reviewing their brands, marketing, and business plans? The next Corona could be at the front door. Do you want to be one of those who turns down the next Corona? Your indecision may or may not be my problem!!