A little bit about my company first. I'm a small contract brand that use to use a speciality dist. that went out of business. I'm in the process of transferring my production to a brewery 1 hour from my home market and self distributing my brand and the brewery who makes my beer. Locally we have a VERY aggressive Bud house who 90% of the craft business also. Any tips for getting some business. Been putting out the word and networking but not getting enough good feed back. Any advice is appreciated.
I don't have any personal experience, but I am looking to "go pro" ASAP.
I have been reading Beer School. the brooklyn brewery story.
They exploited the fact that they as a small business can adapt and change easier than Bud-like breweries, and distro.- Unite with the community. Sponser a rock show, get your name/product out.
However, there is something about the "3-teir" system that I do not understand. I believe, in some places you're not able to distro yourself. - I could be totally wrong.
You need to diversify and have other beers to offer for a store to be more likely to do business with you. That helps alot. Then sell against the Bud house with quality and emphasise the non-corporate side and appeal to the store and their consumers on that level. Be the Underdog!
Having done the self distribution a bit, there are a few observations..........
1.) Self distribution saves you money only if you are able to get market access. That is something the A-B distributorship in your area has over you. It truly is a "David and Goliath" story. Unfortunately, Goliath in this case is REALLY big and REALLY strong.
2.) We are assuming your state allows self distribution.
3.) There's a big misunderstanding in the brewing community at large that they are somehow only competing with A-B when they look at the local A-B distributor. Not many know that A-B has purchased a lot of ownership in regional / foreign Breweries in the past 8 - 10 years and those distributors are carrying more than just A-B. Redhook from Seattle comes to mind, as well as other specialties.
4.) Along with 3.) above, there's a misplaced belief that A-B and their distributors are not nimble. This is an error as well.......it's just that they don't worry about the little fish. In my experience with doing beer events in the Northwest, the A-B distributors are not only big but quite adept at inserting themselves into sponsorships.
To mirror an earlier comment, your biggest problem will be getting shelf space in the off premise market. Many grocers and convenience stores don't want to mess with the "flighty" nature of the sales and delivery service provided by self distributors and, more often than not, don't know how to sell a specialty market product. You have to think like an A-B distributor, who will check and rotate stocks as well as work a little with the retailer.
Self distribution up here in our neck of the woods works best in the on premise markets.....the Alehouses and restaurants.........where folks go out to have an enjoyable and sometimes adventurous culinary experience. The staff of these establishments have a bit more focus time to explain the product in detail while the patron is making other selections. When you get a lot of those under yoru belt, then the stores will see they have a customer base for your product and it's less risk for them.
the local AB house has around 40 or so craft brands. They bougth out a small wholesaler about 2 years ago and my old wholesaler just tried to sell to the local miller house but that deal feel through. Shelf space at larger chain stories is going to be my toughtest obstacle.
Yeah.........that's what I said.