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Distributors- Do they really want variety?

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  • Distributors- Do they really want variety?

    Having been in this business for over 15 years I have seen alot of changes. Every year our company as well as many others meet with each one of our distributors and discuss next years portfolio of beers and what our brewery has to offer and see what their forecasts and thoughts are for the upcoming year. One of the things that we have heard over the past several years is the end consumer is looking for variety and rotating flavors at there favorite pub and with that in mind we generally go out and have around 10 new beers each year along with our 4 flagship beers. We present our beers, they are interested smile and say looks great. But, then as the year moves on they for the most part are sticking with the 4 flagship beers and pick very little of the new beers that are offered.

    To give more history we have a great relationship with all our distributors are sales are strong each year we have been open for over 5 years so we are not new and we are functioning well in the industry. Having given you some background I can pose the question, are the rest of you finding the same issue that they are getting there variety from all of the breweries and not choosing the "new" beers in favor of the well established flagships? In a couple of months we will start working on next years line up and we are considering doing a major change in our portfolio.
    Mike Eme

  • #2
    Hey there, hope things are well in the mitten.

    That's interesting to hear. I moved down to SW Virginia after working at Arbor Brewing Company and Jolly Pumpkin. Though they were a little less prolific in producing new brands, we never seemed to have a problem getting them out the door. SW Michigan saw a pretty big surge in variety and availability from 2005 onward. After moving down here though, I've been running into the same problem. It depends on how the market looks by you, but down here we're probably 7-10 years behind developed markets, still trying to pull consumers away from Miller/Coors and Bud. I thought we'd find that same kind of boom in variety demand, but we don't have privately owned liquor stores down here. There's a few bottle shops, but most beer is sold in grocery stores and gas stations. If you're trying to sell outside of a 50 mile radius, it's hard to get your stuff on the shelves. There is a brewery boom down here and everyone wants to distribute, although a lot of the quality is nothing to write home about. Grocery stores have tended to just go for bigger and more established names.

    Distributors here give us the same line and smile. We have several employees frequent our establishment and rave about the beer, but when it comes time to order, they'll only take 25 cases or so and won't order again. I try to follow market perceptions with untapped and ratebeer, at least there we seem to get good reviews overall, so I don't think it's a quality thing, but distributors here tend to be lazy and just fill orders, which are mostly miller coors. We also don't have a sales person, which I'm sure has an effect on demand.

    The best advice I can give is getting sales staff out there and hitting the local market hard. If distributors don't do the job for you, you have to hit it from the back end and force demand through the retailers. If you have something new coming out, take some growlers around and shop it to local bars/restaurants. Invite sales managers from local retailers to the brewery for a tasting to see if you can get them on board. I've had some success with this route.

    I think the reality is the market is starting to get flooded, distributors and larger retailers aren't as inclined to buy newer brands when they know what sells well already, no matter how good it is. Good luck, hope you can make them work for you!