In my role as National Spokesperson for Liberation Distribution I have been making the rounds at industry meetings and events for the last few months. I sit at the podium, microphone, or stage and talk about how small or orphaned brands do not get a fair shake with the Big 5.
I sit in the round table and field questions from makers, producers, and distillers, and I answer them as best as I can. I answer them as my training as a consultant has shown me. I answer them as 30 years of industry experience has taught me, and then last week it hit me like a ton of grapes.
Perhaps the industry is not broken, perhaps it is us? Perhaps the three tier does work? Now if you read my writings regularly you know that I am a champion of the orphaned brand and the independent retailer. I am a believer in free markets and the opportunity that the adult beverage business allows all people that are willing to work for it.
Perhaps it is difficult for small brands because small brands are trying to fit into a distribution model that is not built for them. Big distributors are built very infrastructure heavy. Logistics, sales teams, brand leaders, back office, marketing, and a myriad of other expensive items cost all brands money. Generally it can cost 25-30% to the brand. It costs small, limited case brands a ton of extra expense that does not work nor is often needed as your build from zero cases.
When looking at the Three Tier system and looking at the needs of small brands trying to find an audience, they are disparate needs. Small brands need small solutions, and often that does not reside with the Big 5. Going to market is the most important part of all brands route to success. Selling the second order into an account is more critical than selling into an account for the first time.
Those are paramount to understand. Getting into distribution is 1/2 the equation, getting into an account for the SECOND order is the second critical part of this game. That will often show if a brand has legs and if the consumer desires it even when the salesperson is not there to push it to the account.
My readers should look into the mirror and ask, is it the system that does not work for the independent brand, or is it the brand that needs to stop trying to fit into a system that inherently is not built for them. Looking at alternative distribution options and other ways to enter off/on premise could be just the shape shift that takes your case depletion from zero to hero.
Square peg in a round hole can also imply that there is a round peg out there waiting for you!