Happy New Year to all. We at BevStrat are so happy to put 2018 in the books. We feel that 2018 was the year that the convergence of sales teams, brands, distributors and importers all came together and said, “we can all do better” was the end of year rally cry. We like to think that we are at the forefront of the “a la carte” movement in the adult beverage space. As far as New Year’s, I was in California where the weather was jokingly colder than New York City and it rained sideways. If you are searching for splendid holiday weather, please do not travel with me and my family. With all the holiday cobwebs shaking off, now is the time to talk about 2019, and how, by all of our data, is the year of the independent brand.
We need to define the phrase independent brand. To us, an independent brand is a new, emerging brand that is not in the top 500 sold brands in the USA. If you are not with Pernod Ricard, LVMH and the like you are independent. If you are not a mandatory showing for SGWS you are an independent. If you sell more via DTC than old fashioned worn shoe leather, you are independent. There are over 49,000 independent brands in America and only really 500 that matter for wallet share; if you are not in the 500 you are independent. If this column matters to you, you are independent.
Many of you are currently receiving your 2018 depletion reports from your distributors or you will be shortly. Most of you will poop the bed when you learn that your distributors efforts have fallen short or that you, as a worst-case scenario, have been fired by your distributor. Your brand on a discontinued SKU list. Often times delisted without notice for being a non-selling brand, when in fact, they were charged with selling your brand. Circle of lunacy.
For all these reasons and many more, 2019 is now the year of the independent brand. If you were at Craft Beverage Expo and heard my keynote, it was all about the “a la carte” nature of the booze business and the three-tier system. There has never been a time before in recent history where you can pick your distributor, pick your sales force, and pick your market. Technology, changing laws, more accepting accounts to small and craft goods and social media has all made this the year of the independent brand. Hello 2019!
Here is why it all is coming together now:
- MHW/ Park Street and the like will take your brand – distribute your brand – make your brand compliant. If you don’t know them, you should.
- You can pick your state now in most cases to sell your goods. CA, NY, NJ and FL, along with being high consumption states, are also stating that they have proven very accepting of new and emerging brands.
- Controlling your marketing is now easy, manageable and possible. You can legit have the same reach as a Madison Ave marketing company for zero sum cost.
- Companies like ours allow you to have a sales team, marketing presence, data and tastings in states where you currently are not. This gives you the ability, finally, to sell everywhere you want, not just in your tasting room.
It is easy for me to sit in my office and write this weekly column. Really easy, I just sit and type. But the reality is that you can NOW have success in the USA easily, cheaply and efficiently for your brand and 2019 should be that year for you. We made a pledge in our mission statement to support the independent brand. In deference to that mission statement, you can make 2019 your year and if you choose not to expand, open markets, etc. – you should know that that opportunity is yours now and going forward.