Craft brewers who dream of building their brand and making their products widely available have more choices in today’s market but many make the mistake of signing a distribution agreement too soon. In today’s market, a brewer can choose many ways to get their products to market even if they aspire to expand past the Brewpub / Tasting Room model and want to make their beers available to the onpremise and off-premise trade – locally, regionally, or even nationally. There are nearly 40 states with self-distribution rules that the brewer can take advantage of and, unknown to many brewers, there are ways to extend those rights across state lines (yes – you can self-distribute in multiple states at the same time). For those that do know about it, they often find the management of the territory too complicated or frustrating to want to deal with it so they decide to sign distribution agreements to have others do it for them. By signing these agreements too early, brewers leave money on-the-table. Money they could use to accelerate growth and build brand value.
The good news is that new technology and supply chain models are emerging to help manage all the complicated and messy “management” that comes with self-distributing. These new technologies and models are freeing up brewer’s time and financial resources and allowing them to invest in accelerated growth – without signing away their brand rights before they should.
AmercanCraftBrands.com was designed to help U.S. craft brewers by opening up direct B2B e-commerce between self-distributing brewers and licensed retailers. The platform enables brewers to list their products and get exposed to 100 percent of the retail accounts in a chosen territory. They can expand their footprint from hyperlocal (5-10 miles) to local or regional without adding more sales people, and they can even test out new market areas before they make a significant investment there. All on their own. All with the freedom to choose. All without signing any agreements that might be limiting in the future. The platform also provides all the other “stuff” that brewers need to manage if they want to be successful long-term. Things like “for-sale inventory,” invoices, keg and other asset tracking, label licenses and connections back to accounting systems like Quickbooks©. A veritable command center for running the business.
When we talk about this with new brewers they often say ‘OK. Great! But how do I get my beer to the retailers?’ There is good news here as well. New distribution models are emerging across the U.S., including our personal favorite, delivery companies willing to deliver brewer’s products without making any claims to brand rights. While this is not available in all states, there are more than a few where it is. Forward-looking licensed distributors (the very same ones that brewers sign territory agreements with) are starting to discover that providing professional, no strings attached, pickup and delivery services can be profitable and good for business. In this instance, everybody wins! Craft brewers keep their brand rights, reduce or eliminate the costs of building a sales force, reduce or eliminate the investment in trucks, drivers, insurance, tickets, etc and still have their brand delivered professionally. Distributors for their part, get to “fill the truck” (a full truck is a happy truck), reduce the cost of inventory, and, probably most importantly, can build relationships with the next great brewer before any territory goes out for bid (when the brewer outgrows their self-distribution rights). Even the retailer wins in this scenario with fewer distractions from customers and staff for many separate deliveries. A win-win-win in most cases.