Home Wine Business Editorial Three Tier Talk The Myth of the Producer Ride Along

The Myth of the Producer Ride Along


It is a right of passage in the adult beverage business. A producer comes to a market and rides around with the sales team or market manager and visits accounts. As old as the three-tier system is this practice.

There are really two points of view on this practice; besides the overarching thought that it is a supreme waste of time for both sides.

The cynicism comes not from a bad place, but rather from my 30 years of big box retailer CEO experience, and I just spent a few days this week with a long time producer who echoes the pain from her side.

Let’s talk cause and effect: the goal when a producer comes to town is to work the market, sell cases into the channel, and work the relationship with the distributor. That is the goal, but the effect is different. The producer wants to sell more cases, that is fact, but the method and anarchy of the ride along, the old school way of doing that type of transaction is dead. Unless you are Cambria or Estancia you are put with a junior sales person or worse, a merchandiser, and driven around the market in-between a fast casual lunch.

From the retail perspective it takes time and effort to glad hand this process. Surely it is exciting to meet the winemaker or producer, it is thrilling to hear the tales of the product and create a relationship, but do these visits garner case sales? And the better question; do they garner repeat orders?

Repeat orders are the bread of the business, and while ride alongs can achieve initial orders, it is unmeasured if they can get repeat orders.

I wonder often with all the technology that has infiltrated our lives, saving time and effort. Yet in our business, the generations laden wine business, we still must travel, press the flesh, and work a market for sales success.

The ride with, the ride along, is not a process that works any longer. Producers don’t like it, retailers don’t like, restaurants hate it, and frankly there is no data that affirms that it has a lasting effect.

Is there another way? Is there another way to activate a market with case sales, a method that is current with the other sales tools that we all use on a daily basis?

I don’t know the answer, but I know the market is ripe for the group that does.

Brian RosenExpert Editorial
by Brian RosenRosen Retail Method

Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.

He can be reached at @roseretail or [email protected]

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  1. On the surface this argument is true. Digging in a bit, the problem is that something like 80% of the wines sold in America are made by three to five companies. These three to five companies effectively run the distributor networks. Therefore, 80% of work-withs ARE redundant, unneeded, and frankly, a total waste of the world’s resources from time to money to petroleum. Retailers can pick their commodities from a book, no work-with needed to point out the obvious.

    Now, for the 5-20% of wines that are interesting and memorable, that’s where this argument is not true. This is where exposure, education, and facetime is still effective.

    It probably spun out of control when Budweiser realized they could get more facings if they made Bud ice, Bud dry, Bud light, etc. The wineries figured out they could put 20 labels on the same wine too! Too many brands is the root of the problem at this point. How will that get fixed? Focus.

    (I have 30 years of wholesale, production, and restaurant/retail experience.)

  2. Agree on the archaic methods, Brian.However, particularly for a small winery, the only time that we get attention and focus from a distributor on our products is when we are out in the market. And because we are not nationally known brands, we must continue to show our products to build brand and stay in retailers and consumers minds.


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