A lot! A ton! A boatload! Let me add some perspective.
First – I learned how much sleep a human needs
Second- I learned that a $12.00 coffee tastes the same as a $2.50 coffee
Third- I learned that this event is the annual showcase of players and leaders in our space.
If you are a regular reader of my column you know the preachy nature of what I write and that I, and visa vie BevStrat are advocates for the small, independent brand. We like to champion sales, marketing, and strategy for all makers, and WSWA was a wonderful place to have a booth and showcase how we can help.
We expected a very warm welcome from our partners that were “boothing” there, and we expected a flow of brands that wanted to learn more. What we did not expect was leadership from most of the major distributor houses welcoming us with open arms. In between asides with Breakthru and SWS, we were shown love from MHW, Park Street, and LibDib. We walked and talked with Young’s Market and rode the elevator with Heritage! What does it all mean? Great question.
We know who our audience is. Our audience is the maker, the independent, and small winery, distillery, and brewery that just cannot get the traction to make it all worthwhile. Our audience is the maker that wants a shot (excuse the pun) at their dream of being on every shelf in America. What I learned this week is that my audience is the same as the Big Three. We can work together, and we can coexist.
I can look at our roster of brands, 114 strong, and we run the spectrum of SWS clients, Park Street, LibDib, MHW, BTB, Empire, YMCO, and others that want the same access. The law of numbers says that the Big Three cannot handle it all, and that is the Blue Ocean that we swim in. Not wanting to sell a brand is a different conversation than not having the ability to sell a brand. We all have a boss, and big distribution is no different. Big distribution has big suppliers and big obligations.
So what did I learn?
- There are more brands than ever out there, which makes the struggle very real to come to market.
- Since the Casa Amigos sale, the influx of Mezcal and Tequila in the channel has been on a hockey stick upwards and the show represented a disproportionate number towards that category
- RTD is really hot and new, cool brands are en route to market
- Imported wines and wine makers and distillers are coming to the USA because of the new tax laws and the strength of 3PL’s like MHW and Park Street
- Our client book will expand because the issue of sales and strategy work that is always needed is still always needed
Looking back on the week in Las Vegas there is some major take always.
- I stand behind my prediction that the topless pools are the way to go
- There is more smart money coming into the market wanting to be apart of our business universe
- More and more data companies are providing affordable data to makers of all sizes to help with market penetration
- The three-tier system, while difficult, is still the most fun you will have in business.
Here is the reality – WSWA is a needed epicenter for brands and distributors. WSWA should be looked at within a lens of “we are here if you need us” if you don’t, that is ok too, because one day you will! Until you are ready, use all that you can to make a success of your brand.