From Cider to Beer: How Short’s Director of Sales was Strategic With Distribution

Four years ago, Short’s Brewing in Elk Rapids, Michigan was introduced to Elite Brands through its Michigan Distributor Imperial Beverage. Though Elite was interested in Short’s beer, the brewing company decided to hold off on beer distribution at the time to focus on cider.

During that time, Short’s and Elite Brands built a good working relationship and sent out small amounts of beer a few times a year. After spending four years distributing its cider brand, Starcut Ciders, Short’s Brewing pulled the trigger on taking its beer brands to Colorado. 

“If we were able to drop a brand multiple times and it sold out each time, we had higher confidence that it was something people were looking for,” said Pauline Knighton, director of sales for Short’s Brewing and Starcut Ciders.

“Once we decided to go for full beer distribution, we worked with Elite leadership for months confirming how we would launch. We decided to focus on independent stores to start and build our base before approaching chain accounts. We also looked at the key accounts in each city and targeted those accounts during the launch. These small beer drops helped determine what had staying power in the market.”

Working with Elite Brands has taught Knighton that it’s important to look for a distributor that doesn’t just collect brands, but curates them.

“We appreciate that Elite takes their time when bringing on a new brand,” Knighton said. “I heard [Elite Brands president] Terry Cekola once say that she ‘dates’ a brand for a couple years before signing them. She watches their growth, their business model, the choices they make, etc. 

“I respect Terry’s approach. Elite also puts a lot of energy into training their staff and everyone knows the ins and outs of each brand they sell. Many accounts in Colorado mentioned that Elite is one of the best distributors to launch a new brand.”

Local’s Light, an American Lager, is the company’s best-selling beer, so with that Short’s is targeting both craft and non-craft drinkers. 

“We will send our experimental brews to Colorado to keep the craft drinker interested and excited, but we also hope to capture that craft drinker as a loyal customer purchasing the experimental beers, but also the more traditional brews when the experimental are not available,” Knighton said.

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