Cider Corner: How Blake’s Lays a Plan to Be Successful in New Market Expansion

Although Blake’s Hard Cider had no plans this year for expansion into new markets​ during 2020, the Michigan-based cidery recently announced an agreement with Homegrown Distribution to be sold throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Scott Roberts, Blake’s VP of Sales, explained to Brewer that expressed interest from the New England area has been high in the past — both via social media requests and online sales figures.

“Massachusetts is a Top 5 state for consumer and retailer inquiries through our social media and a Top 3 state in terms of sales through our Vino Shipper platform so we decided to entertain the idea of a Fall 2020 launch,” he said.

Even with all of those positive factors, Roberts said they still needed to find the right distribution partner, and Homegrown fit the bill. It was a bonus that they also sold in Rhode Island​.​

​”The real key is finding distributor partnerships that are in alignment with our goals and aspirations not only for Blake’s but for the cider category at large,” Roberts said.

He noted that there are Key Performance Indicators that markets show through sales data and Blake’s utilizes several analytic information sources that help it determine the viability of a market at large.

​”We don’t take the acceleration of our ​geo ​footprint lightly,” Roberts said. “We take expansion very seriously and we are not a company that looks to pad its annual sales numbers simply by entering new markets.

“Planting an apple tree is easy, but ensuring that the apple tree bears fruit is what’s critical. Choosing a distributor partner, like properly growing an apple tree takes time and commitment. We simply will not enter a market without the right partner. True partnership yields success and that is a lesson we have learned as we have expanded.”

As one of the fastest-growing cideries in the US with sales up more than 64 percent in overall same market sales and 76 percent in shipments this year, this move grows the company’s national distribution footprint to 18 states with additional states expected to be announced soon.

Logistics are always a challenge for a ​cidery of ​its size, but ​Roberts said that Blake’s has​ a successful ordering and fulfillment system in place to serve the needs of ​its partnerships.

​When it comes to staffing, Roberts said Blake’s will rely on its distributors to help guide them and they generally hire from outside the current organization.

“Obviously, if a current member of the Blake’s sales family had a desire to relocate to a new market we would take that interest very seriously before we made any final hiring decisions,” Roberts said.

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