Cider Corner — Doing Your Homework When Expanding Territories

​Having a distributor approach your cidery is sometimes the best way to get into distribution, but that isn’t often the case. ​

But take a step back when thinking about what distribution would be for you said Swift Cider‘s Aidan Currie.

“Many smaller brands complain that distributors don’t sell their product because they are focused on selling their larger brands,” he said. “It’s best to approach distributors as someone who will deliver your product, not someone who will sell your product.

“It’s up to you to sell.”

Expanding into a new territory, whether in self-distribution or through a distributor, you need to make sure you do your homework added Coyote Hole‘s Chris Denkers.

“It’s just like opening a business, creating a business plan, doing the research, market evaluations, competitor analysis and feasibility,” he said. “Just expanding and throwing your cider out to a new territory without proper analysis can be more harmful in the long run to your business than you think.”

​Leo Orpin of Black Apple Crossing said a distributor is looking for a consistent product​.

“[It]​ is key and having a marketing manager to assist the sales team is preferred,” he said, adding that his cidery sets an allotment of product for the distributor and it is ​their responsibility to assure they receive the agreed upon allotment.

When looking to expand markets, Denkers suggested to look into the current health of the territory; which of your products you are you looking to launch; your competitors and their current products selling in that territory, along with price points. Also, think of how you are going to market your brand in the new territory.

“Can your support the uptick in production and how are you going to expand,” he pondered. “If you self distribute, how will you handle the selling, getting into new restaurants or stores, deliveries, marketing like tap takeovers, etc.”

Currie echoed that concern, saying that distributors will often be concerned about running out, so make sure to have a realistic plan for how to scale up production to meet demand.

“Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver and you’ll avoid a lot of this mess,” he said. “Distributors may not like your products or they might not see how you’re different than their existing brands. You can overcome this by having a well developed brand identity that is backed up with quality labels and marketing materials; make sure the brand identity differentiates you and be ready to explain this in the context of the distributor’s other brands.

“When you differentiate yourself, focus on your good qualities and don’t talk smack about other producers. Explain who your target customer is and why your product solves their problems; even if the distributor doesn’t personally love your products, their business model is built around offering retailers products that their customers will buy.”

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