Top Lessons Learned from Distribution Partners

In October, Catawba Brewing was recognized with the Brewer Partner Sales Execution Award during the National Beer Wholesalers Association’s 80th annual convention. In five years, Catawba has built more than 20 distributor relationships across five states and is now 17 times larger than it was as a self-distributing brewer prior to that.

“We know to our core that wholesalers make possible what we do,” said Billy Pyatt, owner of Catawba in a release. “We treat them as true customers, and we work together to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities before us.”

Catawba spent years working with distributors and consumers to enhance its brand in the market.

Catawba Brewing Director of Sales, Jim Birch, spoke with Brewer about the last five years and how those partnerships have helped the brewery grow in its region.

BREWER: What has your brewery learned most from having a distributor partner?

BIRCH: We’ve learned a ton from our wholesalers. Brand building is a multi-year process mutual effort (which honestly never ends) and requires the brewery to plan with their distributors locally to understand each distributors’ market and customers and ensure the brewery tailors a message that resonates in each location. A distributor has an army of sales people that then carry and localize that message alongside our own sales reps.

BREWER: What are the best insights and advice if a brewery begins to seek out distro partners?

BIRCH: A brewery needs to know what their market goals are (volume-wise) and brand-wise before searching for distribution partners. It’s absolutely critical that the distributor and brewery see the same long-term potential and agree on how best to market and position the brands and products in the market. Early alignment on logistics, sales support, and brand objectives pave the way for long-term successful partnerships.

BREWER: Were there any questions, problems, situations that came to light that helped make your brewery better when you started to look into distribution and were addressed of these questions?

BIRCH: Our distributors are experts at touching their accounts and forming relationships that are the backbone for selling their products. We lean on these relationships to introduce our own brands in new markets and know that there is no way a brewery could ever individually form and maintain the sheer volume of relationships required to create meaningful brand awareness in both home and distant markets.


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