Cider Corner: Making Connections with Vendors, Manufacturers

As a part of the growing craft cider industry, looking to work with new vendors can sometimes be a challenge. For Washington’s Schilling Hard Cider, the case isn’t always that, but CFO Mark Kornei points out he feels some vendors don’t seem too interested in selling what they have to offer.

Schilling COO Ian Townson added that most vendors are interested, ‘but some aren’t able to follow through on promises,” he said. “Over promising and under delivering is the worst.”

Kornei says word of mouth has been the best option for him.

“Finding out who the right people to talk to is crucial,” he said. “And a major hint, they often aren’t the ones at the trade shows or conferences. It takes time to build that network.”

Getting prompt answers to technical questions is vital as well.

“There are certain things a sales person can answer and there are certain things that need to be escalated up,” Kornei noted.

Townson pointed out that vendors and manufacturers need to give realistic answers to questions, not just ideal or theoretical problem solving.

“Just tell us how it actually works day to day and we can plan around it,” he said.

Added the cidery’s CSO Eric Phillips: “I just want honesty, if you don’t think you can perform to the agreed upon level just be honest. I want realistic expectations not optimal.”

As the cidery has grown, they are being contacted more frequently by distributors, said Phillips.

“At times I think we surprise people with our growth and distribution network and I sometimes have to convince people that we will be immediately successful,” he said.

That means sometimes a company will just have to wait and rely on timing and persistence.

“I start making phone calls and see how far I can get and then I start again until I eventually find the right people to talk to,” Phillips added. “Persistence and follow up is very important in this industry.”

On the marketing side, CMO Julia Childress is she is looking into something that is related to design, it is easy to reach out to the brand or company who is using it, and ask who they worked with to create it.

“Fortunately, the industry has a strong social media presence,” she pointed out. “I’m constantly checking in on what other competitors are putting out there. You can also use reverse image lookup to find the artist of a particular label, for example.”

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