Cider Corner: Mentorship the Early Key in Blake’s Investment of AVID

Although it is listed as an acquisition, having Blake’s Hard Cider as owner isn’t going to mean the end of AVID Cider. The two companies are looking at this as a partnership and mentorship to help the Northwest cidery learn from the Michigan cidery’s mistakes.

“We definitely were looking for a partnership to bring things to the next level,” said AVID CEO Sam Roberts. “We’re kind of at this tipping point where we need to push things forward. But it requires a lot of capital and energy and structure, which is something that Blake’s is really going to bring their knowledge to the table on.”

What really drew AVID to working with Blake’s was, what Roberts said is the ​companies had the same sort of values and ideas about not only cider but also in business model and employees.

“They’re family-owned, like we are, and they really focus on quality,” she said. “We kind of share some similarities. Being local and focusing on good products.”

READ MORE: Michigan’s Blake’s Hard Cider to Acquire Oregon’s Avid Hard Cider

A key driver behind the investment, which is part of ​Blake’s five-year national growth strategy, is to proactively meet the increasing hard cider demand nationally while responsibly producing and sourcing its product. The entry for BHC, which is currently available in 22 states, into the Pacific Northwest’s cider market and culture will now provide access to a production center located where an abundance of apple varieties grows.

​But don’t expect this to mean that Blake’s will be on tap at AVID’s facilities, pointed out Blake’s founder Andrew Blake.​

“What connects us all is we’re apple and cider people. That’s the thread that ties,” he said. “Blake’s has national aspirations, but we’re Midwestern folk — apple growers going on four generations. They’re Pacific Northwest, to the core, and we’re not trying to be them, and they’re not trying to be us, but we want to kind of use each other’s expertise, region, and influence to kind of help bring each other along.

“I think we both have strong enough identities and confidence in our brands that there’s no need to try to make AVID into Blake’s or Blake’s into AVID, they can stand alone. They can have their areas of real penetration. And they can have their areas where they commingle. And we think that there’s a really good synergy there as we look to online sales organizations, distributing partners, and things of that nature.”

The move has already begun paying dividends during the transition as Roberts has visited the Blake’s Armada, Michigan location many times and the two began talks of this merger even before the pandemic started.

“Working with each of their different departments and team leaders has been fascinating. It’s fun to see not only what they’re doing — the next level up from what we’re doing — but also what they’re doing the same and what struggles we share,” she explained. “We don’t have a lot of people in the cider industry that are sharing this information. There are not as many cideries around here as there are breweries, so it’s really cool to be working with another company that knows the specific details of our industry.”

A​ key she said has been a big help already is​ diving into sales and analytics information​.

“It can really help drive our growth​,” she said. “Implementing the VIP system that I learned about when I was out visiting Blake’s, which is really looking at the data and what our distributors have on hand. What they need, and what’s coming up.

​”​So just kind of diving into that as we create our goals and trajectory.​”​

Blake added that the next year won’t see much change for AVID as Roberts is tasked to run the show from Bend, Oregon while reporting to a new board that has been created.

“We’ve got a lot of blocking and tackling ​[to work on] ​and each organization has to do​ that​ before we start throwing AVID stuff this way and Blake stuff that way,” he told Brewer. “We want to get both organizations aligned from a sales perspective, production standpoint, talking the same numbers, talking the same language, then I think once those things are kind of connected, I think, then we can kind of start getting into all that fun stuff. But I think that’s at least down the road.”

Blake said they are there to provide feedback, insight and have budgetary conversations. Once a strategic plan gets to a certain point, then the discussion will happen where it makes sense to combine resources, whether administratively or otherwise.

“Like most things, it’s a journey,” Blake said. “I think it’s almost more disruptive to try to start that right now. It’s a little bit of a patient game, and not trying to overwhelm AVID with all of Blake’s team ideas.

“They’re more than capable. We’re just gonna be more guides. For the first year, I think that’s a good mentorship and then we will get into a shared resource conversation.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *