Why Distributor Relationships are Important in Growth

The Southeast has become a ripe market for breweries to look for new consumers. Adding to that list is San Diego’s AleSmith, which announced in September it will begin distribution to Georgia.

“Georgia has been on our radar for several years now,” said James Valles, Sales Director for AleSmith. “We have a solid following [via social media] inquiring when we would be entering the state so the pent-up demand has been there for many years. They also have a strong craft network of retailers and a growing craft community that are searching for new brews as well as true to style beers to consume.”

AleSmith is currently brewing approximately 35,000 bbls but expected capacity in their current facility which opened in 2015 will reach over 200,000 bbls when completely built out.

Valles said when AleSmith prepares to open new markets they consider many factors: such as the overall size of market; growth potential for the brands they plan to launch; figuring out if they will select cities in a state or distribute statewide; the size of the distributor in the market; and how many warehouses they have.

“[It] all come into play when considering how it will affect our production forecast,” Valles said.

Valles noted that AleSmith spends a great deal of time looking for the right distributor partner.

“If our brands fill a gap in their portfolio and most importantly if it’s a right fit for both brewery and distributor,” he said. “Developing and maintaining a relationship with a new distributor is essential with the communication beginning right away including meeting with key craft management and ownership, setting up bi-weekly calls and hosting their craft team at our brewery to get to know our team and of course brand training … all this helps in establishing a solid foundation.”

The brewery has been strategically opening new markets — 12 states in all —)over the last three years. Currently AleSmith brands can be found in 26 states and eight countries.

However, this year they focused only on a few key states with Georgia being one of them.

“Our plan in 2017 was to enter the Southeast with a solid distributor then continue to expand our footprint into other key neighboring states in 2018,” Valles said.

He did indicate that the brewery usually promotes from within for expansion in the sales department, however in the case of Georgia they are currently utilizing their Texas state manager to cover Georgia temporarily while they look for a SE Regional Manager.

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