Talkin Tech: Why Distributors All Win by Competing on the Same Platform

Posted on | December 29, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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As Beverage Media’s online view of the New York drinks market grows more complete it has attracted the attention of trade members in other parts of the country. The initial reaction is very positive with excitement about the product browsing and eCommerce. However as the discussion shifts to the prospect of something similar happening in their home market a common reaction is; “why would you want to show all the products in our market?”

It may be that the conditions in New York City are uniquely suited to encourage a more open view of the marketplace, but I hope not. To be sure the wine scene in the city is vibrant and diverse. Some of the most storied wine and spirits merchants in the country service the city’s consumers, and they dine in some of the best restaurants in the country. The city is home to a unique collection of importers, writers and sommeliers that have helped shape the national conversation about wine, but that conversation has been happening throughout the country.

Our taste for new wine styles has followed behind restaurants trends that introduced us to regional and exotic cuisines. It wasn’t so long ago that sushi and chicken tikka masala were considered adventurous, now we expect them to be available in the prepared foods section of the supermarket. In the past twenty five years restaurant wine lists have progressed from being dominated by French, then Californian and Italian wines, to now including wine from all corners of the world. To be sure some consumers are less comfortable experimenting with unfamiliar wines, but there is a growing audience for Assyrtiko and biodynamic Savagnin.

Attitudes in the trade have adapted to this shift in the market. While the abundance of new wineries on the West Coast reacted to limited access to distribution by pushing direct to consumer sales, word from the wineries is that access to a distributor is becoming easier to find. According to Abe Schoener, who describes his Scholium Project as an off-beat and peripheral winery, there is interest at the distributor level in most markets that is enough to support his product at a few select accounts.

While every distributor wants to win your business over their competitor, it is the largest distributors with exhaustive portfolios and armies of sales reps who are most concerned that a competitor’s sale is a lost opportunity. Why would they want to share the stage with the smaller distributors? The answer is because their customer, the wine buyer, wants to be able to find any product that’s available in that market. Making it harder for them to search available products only means they have to reach out to the smaller distributor more often. In some cases this causes a backlash against the big distributors in favor of the underdog.

This challenge is not unique to our industry. Most towns have an auto strip where competing car dealers sit next to each other; it saves consumers from traveling across town to see more cars. Indeed there is academic research that demonstrates when competing companies are located together they all increase their chances of getting a sale. Malls are popular because consumers can go to a number of stores in a single visit; they comparison shop and can check out a number of similar or even identical products.

The wine market has changed in the past 25 years. You will rarely see the old fashioned wine list that was printed by the distributor in exchange for an exclusive on the selections. What makes a restaurant stand out now includes their enthusiasm about wine that matches their food. Retailers can’t all sell the same household brands and expect to compete on price. It is the most prestigious restaurants and retailers that are turning over every rock to find the most interesting selections and best value. Those wines won’t always be found at the largest houses, and yet that doesn’t mean buyers will turn their backs on the big players.

Ultimately it is the buyer who decides whether a product fits their beverage program and the fortunes of distributors are determined by their selection and pricing. Sales reps still play an important role in a distributor’s ability to place product, but if the buyer wants to be able to view products from all vendors in one location, then it makes sense to support this. The New York trade has adopted this approach and distributors in other parts of the country are starting to confront this shift the market. A more vibrant wine scene across the country can only help the industry overall.

Law You Can Use Update

Posted on | December 21, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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[Notes from recent SLA meeting. Look for further information in February installment of New York's Know the Law column.]
 
THE LIQUOR AUTHORITY SENDS A WARNING

At the beginning of a full board meeting, held in New York City on December 19, 2012, the Members of the Authority sent a strong message to wholesalers and retailers.  A wholesaler was charged with multiple counts of selling goods at prices other than that posted on its retail schedule and selling goods which were not posted at all.  In addition, although not a listed charge, the Authority investigated the wholesaler’s method of operations.  The Authority found that the wholesaler sold its goods to a limited number of retailers, rather than to the entire retail market.  

Following the hearing, the Authority accepted the wholesaler’s conditional no contest plea.  The wholesaler’s license was suspended for a period of 30 days during the month of January.  During that time, the wholesaler will be permitted to remain open only to review its mail, accept payments for deliveries made prior to the suspension and report retailers who were in default.  In order to sell in February, a wholesaler must post its February prices to retailers during the month of January. The suspended wholesaler will not be permitted to make such a price posting and therefore will not be able to sell any goods during the month of February.  For all intents and purposes, this means the wholesaler will be shut down for two full months.  In addition, the wholesaler must pay a fine of $120,000.00.

Tanqueray Treats Media to Rare Taste of 1960s

Posted on | December 21, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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On December 12th, Tanqueray global brand ambassador Angus Winchester cracked open a bottle of 1960s Tanqueray London Dry Gin to celebrate a liquid and a decade that are timeless. Along with Tanqueray’s New York Brand Ambassador Rachel Ford, Angus transported guests back several decades by crafting an authentic vintage martini made with 1960s Tanqueray London Dry gin, 1960s vermouth and vintage barware.

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits and Vintage Wine Estates Revamp Cigar Zin

Posted on | December 20, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, in a joint venture partnership with Sonoma’s Vintage Wine Estates (VWE) , is taking on the Zinfandel category with the re-launch of Cigar Zin, boasting a hot new package, riper wine style and bold new marketing campaign.

Cigar Zin, first launched in 1997 by Cosentino Winery, enjoyed a 15-year cult following in select markets among zealous Zinfandel drinkers looking for a luscious, spicy Zinfandel.  “This brand had localized success and we see an opportunity to update and relaunch Cigar Zin within the premium California Zinfandel $12-$18 segment and grow it significantly.  Putting the strength of our sales and marketing engine behind Cigar Zin will ensure we gain rapid distribution and cultivate a national following,” said Tom Steffanci, president of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.

Cigar Zin’s striking new label is reminiscent of a rich, fine cigar. The wine is rich and spicy with gobs of black and red fruit.  The campaign headline is bold and evocative – “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Steak,” a wordplay on the classic line from the 1975 movie “Jaws (You’re gonna need a bigger boat.)  Another headline flexes more muscle reminding Zinfandel lovers that this is a wine that is about big bold fruit, not tutti-fruit – “Put Your Hands in the Air and Step Away from the Rose”.

“We’ve enhanced the wine and label and are ready to bring it to more consumers.  The Deutsch team created a campaign that grabs you and makes you want to sink your teeth into a classic fruit-forward Zin that is great all by itself or paired with a big steak or barbecued ribs,” Steffanci said.

The marketing campaign will be supported with in-store point-of-sale and grass roots sampling at events such as the Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke in Las Vegas and New York. Cigar Zin will be available nationwide beginning January 2013. Suggested retail price is $17.99.

Chandon & Simon Doonan Share Some Sparkle

Posted on | December 20, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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On December 3rd, style icon and Barney’s creative ambassador at large, invited guests to a dinner celebrating Chandon’s “Share Some Sparkle” entertaining guide at NYC’s Sikstone Loft. Doonan designed a Limited Edition Tambourine for Chandon this holiday season.

U.R.T.O Annual Dinner Dance Is a Diamond Jubilee

Posted on | December 20, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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On December 5th, the United Restaurant & Tavern Owners Association held their annual dinner dance at Riverside Church. Honored with “Man of the Year” awrds at this milestone event were Frank Dwyer and Pete Fitzpatrick, partners in Playwright Taverns I, II, III, Jack Dempsey’s Bar, Hurley’s Saloon, Bourbon Street Bar & Grille, McHale’s Bar, French Quarters Hotel, Legends Bar & Grille, McGee’s Pub and Connolly’s on 54th Street. The “Industry Men of the Year” award went to the Anheuser-Busch New York Sales & Service team. Thomas Slattery, Chairman of U.R.T.O. received the “Meritorious Service Award.”

Boomer & Carton Visit Bottle Bargains with Bushmills

Posted on | December 19, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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In early December, radio personalities Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton visited Bottle Bargains in Northport, NY. The store had multiple Bushmills displays and an enthusiastic, well-trained staff, and the fun event included Carton doing impressions over the store’s PA system to entertain the crowd.

DISCUS Co-Hosts National Tequila Appreciation Day Celebration

Posted on | December 19, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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On November 28th, The Distilled Spirits Council of America and the Mexican National Chamber for the Tequila Industry hosted a celebration of National Tequila Appreciation Day at La Biblioteca. Guests enjoyed sampling a variety of top 100% agave tequilas throughout the night.

TY KU & Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker Host Mixer

Posted on | December 19, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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On November 28th, Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker and TY KU co-owner Patti Stanger hosted a media cocktail mixer at Toy Restaurant in the Meatpacking District to celebrate the latest from TY KU, Coconut Nigori. Guests enjoyed a saké tasting as well as food and health tips from mixologist and chef Josh Lyons and nutritionist Dr. Sheri L. Emma, M.D., and of course expert love tips from Patti.

Brown-Forman Invites Retailers to Paint the Town Jack

Posted on | December 19, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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This year’s Paint the Town Jack event had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy, but the event which took place on November 27th at Johnny Utah’s showcased the perseverance and creativity of off-premise accounts in New York as they pitted their colorful and artistic statues of Jasper Newton Daniel. Attendees enjoyed sipping Jack Daniel’s and learning more about the brand’s history.

 
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