SAN DIEGO, CA — The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) kicked off the first full day of its 75th Annual Convention today at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. NBWA 2011-2012 Convention Chair Laurie Watson of Brown Distributing Company in Austin, Texas, welcomed attendees and noted that this year’s Convention marks the start of NBWA’s 75th year as an association stating, “This year we are going to celebrate the beer distribution industry’s past and continue to make plans for our future.”
NBWA’s outgoing Chairman of the Board Steve Lytle reflected on industry changes in the past 75 years noting, “We’ve seen breweries, brands, retailers and families come and go. We’ve seen on-premise, grocery and c-store class of trade ebb and flow. We’ve seen consolidation, mergers and acquisition, globalization and localization and we’ve seen legislation and litigation – but along the way three things have remained remarkably constant: change at an ever increasing rate, the willingness of beer distributors to be actively and personally engaged with local and national stakeholders and the ongoing work of your national trade association, the NBWA.”
Lytle also outlined present day challenges facing the beer distribution industry, including supplier deregulatory efforts, preemption of state law in favor of federal law, franchise law issues, branch expansion, forced consolidation and self distribution. He added, “Unintended or not, actions by our largest brewers that confuse and blur the lines between the three tiers of our system, like in Illinois, or seek to preempt state franchise law, like in Virginia, serve to weaken confidence in our long-term partnerships and undermine the distributor independence that is central to our mutual long-term health.”
NBWA President & CEO Craig Purser moderated a “Retailer Roundtable” discussion with Danny Brager of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Team; David Jabour, president of Twin Liquors, a Texas-based independent chain with more than 70 outlets, and past president of independent alcohol retailer association American Beverage Licensees; and Sally Smith, president & CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, one of the nation’s fastest-growing national restaurant chains with more than 840 restaurants in 48 states and two countries.
Brager said, “Beer is doing well,” citing innovation in the beer category and the vast selection of beer available to consumers in the marketplace today. Jabour emphasized the great partnerships that independent retailers enjoy with independent beer distributors, telling attendees, “Our future for the next 75 years is really incumbent upon what we’re able to do togetherÔÇª you are the retailer’s best friend and vice versa.” Smith spoke about beer’s contribution to the success of Buffalo Wild Wings and how beer distributors act as valuable partners by offering local support for their national programs and helping train and educate their restaurants’ employees about beer.
Purser also introduced Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Virginia Carpenter to tell attendees about Hiring Our Heroes. He noted that the program was developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to “organize and facilitate putting separating service men and women together with quality employers like beer distributors.” Carpenter encouraged attendees to learn more about the program, noting that many veterans are still struggling to explain the skills they learned in the military in ways that are relevant for employers as the unemployement rate for younger veterans remains well above the national rate for nonveterans.
Attendees also heard from Peter Ricchiuti, professor at Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, who provided insights on the current and future state of the economy, predicting that the country would not see a double dip recession. Leading pollster and public policy expert Peter Hart concluded the general session by providing his analysis on the pulse of the country and the state of the upcoming presidential election.
Following the general session program, the Product Demonstration Showcase opened featuring products and services from more than 120 exhibitors, including imported and domestic beer, non-alcoholic beverages, warehousing technology, financial services software and promotional products.
NBWA’s 75th Annual Convention continues Tuesday, October 16, at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego in San Diego, California.