In synchronized efforts to promote brand variety and independence, Alaskan Brewing is shaking up a portion of its wholesale network on the West Coast.
As Brewbound reported from the Great American Beer Festival, the company recently partnered with Craft Beer Guild of Los Angeles for coverage throughout L.A., nixing its relationship with Harbor Distributing and Allied Beverages – both Reyes Beverage Group holdings – in the process. Following that, late last week, Alaskan announced a switch in Seattle, where it’s moving from Anheuser-Busch Sales of Washington (A-B SW), a wholly-owned subsidiary of A-B InBev, to the Odom Corporation.
Andy Kline, Alaskan’s communications manager, called the concurrent timing of the two realignments a coincidence, adding both moves were done for different reasons.
In Los Angeles, Kline said the move was driven by a desire to get the full range of the Alaskan portfolio out to market.
“That distributor had been fine with us, but was really just focused on Amber for a long time, and that was selling fine for them,” said Kline. “But we feel like we have a lot more going for us.”
Kline said the company sees Los Angeles as an emerging market in the state, which is itself already a hotbed for craft, making it a good time to really push behind a whole lineup of beers and more “obscure varieties” rather than one brand in particular.
In Seattle, the company switched to align better with an independent, craft-focused distributor.
“I kind of think, with the Elysian sale especially, you know, that was going to be their preferred craft brand. So it was fine, we had had a really good relationship with A-B SW forever, but we just felt like their focus was moving,” said Kline. “Not sure if it was a stated focus or not, but certainly we felt like we could get to a place where they were trying to promote craft brands.”
Earlier this year, Ninkasi Brewing also left A-B SW, as well as another wholesaler owned by A-B in the Pacific Northwest, in favor of linking up with more independently-minded operations.
Kline said the switch should also allow the company to penetrate deeper in the Seattle marketplace.
“I don’t think chain accounts are necessarily going to be our focus, but I do think we’re going to get in more accounts with more variety,” he said.
Outside of Alaska, Washington is far and away the company’s second largest market, accounting for approximately 20 percent of its sales, Kline said. He added the company has no impending plans to change wholesalers in any other markets.
While the company is looking to expand in its current markets, it also plans to establish a presence in the Midwest, possibly in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, though no contracts have yet been signed nor has the company initiated any talks with prospective wholesalers in the region.
The impending expansions are being made possible in part by a recent build out in Alaska that saw the company connect its two adjacent facilities, giving the company additional warehouse space and much more efficient storage and packaging capabilities.
Alaskan, the nation’s 20th largest craft brewery by volume, sold 161,700 barrels in 2014, up over 146,600 the year prior, according to the Brewers Association.