Brew Talks NBWA 2017: Reaching Generation Z and the Amazon Effect (Video)

Generation Z is coming, and brewers and wholesalers need to figure out to speak to the next group of legal drinking age consumers, Pabst Brewing Company CEO Simon Thorpe told an audience of beer industry professionals during a Brew Talks meetup last week in Las Vegas.

“They’re coming soon to a bar near you, and they really think differently,” Thorpe said during the panel discussion, which took place during the National Beer Wholesalers Association convention. “We have to figure out as brewers and brand developers how to talk to 21 year olds these days because it’s not the way that it was even for millennials.”

Thorpe, along with Peerless Beverage Co. president Chuck Salzman and Wachusett Brewing Company president Christian McMahan, stressed the importance of reaching the next generation and shared thoughts on the evolution of the three-tier system during a panel discussion moderated by Brewbound editor Chris Furnari.

Among the issues on the minds of wholesalers is how Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, as well as its foray into alcoholic beverage delivery, will shake out.

“If you’re the distributor who has Amazon in the market, you’re probably, at this point, in a pretty good place,” Salzman said. “If you’re not, you’re a little bit worried.”

For his part, McMahan shared the perspective of a small craft brewery and the financial hurdles those types of companies must overcome if they are expected to support expansion markets with feet on the street. He estimated the cost of hiring a sales rep to be at least $100,000.

“They would have to represent 15,000 incremental cases in order for them to pay for themselves,” he said. “As a small brewer, if there’s 15,000 cases available, why are we giving you the margin and why aren’t we just selling it ourselves?”

In the video above, Thorpe, McMahan and Salzman also discuss franchise law reform, how taprooms are disrupting the business, and the ongoing battle with wine and spirits for “share of stomach.”

“When I see a $5 bottle of vodka sitting out there, my heart bleeds because that’s eroding the margin pool completely,” Thorpe said.

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