Sierra Nevada yesterday named Joe Whitney as the company’s first chief commercial officer. Whitney, who began with the company in 2006, had been serving as the vice president of sales.
The announcement comes after a six month-long effort to create a senior leadership team that, according to Whitney, will be tasked with doubling production over the next decade and transforming the company into the largest independently-owned craft brewery in the U.S.
“That would put us at Boston Beer levels, and we think our brand platform is ultimately stronger and built on the authenticity of Ken’s story,” he said, referencing founder Ken Grossman’s decorated career as a pioneering craft brewer.
“He is the original beer geek. He is revered by brewers everywhere and that is a great story and pedestal to stand on,” Whitney added.
Whitney’s appointment to chief commercial officer comes just three months after Sierra Nevada named Jeff White, then the systems integration director, as chief operating officer.
Whitney and White, together with Mike Bennett — who was recently appointed chief supply chain officer — and chief financial officer Paul Janicki, will work directly with Grossman, who serves as CEO, to position the company for future growth, Whitney said.
At a meeting with distributors earlier this year, Brian Grossman, who oversees the company’s operations in North Carolina, said he expected sales to decline more than 4 percent in 2016. Those declines come at a time when a record number of breweries — nearly 5,000 — are now operating in the U.S.
The growing number of small breweries has put pressure on large, nationally distributed brands like Sierra who are now finding it more difficult to grow, Whitney said.
“Part of the charms of craft is that we are small and cute,” he said. “But when a brand gets to a national level, and they are in every grocery store and airport, some of the surprise and delight goes. Now, all of a sudden, it is an expected brand, and that is a different conversation with a drinker.”
“When you get to that point, you really have to dig in and solidify your brand proposition,” he added.
Sierra will begin its search for a new vice president of sales next week, and the company hopes to name a replacement before next March, Whitney told Brewbound.
In the past, Sierra has demonstrated a tendency of promoting from within, and the company is already considering some “strong” internal candidates, Whitney said.
“We are looking for a strategist first and foremost,” he said. “The craft space requires a lot of dexterity and a market by market view. You need a strategist to build those local markets and you also need someone who can lead the team.”
A press release with additional details is included below.
Sierra Nevada Taps Joe Whitney as Chief Commercial Officer
CHICO, CA — November 21, 2016 — Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. announced the promotion of Joe Whitney, a 10-year veteran of the company, to the newly-created position of Chief Commercial Officer. The promotion is one in a series of appointments to the Senior Leadership Team, including the Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Supply Chain Officer roles. Whitney has witnessed firsthand significant change in the craft beer industry, having served in Senior Marketing and Sales roles for Boston Beer Company for 13 years and New Belgium Brewing Company for four years.
“As we continue to look to the future and plan for sustainable, long-term growth, having a Senior Leadership Team in place is crucial,” says Ken Grossman, founder and CEO of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “Joe has led the Sales and Marketing teams brilliantly throughout our development. Given the challenges facing the craft beer industry currently, there is no individual better suited to help us navigate these waters.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of the brand and the nearly 1,100 individuals responsible for its success,” says Joe Whitney. “I’m honored to be working with best-in-class Sales and Marketing teams during a very turbulent time in craft beer. Sierra Nevada’s quality and innovative spirit will continue to resonate with generations of drinkers long into the future. It’s our opportunity and responsibility to give them choices when they choose to drink.”
Whitney’s appointment creates a vacancy with the Vice President of Sales position, to be filled early in 2017.
About Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is one of America’s premier craft breweries, highly regarded for using only the finest quality ingredients. The pioneering spirit that launched Sierra Nevada now spans both coasts with breweries in Chico, California, and Mills River, North Carolina. Sierra Nevada has set the standard for craft brewers worldwide with innovations in the brewhouse as well as advances in sustainability. It is famous for its extensive line of beers including Pale Ale, Torpedo®, Hop Hunter® IPA, Nooner® Pilsner, Otra Vez™, Kellerweis®, Porter, Stout and a host of seasonal, specialty and limited release beers. Learn more at www.sierranevada.com.