It is often said that as a nation we have more that unites us than divides us. Most of us at the Beer Tourism and Marketing Conference would agree. No matter our background or difference of opinions, we all share the same love for an ice-cold beer. And, what’s not to love? Happy hours, family gatherings, sporting events, and even a meal at home are all perfect occasions to share a beer.
But, have you ever wondered how your beer – whether it’s a local craft, a new import, or a familiar favorite arrives on the store shelf and in your hand? It takes more than just great taste. Behind every glass of beer, there is careful system in which brewers, distributors, and retailers work together to deliver choice and variety, while maintaining the quality and safety American consumers have come to expect.
In the United States, beer travels from the brewery to the retailer to the consumer under what is commonly known as the three-tier system. This system separates and licenses the companies that produce or import alcohol, distribute alcohol to licensed retailers, and sell alcohol to consumers. Keeping these responsibilities independent ensures that the beer chain of custody provides oversight and transparency. So, when a thirsty customer heads to the beer aisle, they can trust that their selection is genuine and safe.
In fact, the U.S. has the safest alcohol market in the world. Thanks to the three-tier system, there is tremendous confidence behind every can and bottle on local store shelves.
Unfortunately, other countries around the globe that lack this efficient network can’t say the same thing. Tragically, recent incidents in Mexico and India have proven this fact again. Tourists vacationing in Mexico have suffered dangerous reactions or death from unregulated, tainted alcohol; and, more than 100 people in India recently died from contaminated, bootleg liquor. America’s time-tested independent alcohol distribution system provides the necessary checks and balances to help prevent these incidents from occurring here in the United States.
Beyond safety, our three-tier system spurs competition and growth throughout the beer industry. Each component – suppliers, distributors, and retailers – plays a critical role in the success of our beer market. Consumers are now enjoying beer from more than 6,000 breweries nationwide – up from just 49 in the 1980s.
Beer distributors, which represent more than 3,000 independent companies, are spread out across communities nationwide. They are committed to building brands large and small by investing in state-of-the-art equipment like climate-controlled trucks and warehouses; producing cutting edge marketing strategies and materials; and providing continued education that keeps their employees expert in beer knowledge and reliable partners on the future of beer in their communities.
Because of these investments, beer distributors have their finger on the pulse of the communities where they operate. They are always anticipating new kinds of beers consumers will crave while helping bring new beers into local markets. They work to educate retailers on trends and sales data, and they connect brewer partners looking to grow their brands with consumers ready to expand their palates. With local marketing expertise, brewers are able to access new markets that otherwise would have remained challenging.
This allows brewers to focus on what they do best – make delicious beer.
When it comes to delivering kegs and cases of beer, smaller beer brands are on the same trucks as national staples, allowing those smaller labels to reach scale in an efficient way. In fact, as a conference attendee, you may come across a beer you love. There’s a good chance it’s available back home because of this dedicated tier.
At 141,000 strong, this incredible workforce is not small. These men and women have good-paying jobs that serve as an integral piece of both the national and local economy. Working closely together with brewers and retailers – the result, ultimately, is that beer drinkers in 2019 have access to fully-stocked bars and grocery store shelves with nearly limitless choices of safe, tasty beer.
That, after all, is why we’re here at this conference – because the market is so competitive and diverse that marketing strategies are more important now than ever.
And, that’s a great thing for all of us who love beer.
It’s an exciting time for this industry – with more choice than ever before and an ecosystem that fuels economic growth and entrepreneurism across the country. The National Beer Wholesalers Association is committed to propelling the beer industry further forward and highlighting the beer distributors who remain at the heart of this robust supply chain.
To learn more about NBWA and beer, check out our website.