Large, medium or small brands, the struggle is real. Is it safe to say, that no matter how good distribution is (and I am not saying it is), suppliers always expect more? Can a distributor ever succeed in the eyes of a Brand? What defines Brand success for a distributor is rarely the same for a supplier.
Importers have their work cut out with distributors; this fall-out has been as a result of a multi-decade process of consolidation. In turn, they will take less risk, promise little, and demand more from Brands in order to have any comfort level in adding to their existing portfolios. Brands that don't make a real investment and commitment in developing the market will find themselves shut out these days.
The U.S. is an incredible market, with tremendous upside and consistent growth ahead. However, it does need to be viewed as a long-term business proposition. Wineries, at least, should be able to relate! It takes 3-5 years of work to have a first wine released from a new vineyard, that is assuming you are irrigating and providing proper nutrition for the soil. Same applies to Brand building and marketing, and there are no shortcuts available. As we all know, "you reap what you sow." Are you doing that for your Brand?
Suppliers are still expecting all the risk to be held by import/distribution. They even struggle with the idea that there is any need for marketing (not sales!) in this consumer Pull-Through economy. This especially pertains to imported Brands, who are often unprepared for anything beyond an offer of ex-cellar pricing with perhaps a bit of a discount.
It is a new wine and spirits world indeed, one that requires more strategy, time and investment to build success. Conversely, we can uproot the vineyards and all go and sell widgets.
About the Author: FMG's CEO Monika Elling started her career in New York's advertising and publishing sector, which led to nearly a decade of international trade and investment promotion activity. She entered the wine and spirits industry in 2000 and spent the last 16 years on the supply, import and wholesale sides of the business, lastly as PR Director of the Lauber Imports Division of Southern Wines and Spirits. She is also a leader at the forefront of the utilization of Social and Digital Media to drive brand value for her clients in the Wine & Spirits sector.