Checking In with NABCA’s Advisory Committee

Control states and their supplier partners face a variety of challenges every year. This includes the need to invest, adapt and innovate in real time in order to advance the future values of those agencies and corporations.

Never in recent history has this task been harder, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept destructively across the globe. For a look at how everybody involved in the industry pulls off this difficult, multifaceted task, we checked in with the NABCA Industry Advisory Committee.

Throughout the year, the NABCA Board of Directors meets with the advisory committee — a group of beverage alcohol supplier executives — to address new and ongoing issues facing the control state system. StateWaysinvites these committee members annually to share their accomplishments, challenges and initiatives from the past year.

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The theme for Dan Noble’s tenure as chairman has been “Balancing Conflicting Priorities.” We suggested that committee members speak about how they have worked to achieve that goal.

Ken Coulter

Vice-President, Director Sales & Marketing Operations

Brown-Forman

I am certain that Chairman Noble was not thinking of our current environment when he selected the theme of “Balancing Conflicting Priorities.” However, as we navigate this global pandemic, the phrase takes on an even stronger connotation. 

There are plenty of examples of NABCA, the industry and the control jurisdictions working together, striving for a balanced approach throughout the course of the year. The work around warehousing in some states, and improving order fulfillment in others, are great supply chain examples. Working together to share information on product quality and testing with our control state partners is another area. As always, continuing to work on balancing modernization with social responsibility and SKU management with consumer demand continue in a very collaborative way.

However, there are even more terrific examples of how balance is being demonstrated during this current pandemic crisis. While the depth and duration are truly unknown at this point, I am hopeful that we will all be together again to share wonderful examples at the NABCA Conference in May of 2021. 

From a personal standpoint, working remotely from home takes an amazing amount of balance. Trying to find the right boundaries, yet being supportive of my kids’ remote learning and checking in even more than normal with parents and other loved ones, takes a heightened level of work-life integration. The simple lesson here is that while balance always remains a worthy goal, it is nearly impossible to achieve.

It is also amazing to reflect on the incredible balance that our control jurisdictions have been trying to strike. Taking into account health and safety first and foremost, but yet trying to engage in commerce, and trying to help bars and restaurants remain afloat, has been a goal of balance in so many places across the country. 

Whether it is allowing for delivery and curbside pickup of spirits from retail stores, or allowing restaurants to offer cocktails to-go with take-out meals, these are steps that months ago one would have never imagined. NABCA, the control jurisdictions and the industry have worked together over the last number of weeks to share information and ideas; and to ultimately strive for balance in this unique time. It has been great to watch and participate in the many collaborative efforts to rebalance during this unimagined reality.

For Brown-Forman, 2020 was intended to be a year of celebration. It is this year that we are recognizing our sesquicentennial anniversary. Instead, at this point it has become a time of reflection. Some may call us slow, but I believe like many others that balanced thinking has helped see this company through many other difficult times. From our beginnings in 1870 when George Garvin Brown made the unique decision to sell whisky in sealed glass containers rather than barrels, operating through prohibition and world wars, dealing with depressions and recessions and the ever-changing taste preferences of consumers, B-F has not only survived but thrived. 

Today our approach to balanced thinking is demonstrated in our “strategic pillars” of Portfolio, Geography, People and Investment. Interwoven through these areas are the always-influencing and sometimes-conflicting priorities of Sustainability, Responsibility, Community, and Diversity and Inclusion. 

Our work in these priority areas is an act of finding balance in our approach to operating. Brown-Forman is a leader in alcohol responsibility. The work that we have done over the years in partnership with control states has set our standard for this work. We were looking forward to showcasing our work in New Hampshire during this year’s annual NABCA conference. We are also extremely proud of the successful launch of our Jack Daniel’s responsibility TV spot around the Super Bowl.

Brown-Forman’s spirit of community can always be seen especially in Louisville, KY, which we have called home for 150 years. However, the current crisis has shown the world our caring nature. Whether it is donations to support bartenders and restaurant workers, turning our distilleries into facilities to help make large quantities of hand sanitizer, or simply using our own hospitality staff to make 2,000 lunches a day for local communities, Brown-Forman can be held up as a company that is engaged with our communities in which, and with whom, we operate.

We look forward to working closer with each state, in partnership with NABCA, as we think long term about the business and balanced thinking. As we continue to develop Jack Daniel’s as the most valuable whiskey brand in the world — and grow premium plus brands such as Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Herradura, GlenDronach, BenRiach, Gentleman Jack, and many others — we embrace the long-term perspective NABCA has as control states continue to work to Balance Conflicting Priorities. 

Today, we are operating in a world where “social distancing” has become an unwelcome norm. This is the polar opposite of what this industry is all about; for sure, a conflicting priority. I am confident that the industry and our partners in both control and open jurisdictions will work to find balance amongst all of our seemingly “conflicting” priorities, now and into the future.

Mike Dunne

VP Managing Director — Control States

Bacardi

When you know you are in it for the long run, doing the right thing is an easy decision. As a privately held company that’s been around for more than 158 years, we’ve seen our share of challenging times. From exile, Prohibition, earthquakes, hurricanes, pandemics and more, we’ve survived by prioritizing taking care of our people, pivoting quickly and playing the long game. 

As a family company, we focus on building long-standing relationships with our consumers, customers and the bartenders who help drive our business. That’s why, when our industry was impacted by COVID-19, we didn’t hesitate to help our friends. 

We were devastated to watch our longtime partners and friends lose their livelihoods virtually overnight, as dining out, nightlife and entertainment grinded to a halt around the world. Bacardi and its brands pledged $4 million to support bars and bartenders across countries, cities and neighborhoods, by providing real-time financial support, meals and other necessities.

During this economic crisis, we could have kept that money in our pocket, but we knew help was needed, and that their recovery would benefit the industry in the long-term. We always say that love for our brands is built in bars, and it was our turn to show them our love. 

Some of the organizations that received support included Another Round, Another Rally; CORE; the James Beard Foundation; Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation; and Tales of the Cocktail. We also helped bring out-of-work bartenders into the spotlight. In the U.S., we partnered with PUNCH to create a series called “Tip Your Bartender.” During the campaign, daily Instagram stories featured a new bartender who mixed up cocktails. Then viewers were encouraged to tip that bartender. Tips went entirely to the bartender, and Bacardi matched each tip with a tip of its own to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

We also shifted, in just a few days, our production to help make hand sanitizer. Across more than half of our sites, operations teams switched gears to produce the much-needed product and, most importantly, donated it to first responders in their local communities. From the U.S. to Mexico to Scotland to France and other markets, across brands we changed our daily routines to help make hand sanitizer. 

This move wasn’t about making a profit. We did it because it was the right thing to do for our people and our local communities. It’s another example of balancing priorities. And in the moment, the priority for us was to provide free hand sanitizer to those who needed it urgently: hospitals, police officers, firefighters and others working to protect us against the virus.

While these examples were during a unique situation, the same principles of doing the right thing influence our everyday decisions. From our pricing, marketing and investments in the on-premise, each move we make is rooted in thinking about how we make the next 10 years at Bacardi the best 10 years that the company has ever seen. 

That’s the beauty of working for a family owned company: legacy matters. And how we act today will help protect that legacy and the Bacardi name for the next 100 years. 

Matt Deegan

SVP – Chief Sales Officer | Wine & Spirits Division 

Constellation Brands

As consumer goods businesses operating in a dynamic marketplace, we all face the challenge of balancing conflicting priorities. It is critical for us to remain flexible, agile and ahead of the curve so that we can remain strong collaborators to our partners in the three-tier system, while driving our business strategy amid an ever-changing consumer environment.

This applies to how we work with all of our partners, alcohol boards, distributors and retailers across unique markets. This is not always easy, especially as we navigate respective state regulations, pricing and listing criteria, delivery systems, distribution and outlets.  As an active member of NABCA, we are able to leverage the wealth of data and insights while actively contributing insights to continue to drive our industry forward. It is critical to our collective success, especially in the critical control state network, that we work in a transparent, open and collaborative atmosphere, and NABCA is a key partner in this respect. 

The need for openness and agility especially applies to how we connect with and stay ahead of consumer preferences. As a strategic imperative, we push ourselves to be consumer-obsessed in everything we do. The consumer is always our #1 priority. 

We know that our customers and partners also succeed when the needs of the consumer are placed ahead of all else. While the landscape is not always easy to navigate, when faced with conflicting priorities, we make decisions knowing that as long as we are relentless in delivering exceptional consumer experiences through our distinctive brands and products, we will all win together.

Scott Schrader

SVP/GM Control States, Diageo North America

Diageo

United As One

“Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” 
– Henry Ford, American Industrialist and Founder of the Ford Motor Company

Nothing brings America together as one nation faster than a challenge to our way of life. And, currently, our country is facing what is, and will be, one of the greatest challenges of our lifetimes.  

As I write this in mid-April, the world seems to be changing rapidly and on a daily basis. What is striking is that differences, which in recent years may have divided us, now fade into the background and, as a country, we are united as one behind a common goal of defeating the threat that is raging across the globe and this nation. 

As critical measures have been put into place to help protect the public’s health, the industry has not been immune to significant consequences. Suppliers are struggling to navigate through uncertain times, treasured bars and restaurants have been forced to cease on-premise consumption, the craft industry is in danger of losing much of its innovative base and the control states have been challenged to keep their warehouse and retail operations afloat. Social distancing and teleworking have become the new norm and, of course, travel has all but been eliminated for the time being. 

Yet, despite all of the challenges, the true American spirit continues to shine through as the industry rallies around a common cause. Setting aside the competitive nature of our business, for instance, the 15-member companies that comprise the NABCA Industry Advisory Committee have worked together in support of the control state mission. There has also been a common recognition by the control state governors that our industry is an essential business and, therefore, we should continue to make our products available to consumers. 

There have been inspired bright spots in many markets as well, like permitting cocktails-to-go in support of the on-premise trade.  Regulators have also suspended license fees and, in some instances, waived warehouse charges in recognition of supply chain challenges. The sense of community within our industry has never been stronger.

While it is important that the industry strive to preserve businesses that have been built over decades, it is also critical that we all take care of ourselves and each other during these trying times. Incredible examples of compassion and raising one another up have been witnessed, and it is important that such compassion continue well beyond the current crisis. 

The industry, I am proud to say, has also stepped up in support of those most impacted. Collectively, our companies have contributed millions towards local communities and in support of the on-premise trade and its employees. In addition, suppliers have recalibrated operations to produce and distribute hand sanitizer – donated to retailers, health workers and first responders. Diageo has been doing its part wherever possible, including contributions to the bar and restaurant community, through organizations like the United States Bartenders’ Guild Bartender Emergency Assistance Fund, and, like many suppliers, Diageo has produced and distributed hand sanitizer to our three-tier partners, including control states, for frontline workers.

This moment in time also reminds me that, as stewards of brands that have been around for decades, and in some cases even centuries, this industry has seen prior strikes against our wellbeing. Challenges in the past century alone, like two World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression and countless other obstacles, remind us that we have gone through difficult times in the past, trying times, and yet emerged stronger for the experience. The past assures us that, as an industry, we are resilient and resolved to see an even brighter future ahead. 

As we navigate through the challenge, one constant will be the importance of organizations that stand for something. To Diageo, that means valuing relationships, living our purpose and, equally important, a continued commitment to responsibility and the promotion of drink positive programs. Now, more than ever, emphasis on responsibility and safety is important and, for that reason, Diageo has developed and is promoting JoinThePact.com. The campaign asks that patrons “pledge to never drive impaired, to help make our roads safer for everyone.” A simple but important message that has already secured over 20 million pledges to date, globally. As an industry, the resounding message to not drink and drive is certainly one we can all unite behind.

In closing, I have been in the industry for a number of years, and I have seen my fair share of challenges to the business. I can say, without question, I have never been prouder than how this industry has come together in response to the current crisis. America will get through the current challenge, and it will do so with an industry united as one!  

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