This is the sixth year that StateWays is recognizing control jurisdictions for their innovative programs through the Best Practices Awards. In addition to a number of strong winners in individual categories, this is the first year we’ve had a repeat winner of the Overall award.
All beverage control agencies in North America are eligible to enter the awards, including states, provinces, counties and municipalities. The winners are chosen by a panel of judges made up of StateWays editorial staff.
The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is this year’s “Best of the Best” overall winner, repeating its feat from 2017 thanks to operational excellence in a number of areas.
Normally, we present the awards to winners in person at the NABCA Administrators Conference. This year’s event in Charlotte will take place virtually due to the pandemic, so we will present the awards virtually as part of that online conference.
Don’t know why your agency didn’t make the list of winners? Be sure to enter the 2021 Best Practices Awards! Entries will open in April 2021 at StateWays.com/bestpractices.
Overall Winner: New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Liquor Commission has racked up a number of wins in the Control State Best Practices Awards, and 2020 is no exception. The NHLC is the Overall Winner this year, after winning in 2015 for Best Technology Innovation and in 2016 for Best Warehouse Innovation, as well as Overall Winner for the Control State Best Practices Awards in 2017. We’ve highlighted just a few of the areas in which the Granite State’s Liquor Commission excels.
NHLC is committed to staying at the forefront of retail trends, says its Chairman Joseph Mollica, “which led us to explore implementing a pilot program for electronic tags.” The program launched in summer 2019 in the Concord NH Liquor & Wine Outlet, which is located near the NHLC headquarters. All five locations were up and running by November 2019.
The system allows for centralized, real-time price updates to increase efficiency and accuracy, as well as decrease labor costs. This is no easy feat, considering a diverse inventory of 14,000 wines and spirits offered across 76 NH Liquor & Wine Outlets.
Were there any issues with the implementation? “There are always challenges when implementing a new technology,” Mollica admits, “but I cannot speak highly enough of our team, which worked methodically to test and adjust the program to ensure the rollout was seamless.”
The team tackled different sections to test the technology and provide proof of concept, he explains. “They would start with one location, in this case the Concord NH Liquor & Wine Outlet, and once they were comfortable with the way the tags looked and operated, they moved on to the other locations.”
In addition to the price updates, the electronic tag program also allows NHLC to highlight items for sale and to apply promotions as soon as they launch. What’s more, electronic tags enable consumers to use their smartphones in stores to interact with products. When consumers select a product on the website on their smartphones, the corresponding tag blinks one of six colors to signal the location of the product on the shelf to the shopper.
The program has allowed the NHLC to reallocate time that would normally have been spent manually pricing items to tasks such as assisting customers and replenishing store shelves. “The store operations team estimates that we save between 32 employee hours per month for a smaller outlet, and up to 110 employee hours per month for our largest outlet,” Mollica says. “Specific to our largest outlet, the Nashua NH Liquor & Wine Outlet in the Willow Springs Plaza, employees spend less than one hour each month with electronic tags, versus an estimated 110 hours per month with the previous paper tags.”
Going forward, the electronic tag system has the capacity to provide consumers with additional product information, through text, images — even video — with the use of their smartphones. As it implements the electronic tags in more stores, the NHLC will activate this feature.
With the increasing popularity of alcohol-free craft cocktails, the NHLC launched the first-ever New Hampshire Mocktail Week, which ran concurrently with the commission’s second annual Distiller’s Week Nov. 4 to Nov. 10, 2019. A continuation of its award-winning responsibility campaign, “Live Free and Host Responsibly,” the Mocktail Week highlighted local licensees during a prominent week for socializing and dining out, while helping to support a stigma-free, more-inclusive drinking culture in New Hampshire.
The NHLC collaborated with Brown-Forman and grassroots movement The Mocktail Project to create a statewide program in which bars and restaurants promote alcohol-free or “mocktail” drink options to consumers. To incentivize operator participation, NHLC offered coupons for 10% off NH Liquor & Wine Outlet purchases, up to $10,000. Nearly 30 bars and restaurants signed up to craft mocktails and feature alcohol-free beverages on their regular menus during New Hampshire Mocktail Week.
Materials housed on NHLC’s Responsibility webpage and a landing page on The Mocktail Project’s website supported the campaign, including:
- A convenient online sign-up form for restaurants and bars.
- Resources for participating restaurants on the mocktail movement and how to promote and incorporate these beverages into the menu.
- Mocktail recipes and professionally produced mocktail tutorial videos.
- Resources for engaging on social media, including a dedicated hashtag and specific Facebook pages and Instagram handles.
NHLC kicked off the program on Nov. 1, 2019, with the announcement of the state’s first official mocktail — the Sunset Squam. The no-proof libation, which pays homage to the Squam Lake made famous in the 1981 film On Golden Pond, combines local Squamscot ginger ale, New Hampshire maple syrup, cinnamon simple syrup and fresh lemon juice.
“We’re proud of the variety of New Hampshire brands available at our NH Liquor & Wine Outlets,” says Mollica, who’s been chairman since 2010. “From alcohol-free mixers to hand-crafted wines and spirits, we are committed to showcasing quality, New Hampshire-made products.”
Mollica says that the NHLC is working with Brown-Forman to develop concepts for evolving the New Hampshire Mocktail Week program for 2020. “We are in the process of planning a responsibility campaign that will adapt to the virtual format of a number of our events and the trend of more at-home enjoyment of wine and spirits.”
Cheers to Tax-Free Libations
The NHLC celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2019 with a yearlong campaign, “85 Years of Cheers.” Beginning in spring 2019, the program emphasized NHLC’s history and impact, along with its longstanding commitment to savings, selection and service.
NHLC kicked off “85 Years of Cheers” with an online giveaway, in which NHLC randomly awarded 85 customers with 85% off their purchases of either $250 or $1,000 at NH Liquor & Wine Outlets. The commission created a custom website to help commemorate the milestone, featuring details on sales and giveaways, historic images and NHLC history.
Along with offering customers opportunities to win 85% discounts, NHLC unveiled a selection of exclusive and rare wines and spirits that were only for sale at NH Liquor & Wine Outlet locations. These selections included an 85-year-old Dartigalongue Bas Armagnac, JCB #85 Sonoma Pinot Noir produced exclusively for NH Liquor & Wine Outlets by Jean-Charles Boisset, a large-format 1.5-liter magnum wine from Castello Banfi and single-barrel whiskey and tequila offerings.
NHLC randomly selected customer discount winners from March through August 2019. Two customers won 85% off their purchases of $1,000, while 83 customers won 85% off their purchases of $250. As part of the celebration, NHLC also awarded dozens of prizes to customers during a series of special in-store events. A one-day sale on Aug. 15, 2019, enabled customers to save 15% off the purchase of all New Hampshire-made wines and spirits at any of NHLC’s 76 NH Liquor & Wine Outlets.
As part of 85 Years of Cheers, NHLC reinvigorated its “No Taxation on our Libations” sale, which highlights that New Hampshire is always tax-free by offering customers discounts of double their states’ sales tax rates. As part of the sale, Maine customers received an 11% discount, Vermont customers got a 12% discount and Massachusetts customers received a 13% discount. Customers from New Hampshire and all other states were eligible for the 13% discount.
During the 2019 campaign, 42,118 customers used their No Taxation on Our Libations coupon, Mollica says. In addition to supporting overall sales in 2019, the promotion drove considerable engagement on social media in the New England market, with nearly 500,000 impressions between Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont, and close to 5,000 clicks between those same three states. “We will very likely reintroduce this program in the near future,” he notes.
Jazzing It Up — Best Consumer Education Program
While NHLC has made an intimate, guided wine tasting seminar a prominent component of its annual New Hampshire Wine Week, the commission introduced a new take on its Cellar Notes series in 2019. “Cellar Notes: An Evening of Wine and Music” paired live music by local singer/songwriter Ali Beaudry with a panel of winemakers. The panelists, who included Dave Phinney of Orin Swift, Lisa Evich of SIMI, Mark Neal of Neal Family Vineyards and Craig McAllister of La Crema Winery, took part in an interactive discussion and guided tasting.
Previous iterations of Cellar Notes have addressed the differences between Old World and New World wines, showcased the “Women of Wine” and even hosted its own mini “Pinot Camp” to dive into the complex world of pinot noir. While wine aficionados love the in-depth opportunity to explore wines and wineries with guidance from the winemakers, the NHLC wanted to find a way to maintain the seminar format, while also appealing to a broader audience.
The 2019 Cellar Notes, which took place on Jan. 22, provided an engaging and relaxing atmosphere for learning about and tasting wine. NHLC plans to continue incorporating a musical component into future Cellar Notes events.
In addition to Cellar Notes, the 2020 New Hampshire Wine Week featured more than 60 wine world stars who met directly with consumers in a series of exclusive tastings, wine dinners, bottle signings and seminars. The week-long celebration of wine, which took place from Jan. 20-25, 2020, featured one of the largest wine events in the country, the 17th annual Winter Wine Spectacular. The Winter Wine Spectacular benefits Easterseals New Hampshire and attracts more than 1,500 guests to sample more than 1,800 fine wines each year.
The NHLC has long viewed the New Hampshire nonprofit community as one of its core stakeholders as nonprofit organizations provide key services all over the state. The commission’s first priority is maximizing revenue for the New Hampshire General Fund, Mollica says, “but NHLC has always been open to finding ways to support New Hampshire’s nonprofit community.
Beginning in 2015, “NHLC leadership undertook an effort to develop strategic partnerships with brokers and suppliers to make a positive impact on New Hampshire’s nonprofit community,” he notes. NHLC exceeded the $2.3 million mark in January 2020, following three successful events for Best Buddies New Hampshire, the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (ARLNH) and Easterseals New Hampshire.
For example, all proceeds from the Winter Wine Spectacular support Easterseals New Hampshire’s Early Supports and Services program, which serves children from birth to three years old who are born with a disability, special need or developmental delay. Since the Winter Wine Spectacular’s inception 17 years ago, the event has raised nearly $2.4 million for Easterseals New Hampshire, and raised $182,000 for Easterseals New Hampshire during 2020 alone.
NHLC in November 2019 expanded its annual Pappy Van Winkle Raffle benefiting Best Buddies New Hampshire by offering additional prizes. The initiative generated interest from across the country for a prize package of Pappy Van Winkle’s 10-year, 12-year, 15-year, 20-year and 23-year bourbons, along with items from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and an all-expense-paid trip to New Hampshire for Distiller’s Week. The exclusive raffle sold the maximum 2,000 tickets costing $100 each. Best Buddies New Hampshire offers one-to-one friendship and leadership development programs — positively impacting nearly 7,920 individuals with and without disabilities in New Hampshire.
Also in November 2019, proceeds from NHLC’s Distiller’s Showcase of Premium Spirits supported the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (ARLNH), which works to improve animal welfare by assisting more than 2,200 pets and their owners each year. Since inception, the Distiller’s Showcase, which features more than 400 premium and ultra-premium spirits for sampling and draws more than 1,000 people, has delivered more than $500,000 to ARLNH.
NHLC has worked with suppliers and brokers over the past six years to raise more than $2.4 million for nonprofit organizations making an impact in New Hampshire and beyond, Mollica says. In addition to Easterseals New Hampshire, Best Buddies New Hampshire and ARLNH, NHLC has worked with suppliers and brokers in support of nonprofit organizations, including Homes for Our Troops, Operation Care for Troops, New Hampshire Food Bank, Toys for Tots, Granite United Way, Concord Hospital, Crotched Mountain Foundation, Community Foundation Sonoma County, Napa Valley Community Foundation, and the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association.
Mollica says the NHLC evaluates opportunities to collaborate with nonprofit organizations on a case-by-case basis, and plans to build on its fundraising success. The commission is expanding its raffle program to provide an even greater benefit to New Hampshire nonprofits, while also showcasing the rare and exclusive products it offers.