WHAT IS A BEER DISTRIBUTOR?

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Beer distributors provide transportation, refrigerated storage and maintenance for perishable beer from the time it leaves the brewer until it arrives at the retailer. Distributors ensure beer is handled safely and sold only to licensed retailers.

VARIETY

Distributors secure beer from a wide variety of brewers and importers and preserve the perishable products in a temperature controlled warehouse. They then deliver customized inventory based on the requirements of each individual retailer including restaurants, bars and neighborhood stores. After delivery, the distributor continues to monitor retailer shelves to ensure product freshness and integrity. This system has given consumers and retailers unparallel access to a wide variety of choice and selection.

SAFE STORAGE AND TRANSPORTATION

The distributor’s infrastructure, including state-of-the-art warehouses and fleets of temperature controlled trucks and vehicles, combined with the warehousing, delivery, driver and merchandising personnel, ensures the efficient and safe delivery of a wide range of products, resulting in immense consumer choice at a great value. While providing choice and value to retailers and consumers, distributors work simultaneously with state regulators to ensure accountability of these unique products and an orderly marketplace. Distributors also remove and destroy beer reaching its expiration date, and are critical in tracking shipments in the event of a recall.

CHAIN OF CUSTODY

The distribution system provides a clear chain of custody and accountability in the sale of malt beverage products, making it easier to police and penalize establishments that are found guilty of serving to underage patrons or otherwise violating the terms of their liquor license.

TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE

The same regulations that provide accountability in malt beverage sales also ensure states can efficiently collect taxes on alcohol products. Because they retain the ability to monitor the sale of the products from the time the beer leaves the brewery until it arrives at a licensed retail outlet, distributors are often best equipped to collect state taxes. For this reason, many states find it easier to collect taxes from a limited number of federally licensed beer distributors than the hundreds or thousands of retail establishments in their state that sell alcohol products.

MARKET ACCESS

The beer distribution system also makes the most economic sense. It provides the best method for smaller breweries to get their beers into a diverse marketplace and provides small retailers and consumers the best variety and choice of beer at a great value. This system provides a level playing field for all brewers and all retailers.

STATE ALCOHOL REGULATION

Alcohol is not like other consumer goods; a point well illustrated by the fact that it is the subject of two constitutional amendments. Alcohol beverages are unique and can have consequences if abused by adults or consumed by those underage. As society addresses problems like underage drinking and drunk driving, the importance of maintaining effective state alcohol regulation is critical.

Moreover, state regulation allows states the flexibility to deal with local circumstances. A one-size-fits-all approach to alcohol regulation simply doesn’t work. People in New York feel very differently about alcohol than those in Kentucky. The 21st Amendment was designed to reflect local thought on the level of regulation needed for alcohol, and beer distributors work hand in hand with state regulators to further the state’s different approaches to regulation.

RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION

Beer distributors are leaders in their communities as small business owners, civic activists, parents, religious leaders and philanthropists. As such, the 92,000 men and women of the beer distributing industry know that they are their own best advocates when it comes to eliminating illegal underage purchase and consumption of licensed beverages and drunk driving.

Beer distributors play a vital role in their communities by sponsoring a vast array of programs that promote responsible consumption. The programs range from providing free taxi rides home for restaurant patrons who do not have a designated driver, to sponsoring alcohol-free after prom events and producing educational materials to help parents talk to their children about illegal underage drinking.

Distributors also promote alcohol education initiatives that bring guest speakers into local schools and community centers guest speakers who have made mistakes about alcohol, but have lived to retell their story and encourage others not to make the same mistakes. To learn more about these programs, read Beer Wholesalers: Promoting Responsibility in Their Communities.

THE BEER DISTRIBUTOR’S IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY

The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) represents more than 2,750 licensed independent beer distributors with operations located in every congressional district and state across the nation.

Beer distributors employ approximately 91,000 American workers, paying them more than $4.9 billion collectively in wages and benefits. The overall economic contribution from America’s beer distributors is a whopping $11.6 billion. For a state-by-state breakdown of the economic benefits of the entire beer industry, visit www.beerservesamerica.org.

SKETCH OF A DISTRIBUTOR

Beer distributors are small, independent businesses that contribute in numerous ways to the communities that they serve. On average, a beer distributor employs about 48 workers. Most distributorships are family-owned and operated with deep roots in their local community. The beer industry has been recognized as one of the top employers in the U.S., providing excellent wages and benefits for American workers.

To run a successful beer distribution company, a variety of employees are needed. From warehouse personnel, sales and marketing professionals to driver-salespeople, management and logistics personnel, beer distribution has rapidly developed into a high-tech industry. A wide variety of skilled professionals are needed to keep these businesses operating every day.

It is common business practice for distributors to monitor their delivery trucks using the latest technology. Many distributors utilize GPS systems to monitor each delivery vehicle and salesperson. Pagers, cell phones, personal data accessories and other handheld devices are also standard operating equipment.

Warehouse personnel are responsible for taking inventory daily - often several times each day. Beer inventory is labeled using bar code technology, radio frequency identification (RFID) and other methods. Warehouse employees use special electronic equipment to track inventory. When beer is being prepared for delivery, each order is given its own pallet, affixed with a purchase order and prepared in a way to provide customization and accountability. The beer is then loaded onto the delivery trucks. Each retail outlet receives a customized inventory specifically prepared for its unique needs.

Since distributors operate fleets of trucks and other vehicles, it is necessary to maintain a truck service center within the operation. This requires a staff of full-time mechanics to handle day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of the trucks and to take care of major maintenance needs.

While beer distributors are closely aligned with some of the nationally recognized brands they sell, each one is an independent business serving the community by providing jobs and tax revenue, sponsoring local events and contributing to local philanthropies.


HOW DOES THE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM BENEFIT THE CONSUMER?

CHOICE

By working with numerous brewers - large and small, import and domestic - distributors are able to provide an immense amount of choice and variety for consumers. Beer distributors allow all beer brands - from multinational beer brands to the smallest local microbrews - equal access to the market. This helps ensure a level playing field for large and small brewers.

MARKET ACCESS

Beer distributors help small brewers grow and compete by maximizing their sales reach; they unlock the market for startup and small beer brands and other innovative beverages. Distributors provide the infrastructure small brewers need to reach a wide network of retailers. Consumers benefit by having the choice between the largest and smallest brands, all on the same store shelf, restaurant list and bar tap. Because of the economic investments of beer distributors, these restaurants and retailers are able to respond to changing consumer demands and offer hundreds of choices at a great value.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND RESPONSBILITY

Beer distributors also give back to their communities. While they are closely identified with some of the nationally known brands they sell, beer distributor companies are actually small businesses, active in economic development and local business groups. Distributors support local events such as community festivals, sporting events and philanthropies. They sponsor numerous programs to encourage the responsible and moderate consumption of beer, and work hard to keep their products out of the hands of youth. Beer distributors employ more than 92,000 Americans nationwide.

HISTORY OF BEER DISTRIBUTION

When Prohibition was repealed with the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, a system was established to help facilitate a balanced and orderly marketplace and to ensure local control of alcohol beverages. This system has four primary goals:
1. To facilitate state and local control;
2. To generate tax revenues that can be collected efficiently from the industry;
3. To promote temperance, moderation and an orderly marketplace; and
4. To avoid the overly aggressive marketing and sales practices of the pre-Prohibition era.
Today's distributors operate under many federal, state and local regulations concerning when, where, to whom and how their products are sold. In fact, few American industries are more highly regulated than the beer industry.

Read more in our section on the American Beer Distribution System.

FIGHTING UNDERAGE DRINKING AND DRUNK DRIVING

Beer distributors are committed to ensuring that the products they provide are consumed legally, responsibly and safely. The beer industry actively promotes responsible consumption of its products by sponsoring and participating in many community-based efforts, such as alcohol education programs in local schools, safe ride home programs, the creation and placement of public service announcements (PSAs) promoting responsibility, education materials, alcohol-free prom and graduation after-parties, safety training courses for alcohol beverage servers, safe boating campaigns and designated driver programs.

NBWA also sponsors several alcohol education efforts on behalf of its distributor membership. NBWA produces print public service announcements for individual distributors to place in their local newspapers and distributes audio PSAs to radio stations to promote responsible and moderate consumption and discourage illegal underage drinking and drunk driving. NBWA has also produced video PSAs featuring nationally known entertainers, elected officials and professional athletes.

The Beer Wholesalers: Promoting Responsibility in Their Communities brochure is also produced by NBWA. This brochure recognizes the efforts of its individual beer distributors members who are fighting drunk driving, alcohol abuse and illegal underage drinking in their communities.

The Commitment to Responsibility brochure is produced by The Beer Institute and highlighted the many programs brewers sponsor to fight alcohol abuse.