In 1999 I was a young pup and my parents gave me the opportunity to work in sales and marketing at their growing wine company. At the time, I didn’t know much about wine or how distribution worked but I decided: “fake it till you make it Cheryl.” I found a couple of great mentors, took a few classes and I was on my way. I traveled all over the country working the markets. I hit up sales contacts for meetings, spent endless hours standing at trade tastings, and (of course) wined and dined with distributor managers and reps. Our brand grew and we had solid communications and working relationships with our wholesalers. The distributor/supplier dynamic was fairly neutral at the time and neither side held ultimate power. We both needed each other and that was a nice place to be.
Fast forward to now. Things have changed. Distributors have consolidated (from 7,000 in the mid-90’s to less than 700 now). The number of wineries, distilleries and breweries has increased dramatically, thanks to the craft movement and some great legislation that removed the expensive barriers to entry on the licensing side. Today, many brands are looking for distribution and there are very few distribution options in each state. In most cases a Maker must use a distributor to legally get to market.
Guess who holds all of the power now?
The truth is that unless you are Bacardi, or Constellation, or The Wine Group, or Jackson Family Wines, or one of the big suppliers, distributors don’t need your brand. Try calling/pitching 10 distributors and see how many responses you get. Many distributors are shedding brands and not taking on new ones. Even if you happen to get distribution (make sure you bring 10-15 good solid placements with you, preferably a corporate account), distributors expect suppliers to have their own in-market sales plan. That involves a broker, 3 ½ tier marketing company or YOU, to be on the road and in sales meetings, managing accounts and making your own “rain.”
For small to mid-sized Makers, this is a losing battle. It’s very challenging to work with the big guys, get on their programming calendars, or into the market to call on accounts. If you work with the small guys they charge more margin (sometimes 35-40%!) because their costs are higher. And let’s be honest, small distributors can be very slow to pay. (Have you seen this site? It used to be called “NoPayWineDistributors.com).
In this environment, what’s a new or up-and-coming brand to do?
LibDib. We are a licensed wholesaler utilizing a web platform that allows ANY Maker (link to: to do business with ANY Restaurant, Bar or Retailer. We are a distributor in that we pay the taxes, we report to the state, we price post, we keep all the relevant records and we ensure that the Buyers are holding the correct licenses to purchase different alcohol types. Our platform also has some other very cool tools like reorder reminders and “FaceTaste” (which we will launch soon).
We are the middleman, but we are the best middleman a Maker will ever have. We are extremely transparent about how much money we make per transaction (an average of 15% or half of what others charge) and we encourage direct communications between both parties. Our lower margin covers shipping costs and “feet on the street.” We allow ANY BRAND that wants can and are encouraged to communicate directly with their own accounts.
LibDib is distribution, done differently. Come check us out.