They are: Cricket Hill Brewing Co. (Fairfield, N.J., USA), Erie Brewing Co. (Erie, Pa., USA), Belfast Bay Brewing Co. (Belfast, Maine, USA), Defiant Brewing Co. (Pearl River, N.Y., USA), Hook & Ladder Brewing Co. (Silver Spring, Md., USA), The Lion Brewery (Wilkes-Barre, Pa., USA), Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery (Warwick, N.Y., USA) and Stevens Point Brewery (Steven Point, Wis., USA), as well as breweries abroad, Okocim Brewery (Poland) and Mythos Brewery (Greece). “We are probably going to grow 10,000 cases in all of these small niche brands that we’ve picked up,” Politano anticipates for 2009.
Kohler also expanded its wine portfolio. Six new brands to join the 3-year-old division are Martin Fierro, Dancing Bear, Viña La Rosa, Sharpe Hill, St. Christopher and Vittore. Politano expects to double the wine portfolio’s growth this year, estimating 2009 sales to reach 16,000 cases.
“We’ve found some growth by just expanding our portfolio,” Politano says. “Between [craft beer and wine], we are probably going to add close to 20,000 incremental cases to our portfolio, and that’s all through our expansion efforts.”
In addition to expanding its portfolio, Kohler also has expanded its reach by adding two new sales reps in three counties outside of the company’s core four-county market in northern New Jersey.
To improve sales, the company created a hybrid sales system where the top 25 percent of off-premise volume has a dedicated off-premise only sales team, as does the top 25 percent volume of on-premise, explains Politano. Implemented in August 2008, the hybrid sales system approach is paying off for Kohler. “Those routes are driving all of our growth,” Politano says.
Continuing to invest in the company, a reset position was added. “One of the primary reasons we did that was being that there is such segmentation in the beer category now, we feel that it is an asset to the retailer for us to have a qualified, professional, fact-based person to be able to go into a retail account and help organize shelf space to maximize profits,” says Politano. With the recent business development changes, Politano stresses the No. 1 focus has been the 175 Kohler employees. “No matter what we do, our people are the most important resource we have and we are never going to do anything at the expense of our people,” he says. “We know all of our people; we are like a family, so we try to keep that in perspective and our people appreciate that a lot.”
As a result of the recent steps that have been taken, Politano says, “We feel pretty bullish that when things turn around we are going to be really poised to be even more successful than we are—it hits the bottom line.”