THE contemporary on-trade customer expects a wealth of choice when it comes to the drinks selection in pubs and bars.
Fortunately, from beer to gin, wine to rum, there’s generally more products than ever for operators to choose from when stocking a back-bar.
But with trends in a constant state of flux, coupled with an ever-more clued up customer, it is vital that operators stay up to date of what’s in and what’s out in order to remain relevant.
With this in mind, drinks distributors have argued that it can be beneficial for licensees to deal with companies that own or distribute a broad portfolio of different brands.
Martin Dyer of Cellar Trends, which counts The London No1 gin and Chang beer brands within its portfolio, said dealing with a single company across a number of products “can be very beneficial for licensees”.
“For example, Cellar Trends can work closely with licensees, helping to design menus that offer drinks which are on trend to meet consumer needs, across a wide range of brands and categories.”
Using one drinks firm to provide all products has its benefits, such as economies of scale.
James Stocker, senior marketing director at Halewood Wines & Spirits, whose portfolio includes Whitley Neill gin, Liverpool Rum and The Pogues Irish Whiskey, took a similar stance.
He said: “Opting to use one drinks firm to provide all products has its obvious benefits, such as economies of scale, streamlined efficiencies and a wealth of knowledge and expertise.”
This knowledge and expertise was said to be one of the major selling points of working with a larger distributor or brand owner.
Stocker said that his firm employs “talented experts” who focus on identifying drinks trends.
“Our teams need to stay close to trends and anticipate consumer demands,” he said.
“That’s how we can not only dictate trends, but react to them extremely quickly with a relevant brand portfolio.”
Alan Hay, sales director at Tennent’s, agreed.
He said the firm is constantly reviewing its product range in response to changes in the market.
“We continually monitor the latest market trends, data and have a strong focus on new product development, meaning our sales team is well-placed to communicate with operators and advise on where the opportunities lie to get ahead of the competition and drive sales,” said Hay.
As well as advising on trends and drinks ranges, many drinks firms put their knowledge of the market to use by providing staff training to their customers.
“Trade education is a must for all brands no matter what level they are,” said Neil Boyd, commercial director at Ian Macleod Distillers, the firm behind Edinburgh Gin, Tamdhu and Glengoyne.
“You have to continually invest in and maintain these trade relationships because if the trade is not aware of the nature of your product, they can’t sell it.
“That’s why we have a close relationship with licensees and in particular work closely with the bartender community to support our products.”
Staff training isn’t the only way to help promote an outlet’s product range, of course, and drinks firms are also able to provide a range of marketing support to licensees.
“In terms of promotional support, we continually review our range of [point of sale] to ensure it’s eye catching and serves its purpose of promoting the brands available in the outlet and drive sales through the till,” said Hay, at Tennent’s.
“We’ll also work with outlets to identify which types of promotional support work for specific outlets.
“Each of our marketing campaigns across all our brands is devised to support the trade in one way or another, be it driving footfall into bars or directly engaging consumers whilst in outlets.”
Cost will always be a significant factor for many licensees in choosing which firms to work with.
And here, too, there can be benefits to working with a single supplier, according to William Evans, director of Cave Direct North.
“Ignoring the obvious logistical benefits such as one delivery date and one payment, we can justify more time and resources to our larger accounts and more than often the efficiencies we make from having fewer but larger deliveries can be passed on to our customers,” he said.