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Is Your Drinks Business Sales Strategy Stifled by Myths?

Is Your Drinks Business Sales Strategy Stifled by Myths?

Men drink beer, women drink wine, and sailors love a swig o’ rum. Not only are generalisations like these culturally dated – they can also damage a drinks business, especially if they’re taken to heart and applied to its strategy.


With every passing year we see ever more empirical evidence that confounds long-held stereotypes about the demography of drink.

For instance, research from the Brewers’ Association in the United States shows that young women (aged 21-34) are now over-index on craft beer consumption, accounting for 15% of the total volume consumed.

National stereotypes too can be confounded. For instance, Croatia consumes more wine annually than France (46.9 vs. 43.1 litres per capita), despite Gerard Depardieu’s best efforts.

How to identify the demographics that really matter to your business

In all seriousness, a distributor’s business strategy can be severely hampered by incorrect suppositions about customer demographics, or by the use of broad demographics which are only loosely applicable to the business.

The demographics that really matter to your business are contained within your sales data – from groups of geographical locations with similar ordering habits, to subsets of supermarket stockists that serve similar types of customers.

By trawling your order data for commonalities amongst certain types of client (e.g. “Group A orders a high volume of whiskey”; “Group B tends to order products of above-average probability”), you can identify highly specific demographics with proven relevance to your work.

Once you’ve identified one of your key demographics based on a common behaviour or product preference, you can target products and promotions from appropriate manufacturers towards retailers within that group.


Not only can this approach help distributors identify opportunities to satisfy retailers with an offering that meets the demand they’re experiencing; it may also help them spot emerging drink trends before their competitors do. This knowledge brings with it the chance to tailor your portfolio and promotions towards the new trend, thereby positioning yourself at the head of the curve.

Advocating trends with the 4 ‘M’s and the 4 ‘P’s

Now you’ve picked out a demographic trend and gathered a dependable volume of order data to verify it, you can look to increase orders of relevant products by advocating that trend and making retailers aware of it.

To convince retailers of the new trend (and ultimately capture their orders), consider creating a report highlighting the same sales data that first captured your attention. This enables a convincing sales pitch:

  •        We’ve had lots of [Product Type X] ordered by retailers/customers like yours over the last month;
  •        We’re helping retailers latch on to the new trend with [discounts on Product Type X/new products in the Product Type X category];
  •        Here’s how to order and capitalise on the trend.

The steps described above amount to the bare bones of a lean strategy for championing a trend. For the best chance of convincing retailers, we recommend further developing the eight following elements of your pitch:

First, the 4 ‘M’s of marketing:

  •        Market – who’s the customer for the product? The answer lies in the demographic you’ve ascribed the trend to.
  •        Merchandise – have you carefully identified the perfect product(s) to capitalise on the trend?
  •        Message – what’s your elevator pitch to sell retailers on the trend?
  •        Media – from email newsletters and in-app notifications to phone calls and in-person consultations, what are the best methods for communicating with targeted retailers?

Plus, 4 ‘P’s of drink distribution:

  •        Place – which data can you highlight to show retailers customers are looking for this type of product at stores/bars/pubs/restaurants/hotels like theirs?
  •        Product – what will the product offer to the retail market? Think in terms of the cache an on-trend drink can offer, as well as direct sales.
  •        Price – why is the product good value for the retailer, and how much do they stand to profit from it?
  •        Promotion – what will your approach to promoting the trend be, based on your chosen methods of communication (media)?

Nail these eight points, and you’ll have a polished proposition capable of communicating and advocating a new trend.

The value of spotting trends first

In December 2016, the London-based craft gin brand Sipsmith had proven popular and profitable enough to attract a successful buyout by Beam Suntory.

Just eight years previously, the distillery’s co-founder, Sam Galsworthy, was delivering product to stockists by bicycle, as he couldn’t find a distributor willing to work with a craft gin brand.

We’ve chosen to highlight this story, because we think it’s striking that a market clearly existed for Sipsmith’s product before distributors recognised and targeted that market. They were missing a trick.

Many distributors have jumped on board with the gin revival in the years since Galsworthy had to cycle from stockist-to-stockist. They’ve helped the UK gin industry reach a projected value of £2bn in the UK, and a projected sales volume of 150,000 nine-litre cases per year in the Republic of Ireland.

If your distribution company was one of the first to work with a craft gin maker like Sipsmith in the early 2010s, you will likely have reaped rewards including a strong relationship with a growing manufacturer, a reputation amongst retailers as the conduit to the trendiest new drinks, and, of course, escalating order figures as the new “gin craze” set in.

The data you need to be at the head of the curve when the next drinks trend emerges is all there in your sales figures. Crunch the numbers regularly, identify emerging demographics based on common tastes, and make your case as the distributor-in-the-know to turn that data into growth.