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Wine industry looks to small distributors

Published on March 4, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on April 1, 2011 7:19AM


Capital Press

EUGENE, Ore. -- Wine distribution may be dominated by behemoths, but that doesn't mean small wineries have to be marginalized.

Massive consolidation among distributors has created a void in many markets that smaller companies have eagerly filled, said winery owner Ellen Brittan.

Small distributors have siphoned clients away from major distributors because of their ability to focus more closely on a limited portfolio, she said.

Though smaller distributors are generally more personally attentive, some can pay their bills and others can't, Brittan said.

Before signing on with a distributor, wineries should solicit advice from other producers who have dealt with the company, she said.

Wineries are more successful if they work on their marketing and brand awareness independently, even before reaching out to a distributor, said Alex Kroblin, founder of the Thirst Wine Merchants distribution firm.

"We're not opposed to building from scratch, but we don't want to build everything from scratch," he said.

Consumers may claim not to be influenced by wine names and label designs, but such factors actually weigh heavily on buying decisions, Kroblin said. Distributors seek companies that recognize this reality and represent themselves professionally.

"If it looks like it's a hobby for you, it's not going to be part of my business," he said.


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