ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Today, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) kicked off its 83rd Annual Convention and Product Showcase. For the first time ever, the Convention is bringing beer distributors, industry pioneers and innovative exhibitors together through a virtual platform.
“It’s great to be here with all of you in the virtual world as we celebrate yet another year of this outstanding industry,” said Craig Purser, NBWA President and CEO. “As I have said, there is nothing traditional about 2020, but one thing that never changes is our industry’s strength when we work together.”
NBWA’s outgoing Chairman Brian Gelner started the day reflecting on beer distributors’ response to COVID-19 and how NBWA quickly transformed into mission control to guide and support the industry in a time of great uncertainty. Gelner highlighted major steps taken by NBWA that helped distributors navigate the crisis, including working with policymakers to ensure distributors were deemed essential; providing relevant, real-time information to members; and sharing best practices on members’ most pressing challenges.
“As future NBWA leaders look back on 2020, they will see the COVID crisis,” said Gelner. “But they will also see this year as a time that highlighted the strength of the beer industry and the value of our association. Ultimately, we are a network of family-owned businesses that came together – regardless of our brands – for the greater good of the industry and our communities nationwide.”
In addition to remarks from Purser and Gelner, attendees heard from two experts in the beer distribution industry – NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones and Publisher and Editor of Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS Benj Steinman. Jones and Steinman discussed the unprecedented disruptions the beer industry faced this year, and each provided a perspective on what the future might hold, including the significant shifts in supplier market share as seltzers continue to grow.
Next, attendees received an update on the Beer Growth Initiative (BGI), an industry-wide effort to grow the beer category. NBWA Senior Vice President and CFO Kim McKinnish led conversations with distributors and partners supporting BGI efforts, including Blair Watson, Anheuser-Busch Brand Manager at Brown Distributing; Mike Barnes, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer of Andrews Distributing; Adam Vitale, President of G&M Distributors; and Krista Nicholson, President of Motive, the campaign’s creative marketing agency. McKinnish shared that later this month, the #BeersToThat consumer campaign will be rolled out nationwide and more resources have been added to the Beer First sales execution toolkit to assist members in telling the positive story of beer.
To round out the day, NBWA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Laurie Knight facilitated a conversation between former House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) and former House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), who provided their analysis of the current political landscape and discussed what to expect in the homestretch of this election season.
In addition to dynamic speakers, the Convention features 17 education seminars and a virtual Product Showcase that allows distributors to connect with exhibitors and learn more about their products through a digital exhibit hall.
“We had a terrific virtual exchange of ideas on day one of our Convention,” said Purser. “While we always would prefer to share a cold beer in person, we are happy we can connect virtually. See you tomorrow for day two of the general session. Cheers!”
During the production of the 83rd Annual NBWA Convention and Product Showcase, COVID-19 mitigation procedures were followed. Masks were worn by participants when off-camera and physical distancing was practiced by participants and the production crew. Temperature checks were conducted on those entering the production studio and participants and guests were asked to self-monitor for any sign of infection or illness. CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidance was followed related to gathering size and suggested protocol.
The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) represents America’s 3,000 independent beer distributors with operations in every state, congressional district and media market across the country. Licensed at the federal and state levels, beer distributors get bottles, cans, cases and kegs from a brewer or importer to stores, restaurants and other licensed retail accounts through a transparent and accountable regulatory system. Distributors build brands of all sizes -- from familiar domestic beers to new startup labels and imports from around the world – and generate enormous consumer choice while supporting 142,000 quality jobs in their home communities. Beer distributors work locally to keep communities safe by sponsoring programs to promote responsible consumption, combat drunk driving and work to eliminate underage drinking.