Beer distributors are often the unsung heroes of the craft beer industry, as they take a chance on pushing new brands into new territories and help to increase the rise of craft beer across the country. Mims Distributing in Raleigh, N.C., for example, a Miller wholesaler, used to carry just five craft beer brands 10 years ago. Now? According to this great profile on the News & Observer, craft and import beers make up nearly 40 percent of Mims’ business.
“It’s like any business, you’ve got to adapt to what is going on or you’re gonna die,” CEO Chip Mims said. “It just so happens that we love beer.”
After years of stagnant sales triggered by the recession and its slow-growth aftermath — which Chip attributed to some beer drinkers, especially blue-collar workers, buying less-expensive brews — Mims’ expanded roster of craft beers paid off in 2013. The company’s sales rose nearly 8 percent while case volume rose a more modest 3-plus percent.
“We’re selling more high-end beers,” Chip said of the gap between dollar sales and case volume. “That’s part of the craft beer phenomenon.”
The numbers are starting to make the decision to carry craft beer obvious, though. As the article points out as well, overall beer sales are on the down-slide, but within that decline is still a fairly steep craft beer incline.
Chip, whose company has 130 employees, sees the booming sales of craft beers in recent years as a confluence of factors.
“People started making great craft beers and the millennial generation came of age and they wanted choice, they wanted different,” he said. “They didn’t want to drink the Budweisers or the Coors or the Millers that their dads drank or their uncles drank.”
According to market research firm IRI, over the first 11 months of 2013 craft beers in the Raleigh/Greensboro region made up 13 percent of the total beer market — measured in dollars — as opposed to 11.5 percent for all of North Carolina.
The company is even getting in on the local brewing action, growing 20 pounds of hops onsite to make about 70 cases of beer at Carolina Brewing. Be sure to head to the News & Observer for the full feature.