The Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale Co.’s proud history of operation began in October of 1982 with the purchase of a small Anheuser-Busch wholesaler — 600,000 cases sold per year. Operating under what it calls “the principles of integrity, fairness and consistency,” the company today sells 15 million cases of domestic, import and craft beers annually to 10 and half counties in Western Pennsylvania, with annual sales totaling nearly $230 million (according to its website).
But according to an article on Trib Live Business, the Fuhrer Wholesale Co. has filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors, alleging that the joint venture between Coors and Miller brewing companies is illegally refusing to allow it to sell its craft and specialty beers because it sells competing products from Anheuser-Busch and others. Currently, the company distributes Shock Top, Kona, Goose Island, Sam Adams, Wild Blue, Avery and other craft brands.
The wholesaler, which operates a 23-acre campus on East Carson Street and has more than 300 full-time employees in Pittsburgh, says in the lawsuit that “craft/specialty beers are the future of the beer industry. Although sales of many traditional domestic beer brands either have remained flat or declined over the past four to five years, sales of craft/specialty beers have had double-digit growth trends.”
The article says that Fuhrer Wholesale Co. was told by MillerCoors officials that the company would need to form a separate entity that did not distribute or sell Anheuser-Busch products to be considered for distribution rights of new craft or specialty beers. MillerCoors wanted Fuhrer to establish a corporate entity specifically for MillerCoors products, the lawsuit says. Apparently, Pennsylvania Liquor Code forbids the owner of a beer wholesaler from having an interest in more than one distributor.
“MillerCoors demanded this despite the fact that such a demand is illegal under Pennsylvania law and despite the fact that Fuhrer maintains a contractual relationship with Anheuser-Busch,” the lawsuit says.