A year ago we shared the news about a wild new concept, Liberation Distribution (LibDib), a technology company that wanted to disrupt beer distribution with a web-based platform to sell wholesale alcohol. The LibDib web-based platform automatically handles the invoicing, payment processing, collections and taxes, allowing both makers and retailers to do business in a more open, efficient and cost-effective way. The idea was for sure intriguing, but we had some doubts, saying at the time:
This obscure line from Dale Gribble on King of the Hill comes to mind: “I am skeptical that you could, yet intrigued that you may.” Despite the bad blood caused by stuff like franchise law and Big Beer favoritism, there is a lot of institutional knowledge within that old timey beer distribution industry, and, with the good ones at least, a lot of on-the-scene work that needs to be done to help beers rotate, stay in favor, sell and grow amid the insane amount of choices on the shelf. There is for sure an interesting concept here — leveraging technology to gain efficiencies and tear down barriers to entry — but there are some logistical hurdles that might be tough to overcome.
Well, a year later, the LibDib platform offers 1,500 products for distribution in California and almost 1,000 products in New York. They have nearly 1,500 active resellers on the platform with access to small production, craft products, including restaurants, specialty stores and large chains. Since their launch in March 2017, LibDib has added more than a dozen new features to their online distribution platform including one-click re-ordering, purchase suggestions, direct communication between makers and accounts and more.
Here’s the story of four producers who have been using LibDib in California and New York and have found success using the model.
O Light Beer. Scott Novosel dreamt of making an organic light beer for the past 10 years. In September 2017, he launched O Light, the first and only certified organic light beer on the market. At first Scott tried self-distributing in his home state of California and although he is a self-described “hustler,” he quickly realized there was no way he could scale doing all the work himself. In January 2018, Scott started using LibDib and in just two months, O Light beer was picked up in 142 retail locations in California. Scott said that the key to his success is that with LibDib he spends his time selling, rather than managing his distributors. When accounts are ready to buy, he can instantly submit their orders via the LibDib online platform. LibDib handles all invoicing and payment processing so he can go back to doing what he does best: producing a great tasting organic light beer. LibDib is “truly transparent” which gives him real-time feedback on how his beer is selling and where he’s finding success. He said, “LibDib made my dream come true of providing an organic, light and delicious craft beer to far more customers than I could have hoped for.”
Rhine Hall Distillery. Rhine Hall was founded in Chicago in 2013 by Jenny Solberg and her father, Charlie. They first sold in their home town of Chicago. When they wanted to distribute into other markets, they couldn’t find an ideal distributor partner in New York or California. Jenny had relationships in New York and didn’t want to hand those over to a distributor as the in-between. LibDib was perfect for her because it allowed her to make the sales, keep her relationships and work the market as she wanted to. New York will soon be their second biggest market after their home state of Illinois. She said, “With LibDib I’m in control of the whole distribution process. I don’t need to connect with the distributor rep and deal with pricing. It’s all done online. No one has time to wait for five people to contact you to sell what was agreed to the first time you met an account. I show up, make the relationship and sell right then and there.”
VING Vodka. Flo Vinger started VING Vodka in the Spring of 2017. Using startup money from family, she invested much of her and her family’s life savings into creating a unique vodka that’s made with the highest quality organic ingredients and produced without any additives and zero sugar. She found that most alcoholic beverages don’t list the ingredients on the label and wanted to produce a vodka for the wellness community so that people would feel good about what they are putting into their bodies. When Flo was looking for a wholesaler, every distribution deal presented didn’t feel right to her. The financial terms were confusing and could potentially put Flo at risk. Libdib was exactly in line with Flo’s values and offered supportive, open collaboration, as well as immediate distribution in California and New York. VING contains no histamines so Buzzfeed tested VING Vodka for “Asian Glow,” the video received over 8.5 million views and VING was instantaneously in global demand. LibDib was able to respond immediately and continues to provide an avenue for VING to be shipped internationally and nationwide. Now seven months into her business, Flo says that production has increased exponentially because of her successful distribution with LibDib, adding: “LibDib is giving spirit entrepreneurs an opportunity that did not previously exist. If LibDib didn’t exist I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
WildAire Cellars. WildAire was founded in 2005 by the Driscoll family. Based in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, this small production winery offers boutique Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Driscoll’s wanted to distribute their wines to specific fine dining establishments and high-end wine shops but found that it was tough to get a distributor. As a small production winery, they were unable to compete with the larger wineries who provided incentives to distributors. In 2017 they signed up with LibDib and found that this new way of distributing leveled the playing field for them. They could control their target accounts and could work the market as much as they wanted. WildAire now has placements at key locations in California and have increased their sales in the San Francisco Bay Area. They said, “LibDib is a distributor who looks after the little guy. They go beyond what’s on their platform to provide a lot of other services like suggesting target accounts and providing us with suggestions on shipping and fulfillment.”