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NBWA’s 74th Annual Convention and Trade Show Highlights Value of Beer Distributors

October 20, 2011


LAS VEGAS, NV – Steve Lytle of Columbia Distributing Co. in Portland, Ore., assumed the position of 2011-2012 Chairman of the Board for the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) at the Association’s 74th Annual Convention and Trade Show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. As Chair, Lytle will lead the Association as it works to advocate for licensed, independent beer distributors and educate elected officials, regulators, media and the public about the value of beer distributors and effective state-based alcohol controls.

Lytle reflected on successes from the past year as a result of the Association’s pursuit of federal legislation and a distributor-focused agenda, including a reduced litigation threat, an increased understanding of the three-tier system by stakeholders and decision makers and improved dialogue with brewers. “Brewers have come to agree that the three-tier system is valuable, that threats to it do exist and we see mutual opportunity to promote the economic value of beer, the three-tier system and distributors together as partners,” Lytle said.

Lytle also addressed some of the challenges facing the industry, including continued attacks on the three-tier system and a tough business climate where beer’s overall volume is down. He emphasized that a key goal for the Association in the coming year is to better communicate the social and commercial value that beer distributors and the three-tier system provide.

Tom Long, Chief Executive Officer of MillerCoors LLC, talked about changes in the beer industry in recent years and the current challenges presented by choppy economic waters, uncertainty in the tax and regulatory environments and threats to the three-tier system. He highlighted the power of unity and working together for the common good, noting that the MillerCoors Three-tier System Doctrine focused on an area of agreement. “We all share a passionate commitment to winning and that’s what makes the American beer business so fun; it’s also what makes the American beer business the best system in the world,” Long said.

Long expressed optimism for the future of the beer business stating, "I don't think it's inevitable that beer will keep declining. In fact, I believe it's inevitable beer will start growing again. But it's up to us to make it happen." He also examined the liquor industry -- which suffered 15 years of declining sales before growing again, emphasizing brand building, advertising and collective action among industry partners.

Lee Scott, former president and CEO of Walmart, took part in an interactive discussion with attendees and gave remarks on leadership, corporate culture, global business, innovation, supply chain management and social responsibility, as well as the business strategies that led Walmart to be the successful retailer it is today. He acknowledged that alcohol is different and encouraged distributors to embrace the opportunity to demonstrate the valuable services they provide as part of the three-tier system.

The panel “A Stable Orderly Market for Alcohol: What Does It Mean and Why Is It Important?” discussed how the U.S. alcohol regulatory structure has been remarkably stable for the past 78 years and what changes to that orderly marketplace would mean for the public and for the industry as a whole. Eric Best, general manager/partner of Bob Hall LLC in Maryland, moderated the panel, which featured insights from Phil Craig of the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association; Chuck Ferrar, owner and operator of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Maryland and president of the American Beverage Licensees; P.J. Stapleton of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and National Alcohol Beverage Control Association chair; and Michael Homeyer of U.S. Bank. The panelists described how the American alcohol regulatory structure and an orderly marketplace has benefited the public, allowed many new entrants to the alcohol industry and allowed suppliers, retailers and distributors to succeed.

Photos and video from NBWA’s 74th Annual Convention and Trade Show are available at www.nbwa.org.


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