Purser: This Small Business Week, Raise a Mug to America’s Beer Distributors

This week is National Small Business Week and an excellent opportunity for all Americans to celebrate the backbone of the U.S. economy – small businesses. Throughout the country, small businesses are the centerpiece of their communities and, undoubtedly, the engine that keeps our economy driving forward.

For more than 85 years, one sector of small business has worked behind the scenes to help quench the thirst of millions of Americans – independent beer distributors. With more than 3,000 beer distribution companies nationwide, these family-owned businesses operate in every state and congressional district, and their community ties run deep.

Distributors’ relationships with large and small brewers, retailers, your favorite watering hole and the community embody the true meaning of small business. These companies are champions for their brewer and retailer partners and invest personally in the success and continued growth of our neighborhoods.

Through times of robust economic expansion and local hardship, distributors have remained anchors of local communities, creating good paying jobs with benefits and making significant economic contributions along the way. In fact, today’s beer distributors now employ over 141,000 men and women whose hard work amounts to $9.5 billion in wages each year. And unlike many other industries, these jobs, which range from truck drivers and warehouse personnel to sales and marketing professionals, are not just in large metropolitan areas. They are on every Main Street and in every community that Americans call home.

Even more important, beer distribution jobs provide growth and opportunity for employees. Just a few weeks ago, Gerardo “G” Carrillo of Silver Eagle Distributors in Houston spoke to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., about his work and the impact that distributor partnerships have across his hometown. Once a side load driver, G has made a career in the beer distribution industry and now serves as a sales and marketing administrator.

This is actually a familiar, often untold story in the beer distribution business.

Every day, teams of individuals just like G work around the clock to keep stores, restaurants and taps stocked and consumers happy. Delivery drivers execute routes with pinpoint accuracy and average more than 30 stops a week to the tune of 300 miles. Marketing teams promote new beverages entering the market and educate consumers about their delicious taste profiles. And account managers see to the needs of existing clients and readily deploy sales teams to secure new business for their partners.

The way distributors ensure this effective delivery while at the same time leveraging their logistical and marketing expertise also helps to promote other small businesses within the industry. This includes craft brewers – a segment that has grown from 49 breweries in the 1980s to nearly 7,000 today. Distributors now deliver over 13,000 different labels to more than 640,000 licensed retailers, giving beer drinkers the widest array of choices ever.

And they do it safely and efficiently. Because of the accountability and transparency provided by independent distributors, Americans don’t have to worry that the alcohol they purchase is bootleg or tainted. The same can’t be said for other countries, like Mexico, where locals and tourists have been poisoned by, and even died from, illicit alcohol that has fraudulently entered the market.

A lot of this work goes unnoticed by everyday consumers. You don’t often see a beer distributor’s brand on a beer truck or marketed in a grocery or package store. Distributors are so dedicated to their partners that they use their platforms to promote the brands they build.

You’re actually more likely to see distribution company logos listed as sponsors at local charity events. Distribution companies are unwavering supporters of their communities, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to worthwhile endeavors. Local engagement is important for these small businesses because their customers are also their neighbors.

But that’s what National Small Business Week is all about.

America’s independent beer distributors are the embodiment of this celebratory week. Whether driving trucks or helping small brewers take a new product into an unknown market – beer distributors are serving more than just beer. They’re serving communities nationwide.

This op-ed by NBWA President and CEO Craig Purser originally ran on Morning Consult on May 8, 2019.