Ep. 012: Craig Purser, NBWA

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Craig Purser:
There is innovation like we haven't seen for 10 or 20 years, whether it's product with with the hard seltzer's, whether it's slim lines, whether it's craft going from glass to aluminum. I mean, there's there's a lot of things that I think are very good that are making the product more relevant. But we've got to be present where those emerging LDA consumers are putting more into the digital space, being more present where those consumers.

Tracy Neal:
My guest for episode number 12 is Craig Purser, president and CEO of the NBWA. Craig and his organization are well known among distributor owners, GMs and sales managers. But yet much of the work that his team does advocates for the success of every employee at every distributorship in America. Craig and I sat down together while recently in San Diego attending a conference, and I asked him to explain how the NBWA impacts the careers of a distributor sales rep. iSellBeer presents to you. Craig Purser.

I am not in the about you. You're Mr. Lebowski, I'm the dude.

Hey, I tell you what. You can take a good look at it, put yours act by sticking your head up there. But when you rather take his word for it.

And you know the frickin chips Kip.

A point, don't be jealous that I've been shown online with games all day.

We have a pawn in the back pool and a pot of upon. Good you.

Welcome to the iSellBeer podcast with Tracy Neal, a production for sales reps and distributors who are driving around all day selling beer and the official home of the iSellBeer Nation Facebook group. And now your host. The 1989 winner of the John M. Studebaker Wheelbarrow race in Hangtown, California, Tracy Neal!

Tracy Neal:
All right. Craig, welcome!

Craig Purser:
Well, thanks for having me, Tracy. It's great to be here in sunny California.

Tracy Neal:
Yes, San Diego. Does it get better than the hotel, though, does it?

Craig Purser:
Absolutely not. Man, there are worse places to drink beer.

Tracy Neal:
And we just sample the what a Heineken 0.0?

Craig Purser:
I we had a morning beer. I mean, who would've thought it was the Heineken 0.0 is awesome. I think it's super drinkable. I haven't had in a product of any significance since my last kid was born 14 years ago. And my wife often reminds me that I didn't actually take off her pregnancy for drinking. I actually shifted and it was drinking for two that worked out well.

Tracy Neal:
Yes, that was great. So tell me, Craig, you're here on behalf of the NBWA, and I've already given you a good introduction, so we know the title and everything. What's the role of the NBWA in the beer industry? And as you describe it, keep in mind that a lot of our listeners are sales reps.

Craig Purser:
Sure.

Tracy Neal:
Sales reps of distributorships or as we say, driving around all day selling beer. And I know when I was at the distributor level or even the sales rep, I had no idea that NBWA existed. So when, we'll start with National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Craig Purser:
Absolutely. And it's funny when I tell people, what do you do, what is N.B.A. do? And the first part of our mission statement and really what we do more than any other function is we advocate. And that means we represent the 135,000 hardworking men and women make up all the distribution companies in the US.

Tracy Neal:
130, so...

Craig Purser:
So. So there's 135 direct employees for beer distributors in the United States. And we think about that. That's like a big fortune 100 company.

Tracy Neal:
Like a Hewlett-Packard.

Craig Purser:
Yeah, exactly.

Tracy Neal:
Right?

Craig Purser:
And and so the the outside in outsized influence for our little industry is pretty amazing when you start talking about the number of hardworking men and women we get to represent.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Craig Purser:
But primarily the organization represents the companies. So when you think about that, we're representing distributors of all products.

Tracy Neal:
You represent distributors as well as suppliers?

Craig Purser:
So we have suppliers as associate members. But our primary representation is of distribution companies. We are the only association out there working day in and day out to advocate on behalf of independent beer distribution companies.

Tracy Neal:
And we say advocate. You're talking about it from a legal lobbying standpoint in Washington, D.C.?

Craig Purser:
Well, you know, we advocate just about anywhere you can think about. We're trying to influence opinion or we're trying to set a policy direction, obviously. Washington, D.C., we're where our offices are based in Alexandria, Virginia. I have been a proud resident of the swamp for the last 30 years.

Tracy Neal:
Where's the swamp?

Craig Purser:
The swamp. Don't you know that's what our president refers to as Washington, D.C. but it's been it's been amazing to look at how much regulation and how much legislation affects, you know, and the industries life. I mean, beer is a very regulated product. When you think about it, every law or regulation that we have for alcohol beverages really is rooted in two things. One is to control its use and the other is to derive revenue. You know, this is it was 85 years ago in December that we celebrated the anniversary of repeal of prohibition. Ironically, just two weeks ago, we had the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 18th Amendment, which was prohibition. So we have a product that's unique that for about 14 years was absolutely prohibited. Its sale, manufacturing, transportation was strictly prohibited. And and for us to understand that experience actually helps us to advocate for the industry because, you know, we want an industry that behaves responsibly. We want beer to be available. We don't want it to be too available. We just had that Heineken 0 this morning.

Tracy Neal:
Yep.

Craig Purser:
That was, you know, when we listened and learned about the product. It's a reminder that beer is not anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Tracy Neal:
I like when he said when he said a lot of so much about what beer is is what you can't do.

Craig Purser:
That's exactly right.

Tracy Neal:
And he said we're positioning Heineken 0.0 about what you can do with...

Craig Purser:
And I think that's part of what we've got to understand. I always remind people when I'm talking to an audience, whether they're legislators or whether they're members of the industry, whether they're distributor employees, we have a responsibility because we are given a privilege to sell this product. I always tell folks to be very careful when they start talking about rights. I've got the right to do this. The right to do that. Look, civil rights, very important. There's a whole host of rights that are very important, but if you engage and you participate in the licensed beverage industry, you have a privilege. You have a license. And that says, hey, you can do this under certain circumstances. So we've got to kind of respect that as we get ready to advocate for the industry.

Tracy Neal:
So what would be an example of something, whether it's recent or a while ago, something that the NBWA, the NBWA has done that would be felt at the sales rep level, to distributorship or maybe sales manager level for someone who doesn't? Because I know owners and principals are very active in the NBWA.

Craig Purser:
Right.

Tracy Neal:
Most of them. Right.

Craig Purser:
Right. Right. Right.

Tracy Neal:
In fact what is your membership penetration across the distribute network?

Craig Purser:
So we represent about 96% of the liquid that is distributed through independent distributors.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Craig Purser:
So we have very high penetration as far as our representation of the companies that participate in in the activities of beverage wholesaling. And so it's it's a you know, we've got a high participation rate of the companies. And, you know, it's it's interesting because I think most owners and managers, folks that are running these businesses, whether they're owners or operators, families that are participating, they're very familiar with NBWA. But I think you're right. I think there's an opportunity for us to provide more education for those frontline sales folks that are making a difference week in and week out, helping to drive this industry to growth. And, you know, I say that because I'm an optimist, I'm a beer glass half full guy. And the the you know, there are some of our industry trends. One, particularly as it relates to volume, have been tough as of late. We've seen a growth in wine and spirits. We've seen a lack of relevance of our product. I think particularly in the eyes of the emerging legal drinking age consumer. And so when we think about what what we're doing as advocates, part of what we've got to do, I think, is a better job of bringing along those hardworking men and women that are so important that are the backbone of this industry.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. So, again, what would be an example of some of a piece of legislation or a policy or something that would be have been felt? Just don't make a sales reps career life a little bit better, a little easier.

Craig Purser:
So alcohol, like I said, is very regulated.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Craig Purser:
And you know, the 18th Amendment repeals prohibition, the 21st. I mean, I'm sorry. Puts in work national prohibition that the 21st Amendment repeals the 18th Amendment. It also does something that I think has been very important to the success and the growth and the vibrancy of this industry is it gave states the primary ability to regulate alcohol. And the reason that's important in answering your question is just two weeks ago, for the first time in 13 years, our industry went back to the United States Supreme Court. There was a court case. And, you know, very interesting, when you have a state based regulatory system, you've got a whole host of rules and regulations, some of them you like, some of you don't like. But our position is that we support the state's ability to regulate. And what was being debated was the whole notion of a residency requirement in the state of Tennessee. Yet it get a stick with me here for. For alcohol retailers, for wine and spirits, for liquor store owners.

Tracy Neal:
And its policy was that if you were to own a retailer in the state of Tennessee, you had to be.

Craig Purser:
That has been the law. That has been the law for many, many number of years. Many states have some form of residency requirement at retail or at wholesale.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Craig Purser:
Because what it does is it allows that license holder to be grounded in that community. And, you know, it's it's. And there are many varied. Some of them only require that the manager perhaps be the be the resident somebody is at is at risk for the behavior of the participant in the in the industry.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Craig Purser:
Somebody is responsible. And but we've got a whole host of different rules.

Tracy Neal:
Is it still in the Supreme Court or?

Craig Purser:
So so oral arguments were heard just two weeks ago. And the interesting thing is the residency issue is, was more secondary for distributors, because we've had we have some states that have residency requirements. Some that don't. But what's really important for distributors as it relates to maintaining an orderly market and the legitimacy of the three tiered system is physical presence. The whole idea is you want the government, the public wants to have that alcohol retailer or distributor present in the community. You want to have a premise that can be inspected. You want to ensure that the chain of custody is sufficient to ensure that we don't have problems related to alcohol, whether it's abuse or whether it's adulterated product, whether it's you know, we've had in the last 10 years, we've had three or four major national recalls. And, you know, Sam Adams had one recently. Corona had had two, Heineken has had one. All and all of the.

Tracy Neal:
So how does MBWA and get involved in...

Craig Purser:
Well, because what we're doing is we're advocating for this system. The whole idea is you, the public and the industry has an interest in that physical presence required.

Tracy Neal:
So you're advocating for the system shows of how effective it was.

Craig Purser:
Absolutely. But more importantly, when it comes to policy advocacy, we participated in filing what's what's called an Amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court making our point around these policy issues, because what we didn't want, the Supreme Court may very well invalidate this particular residency requirement in Tennessee. Don't know exactly how that that that argument will go. But what we wanted to do was we were present and we brief the court from a distributors perspective about how important this system is. And in addition to to us, there were 13 other organizations that weighed in on the side of the states continuing to be able to effectively regulate alcohol. And it was very interesting because that will argument was heard just two weeks ago. And it was fascinating right out of the gates, about probably 20 minutes into the hearing, Justice Gorsuch, who was just appointed a year ago to the Supreme Court, brought up the issue of Amazon. He said, isn't this case not really about isn't this case not really about this one, but about the next one? And what happens if we have an Amazon phenomenon for beverage alcohol asking the question of is that really in the public's interest? So that's just a great example. But primarily what we do is as advocates is we're present for every kind of federal, legislative or regulatory issue that you can think. Obviously, excise taxes are something that we've all been familiar with, the power attacks, taxes, apparently histroy wanting to keep the keeping it low, keeping it effective, making certain that we aren't, you know, and that's excise taxes is one issue. But the other thing is, as it relates to our members and the way that they're taxed, we were very involved in the tax reform debate of last last year, where most passthrough businesses received an effective rate reduction.

Tracy Neal:
LLC?

Craig Purser:
As exactly as part of that tax reform package.

Tracy Neal:
And that package was very beneficial for your members as what you're saying.

Craig Purser:
Well, I it's interesting. I. It was, I think, beneficial for most. The problem is, for instance, as in order for this to fit, the Congress made rate reduction for corporations permanent. They made rate reductions for pass throughs. They expire in 2025. And very interesting dynamic, because when you look at that and you look at that through, you know, is very partisan. It is very political, that tax reform package, but it is much more difficult to go back and raise taxes. If you've made that those that rate reduction permanent, whereas I think we're gonna have a lot of work to do to keep doing as it relates to that individual pass through rate, which is set to expire in 2025. So so plenty of tax issues, plenty of issues in the regulatory arena. And increasingly, we're doing a lot related to working with our folks at the state level.

Tracy Neal:
Becaus each state has their own regulatory issues.

Craig Purser:
Each state has their own state association. And so.

Tracy Neal:
Like Colorado just went full strength in grocery stores. In January 1st.

Craig Purser:
Absolutely so our state association was very involved.

Tracy Neal:
I think Oklahoma in Kansas

Craig Purser:
In that debate. That's right. Oklahoma is my home state. It's fascinating.

Tracy Neal:
You grew up in Oklahoma?

Craig Purser:
I grew up in Oklahoma. And, you know, and we were talking about the, you know, the old days when I when I began drinking beer Coors, I probably would quite of age, but, you know, Coors at one point had a 70% market share in Oklahoma. And it's amazing to watch lifecycles of brands and watch some of these preferences that have changed over time. But it's interesting because Oklahoma, just less little less than two years ago, years ago, voted by referendum to get rid of 3/2 beer. And, you know, that's that's fascinating. Colorado.

Tracy Neal:
They also have some special four tier model for out-of-state crafts. Right. Or something like that.

Craig Purser:
They do. They they did. And part of that was addressed with this larger writ large reform package. So you're thinking back? Yes, there was. There was basically a fourth tier. But it's you know, the thing is, all of these laws change constantly and the legislatures or the people are the ones that should be making those changes. So when we do have litigation that reaches the Supreme Court, it's very important to be well positioned to again, advocate legally on behalf of our interest. We were we were real pleased to see a whole host of other interests weigh in on our side of the argument. This, the 21st Amendment, including some public health organizations that filed a brief. That we're in agreement with us. Obviously, the wine and spirits wholesalers of America, we're a partner on this. The independent retailers.

Tracy Neal:
So the WS, WSWA is that a sister company?

Craig Purser:
They're a part of their partner organization. They they do a great job.

Tracy Neal:
Kind of a chasm?

Craig Purser:
Yeah, kind of a chasm. Yeah, but.

Tracy Neal:
How many people work at the end NBWA?

Craig Purser:
So we have a staff of 26, but we also have a lot of folks out of house as far as attorneys and folks that we work with. We've got a number of consultants that are constantly helping, you know, helping us to tell a better story. I mean, you know, there are a lot of folks out there that would like to change the dynamic as it relates to the way that beer's bought and sold. They'd love to see all these regulations go away. They'd love to see the Amazon-ization. I'm not even sure that's a word. Maybe it's a word now, you know, of alcohol, beverages. And it's interesting, because one of the things that that's happened in the last three years, we had a big merger. You know, Anheuser-Busch, InBev bought SABMiller, the number one, Mei's the number two. And that's another example of where the association was very involved advocating for independent distributors. And it was interesting that independent been distributors weren't collateral damage in the day in this dance of the elephants, if you remember, back in 2008.

Tracy Neal:
It's a good one to put it collateral damage.

Craig Purser:
Collateral damage. Yeah. You know, in back in 2008, remember Miller and Coors form a combination. And as a result of that combination, they attempted to terminate 44 independent well-performing distributors. Why did they choose that decision back then? Well, they wanted they wanted to see some consolidation. But there were we had identified 18 states that had loopholes in their state laws where if there was a change in ownership, those businesses could be terminated without cause. Now, we're not talking about distributors that weren't getting it done, that weren't meeting the obligations of their agreement. We're talking about because there was this joint venture, because there was this change in ownership. They could be terminated without cause. And that was a great example of us getting very involved. And, you know, we we actually at the time there was there was a whole host of things that were ongoing. Also, remember, Anheuser-Busch was being purchased by InBev. But we were ultimately, at the end of the day, MillerCoors. They number of distributors fought there was a lot of disagreement, a lot of consternation, a lot of litigation. But what we wanted to make sure was with this merger in 2015, there weren't terminations in either the red network or the Blue Silver Network.

Tracy Neal:
And that directly impacts people's jobs.

Craig Purser:
Absolutely.

Tracy Neal:
And livelihood in their neighborhoods.

Craig Purser:
And so we were very pleased that the Department of Justice agreed with that and made that a condition of that sale. And actually, the Brewers agreed with that because they did not want to repeat the error that had occurred about eight years earlier. But another thing that came out of this merger and the advocacy around the merger was a clear statement from the United States Department of Justice that independent distribution is essential to competition. And this was actually, I think, a very significant win, because it it validated a talking point that we've been talking about as it relates to having an independent distribution to your makes this industry more competitive.

Tracy Neal:
And that's good for the consumer.

Craig Purser:
Absolutely.

Tracy Neal:
That's gonna be American way, right?

Craig Purser:
It goes to access to market and really it goes to access to scalable market. Because the thing one of the things that's great about an independent distribution system is the distributor can go and buy that product, buy the case slot by the pallet level, you know, by the truckload, creating incredible access to capital for those new brewers. Now, I realize that a number of these 8000 brewers that are out there now are making beer and selling a bunch of it across the bar. Maybe they're cherry picking or they're high slotting if they're allowed to self distribute, which most states do allow their you know, they're they're not travelling very far.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah.

Craig Purser:
But if you talk to any emerging brewer or importer that wants to get more than 20 miles away from their their home base of operation, they've got to unión. They're being distribution. So it's it's what really it really tells a very good story. And so while we have some of these folks that that don't like regulation or they don't like laws and they say, you know, we we ought to just be able to buy our Budweiser directly from Anheuser-Busch. It really tells a very different narrative and it really helps. I think the system helps protect all of these many and varied new market entrants that are part of this awesome fabric that makes it this awesome industry.

Tracy Neal:
That's good. Awesome. Thank you for explaining that. Let's let's back up. You said that you were raised in Oklahoma.

Craig Purser:
Indeed.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. So I want you to go back to fifth, sixth grade. Right. Your're nine or 10 years old. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Craig Purser:
It's funny. Well, I I grew up in Oklahoma, and so I was I went to school at the University of Oklahoma. So probably a ninth or nine or 10 year old Craig wanted to want to play football. And that was that was every kid's dream. That quickly dissipated.

Tracy Neal:
Did you play football in high school?

Craig Purser:
I did. I played high school football. And had I we were we were very small and very slow. But, you know, one of those great experience.

Tracy Neal:
What position did you play?

Craig Purser:
So I played offensive and defensive line.

Tracy Neal:
So very small school.

Craig Purser:
Oh yeah. Well, it was it was funny. It was a big school. We were 5A, but just really small and really, really slow. But we. But, you know, some of life lessons, some of the best life lessons you get are from playing sports. And, you know, things that you know, that you can apply to what you do today. I mean, the whole notion of hard work and perseverance.

Tracy Neal:
Discipline.

Craig Purser:
Discipline, all those kinds of things. You know, I feel like an old guy when I when I start talking about this. But, you know, it really all of those things that you that you learned have great value. It's funny, I there's a young, my high school football coaches daughter is a friend of mine in Washington, D.C. She I remember her at about age 9 or 10 when the coach was teaching me to drive and driver's Ed, which many of us had that kind of experience. But a coach, Eddie.

Tracy Neal:
So you learn to drive drivers at age 10?

Craig Purser:
No, no, no. Know his daughter was 10.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Craig Purser:
But it's funny because she she worked on Capitol Hill until very recently, 20 years on the Hill and was a chief of staff on the House side and a great person and a great friend. But it was like because she was coach Eddie's daughter was always somebody that I was looking out for. And it's been fun because she came and met with me recently because she's now a lobbyist and she was pitching me to hire her, which was just to me, like the circle is absolutely complete. You know, here's coach and his daughter. But it's funny. She called me. He passed away about three years ago and I wasn't able to make it back for the for the memorial service. But she called me and I was able to help her plan her father's funeral. And, you know, that's like a really crazy treat, you know, to to have this incredible, intense experience on your way. You know, when you're coming of age and all that, to be able to to help his family, you know, it's just just kind of cool. We get to do a lot of great things in this industry.

Tracy Neal:
I went through something very similar a year ago.

Craig Purser:
Yeah. What happened?

Tracy Neal:
My elementary and junior high school principal passed away unexpectedly and I was able to help their family with the slideshow.

Craig Purser:
That's cool.

Tracy Neal:
And it was cool. But I will I will confess that I was in my office up late at night crying like a baby as I built the slide show, shared memories of his.

Craig Purser:
Sure. But what a blessing. What a gift. That experience was both when it happened. But even, you know, as a grown ass man.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah.

Craig Purser:
That's that's a huge part of what we get to do. You know, I think it's it's it's you know, I've worked at NBWA for 22 years. I've been the president of our group for the last 12. And it's been kind of a labor love. It's interesting because, you know, I I really do believe that I get to do this. And I think the minute that we shift from get to have you know, it's the minute that you go do something different.

Tracy Neal:
So what did you do? Right out of college, graduate from Oklahoma.

Craig Purser:
So I graduate from Oklahoma. And I went to to work right out of college, actually walked on a Saturday morning and started on Monday morning working from my home state senator. So I worked on.

Tracy Neal:
And did you always have kind of an affinity for government and process?

Craig Purser:
So, yeah, so. So after I after I realized that it would never be a pro football player, I I always liked activities. I was, you know, very involved in student government. I was a friend of my student body. I was in high school, very involved on campus, in college. That sort of thing. And it was funny. I always thought my dad was an attorney. I always thought I'd go to law school. And so that was kind of my my thing. Well, needless to say, I never went to law school. I graduated. I moved to D.C. and immediately worked for my home state senator, ended up staying with him, working for him for almost five years, worked for him in a variety of capacity, helped with his re-election campaign. And I really had the political bug. That was my thing. I enjoyed campaigns. I enjoyed.

Tracy Neal:
Any particular campaigns that you worked on?

Craig Purser:
So I. So I managed my boss or I actually worked for his re-election in 1992 for Don Nickles from Oklahoma. And then in 1994, two years later, I managed. Now Senator Jim Inhofe's campaign. And that was my first kind of big experience. I was still very young. And it was a big year for Republicans. And, you know, a very good experience. I learned a lot and I thought that's what I wanted to do. And so it was it was funny. I I in it, incidentally, in between there for one year between those two campaigns. I actually worked for Anheuser-Busch as consultant. And it was funny because.

Tracy Neal:
It's all from a political perspective?

Craig Purser:
Well, what we were doing is we were working, we'd had the the 91, 92 tax increase and there was big concern that the newly elected Clintons would. The Clinton administration would go raise excise taxes to fund then national health care. How how some things never, never change. But so A.B. hired a number of us to go out and work with distributors to organize around the tax issue. We also did some work around some other sideline issues, including mandatory ad warnings. And it was funny because I ended up I ended up getting called on the carpet by AB for handing out materials from NBWA. And it was funny. I remember being on the phone with exact that was one of the project two years later really became a great friend Rod Forth.., who was a regional government affairs man, actually, also in Tulsa, my hometown. But he's like Craig. Well, you know, you can't hand this stuff out. It's not approved. And I said, well, Rod, there's shit's better than our shit. And he goes, What do you mean? I got these whole centers to want to talk about a value added tax. And one talked about business transfer tax. And he's like, I know, but it's not approved. And so anyway, years later, we get a very large about that.

Tracy Neal:
So you were an independent consultant working for Anheuser-Busch, Anheuser-Busch said, hand out these materials. You had no affiliation with the NBWA.

Craig Purser:
No.

Tracy Neal:
But there was some good material that made easier.

Craig Purser:
It was funny one of the wholesalers. I was in my two states were Oklahoma and and Georgia.

Tracy Neal:
Do you remember the first distributor you you visited?

Craig Purser:
It probably would have been the Brown family who'd own own Bryson in Oklahoma City. And it's funny because that business is sold. It's now a brewery branch, which is unfortunate. But the Crescent family would have been one of the early ones to also in Oakland a family who ended up selling Oklahoma City. They sold to the brewery, I think, in 2012 or 13. But but Walt Brown and Mike Brown were father and son. And it was funny because I'll never forget it was you know, like I said, I worked for NBWA for almost for 22 years. And Walt had stepped away from the business. Mike had taken the reins. I don't remember what the dues were back then, but I remember he called me not long after I was at NBWA and he said, hey, hey, big boy. I wanted to tell you, you know, I'm I'm taking over now. I'm president, our company. And the old man was cheating. Yeah. He wouldn't sit and have do so. I just want to let you know you're going to get a little bit more on that in the mail for me. So, you know, but those old stories and those connections.

Tracy Neal:
I think I I've heard duz kind of based on volume?

Craig Purser:
Duz are based on dollar sales.

Tracy Neal:
Dollar sale. Okay.

Craig Purser:
So it it allows you know, and that's one of the things that we and one of our big interests is helping industry return to growth. And so, you know, it is it's always been you know, we've always been able to have the resources to do what we need to do. You know, whatever the issue is, we've been able to you know, we've been very fortunate to be able to to to do what we need to do from an advocacy standpoint. But, oh, man, we've had we've had ballot initiatives we've been involved in in recent years. We've had federal legislation that we've pursued. We've had federal legislation that we've blocked and stopped. And we've had, you know, a whole host of of issues where we've helped at the state level. But we've been very, very blessed because our members do realize the value that the organization provides as it relates to protecting the independent beer distribution industry.

Tracy Neal:
That's excellent. Who who is somebody that really helped you in your early years at the NBWA? I mean, you're 22 years and 12 is the last president. So you had 10 years there were you were not president?

Craig Purser:
Right, right.

Tracy Neal:
Right? And those are probably the interesting, growing, mentoring years.

Craig Purser:
Well and it's it's it's interesting because one of the things that's so great about this industry is the family business dynamic is the fact that you get to work. You know, I've worked for people's you know, we started the next generation program about seven years ago. And I remember at the first reception standing there drinking beer with some of these young people. And I just had a moment. I said, oh, my God, I know your dad and your mom and dad and your dad and uncle and I know your grandparents. And and so it's it's kind of humbling to make you feel old. But it it it was terrific in as much as there'd been so many of these multi-generational families. I'll give a great example. You know, when I first came on board, our chairman at the time was John Matesich from Newark, Ohio. And John was very good to me and very kind, really took me under his wing, taught me a bunch. It was interesting because this past year, Jim Matesich, John's younger brother, was our chairman. So over the course.

Tracy Neal:
I think I saw him on stage in NBWA in San Diego, right?

Craig Purser:
Absolutely. He was here in San Diego, and we're here in September. And Jim, you know, it was always just such a blessing. I mean, these guys are 11 years of age difference. And, you know, so.

Tracy Neal:
I just ran into John and Nick Amendola.

Craig Purser:
Oh, my God.

Tracy Neal:
In the hallway.

Craig Purser:
Which is what? It's just reminder.

Tracy Neal:
First came out of college.

Craig Purser:
Exactly and it's but it's just a reminder, this is a special industry. And I think many times we take that for granted or we get frustrated or were, you know, sales or second this month or whatever we had. You know, we we let it. We don't let it get us down. And instead of realizing that this is pretty special. So. So the multi-generational thing is great. I mean, you know, when I took over as president, we had you know, this is beer. The beer industry has always been more male dominated. That's changing. So 12 years ago, when I when I had the opportunity to lead this group, our incoming chairman was Betty Buck from Maryland, who was our first woman chairman of NBWA. And it was funny because I asked Betty at the time, I said, Okay, what do you want to be, do you wanna be chairperson? You want to be chair? You want to be chairwoman. She said, I want to be chairman because chairperson sounds weird and a chair is a damn piece of furniture. And so, you know, those kinds of things you don't forget. And those kinds of of, you know, and the complexion of our board table has shifted so much because we have many more women involved in this industry. It's tremendous. I talked to a lot of other association leaders and I was at a dinner right. For the holidays. And we were all sharing kind of best practices because that's what association guys do, kind of like.

Tracy Neal:
Share best practices. Yep.

Craig Purser:
And we were talking about diversity in the board and we were all talking about size of boards and kind of makeup and of the 11th association exists. I had the second to the highest number of women around our board table. And that's awesome.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. That's great.

Craig Purser:
That's that's a reminder that this industry is constantly evolving. I think people are up in their game. They're making investment. They're doubling down on growth. One of the things that that we're very involved in more recently is, you know, trying to get the industry back to growth. We've been working with the Brewers Association and with the Beer Institute. And people don't belong to NBWA so that we can fix the industry's volume problems. But they do belong NBWA, because they expect us to lead. And that's what we've tried to do is to get everybody in the room, just like in NBWA does. Check your brand hats at the door, check your agendas. What we did roll up our sleeves and address some of these issues. And I am very pleased that we've had this has been almost a year long now of working together and we've identified some huge gaps in opportunities with BA and BI.

Tracy Neal:
BA mean of Brewers Association?

Craig Purser:
Yeah. And it's been it's been terrific.

Tracy Neal:
And that not been a cohesive relationship previously?

Craig Purser:
Well, I think what we've we've worked together on policy initiatives. We've worked together on advocacy issues. We haven't worked together on a market platform.

Tracy Neal:
For clarification. Who's in the BA and who's in the BI? That's not in the NBWA?

Craig Purser:
Well, so those are the Brewers. So so so that's the distinction. So we always have been the organization.

Tracy Neal:
And the distributors.

Craig Purser:
For Distributors, BI represents the larger brewers along with some other brewers, and BA, as you know. You know, independence is their flag. That's their that's their program. And so they're representing all those independent brewers. And so, you know, when we sometimes will work more with one than the other. But it has been a great body of work, because I really think we've made some great progress in identifying opportunities. And I'm very excited about some of this work and where we're going as it relates to getting the industry back to growth. I mean, one takeaway that's been publicized, actually, Maggie Timoney I had shared the statistic with us before she spoke at our meeting in September.

Tracy Neal:
She is the president of Heineken?

Craig Purser:
President of Heineken USA. And she's fantastic. I mean.

Tracy Neal:
She was. She was a great speaker.

Craig Purser:
And she's she's all that and more. You know, when you're just talking to her, you know, off off line. And I had shared with her this statistic that the work group that identified, which was and this is a 22 year role that I think really shows the challenge and the opportunity that we have from a from a volume standpoint. In 1995, males aged 21 to 29 consumed 29% of the beer. In 2017, males 21 to 29 consumed 9% of the beer. That's not a brand problem. That's category problem. And so.

Tracy Neal:
It's a category shift, right?

Craig Purser:
Recognizing that and realizing we've got to be more competitive with wine and spirits.

Tracy Neal:
But there's no more beer pitchers out there. I started in '94, my old job was to get people to sell pitchers.

Craig Purser:
But I'm telling you. I'm telling you, Tracy. It's not just that. It's that my emerging LDA son, who is in college, meets girls not at the bar or at the house party, but on his phone.

Tracy Neal:
Yep.

Craig Purser:
I mean, you know.

Tracy Neal:
How old is your LDA son?

Craig Purser:
My oldest son is 20. We're not going to talk about what he's doing. But it's interesting because as I'm watching him develop and become a potential consumer, beer is not essential. It's not part of the social fabric like it was for us. And I think we've that's a huge gap. And I think we've all missed that. I think while the you know, we've had this brewer consolidation, particularly at the for the big guys, you know, never have so few, you know, made so much by selling so little. And obviously, the growth of Kraft has masked some of those gaps, too.

Tracy Neal:
Absolutely.

Craig Purser:
So while folks are drinking better and they are, you know, they're spending more money, there's you know, we're not tending to that relevance for that emerging LDA consumer. I was thrilled at the tone of this meeting because I think Harry really hit the nail on the head yesterday. And I think some of the other folks did, too. I think Cook hit the nail on the head.

Tracy Neal:
Jim? Yep.

Craig Purser:
And I mean, I think, you know, we've got to be more relevant. I mean, because Jim was talking more specifically about taking truly against the vodka soda. You know, we heard that from white corona days as well. I mean, we've got to take this because there's a lot of great things that are going on in this industry. I mean, there is innovation like we haven't seen for 10 or 20 years, whether it's product with with the hard seltzer's or whether it's packaged, you know, prac package with whether it's slim lines, whether it's Kraft going from glass to aluminum. I mean, there's there's a lot of things that I think are very good that are making the product more relevant. But we've got to be present where those emerging LDA consumers are. And that may mean that we've got to be putting more into the digital space, being more present where those consumers are.

Tracy Neal:
Yes, definitely market. Have you ever heard marketing tech stack?

Craig Purser:
Tech stack. No. What's tech stack?

Tracy Neal:
I just learned about marketing tech stack.

Craig Purser:
Tell me something I don't know.

Tracy Neal:
It's it's. There are over 7000 software cloud applications for marketing. And your tech stack is which ones you have working for. You are integrated.

Craig Purser:
Oh my gosh. Yep.

Tracy Neal:
And you would think that you should have two or three. The actual average number for a good tech stack is like 16.

Craig Purser:
Wow.

Tracy Neal:
And we're actually working with a company now out of Florida. And it's built our marketing tech stack.

Craig Purser:
And I'll tell you, with what you guys are doing with the iSellBeer platform, I think is a huge part of that solution because, you know, the whole idea of being able to have better data analytics is critical. And and realizing, you know, if if our emerging LDA consumer is not dialing in to the sports like we were five years ago, we got to be going where they are. And again, it's called purser's on his phone. That's how he meets girls. It's it creeps me out. But it works, you know, and it seems unusual to us. But, you know. So did some of the stuff that we did with our folks. So, I mean, but it's but we've got to be constantly challenging ourselves and each other to be able to get the industry back to growth. And with that mentality, we've got to hunt where the ducks are.

Tracy Neal:
The way we're doing it with iSellBeer is, we're approaching the collection of data through gamification as opposed to client compliance and force.

Craig Purser:
But gamification is enormous.

Tracy Neal:
Gamification is on everything.

Craig Purser:
And when we when you take that concept and you play that out to what that emerging LDA is doing it, it makes all kinds of sense. It's it completes the circle. I mean, you know, and I you know, so I'm I'm upbeat. I think that we're doing the right.

Tracy Neal:
Your passion about the industry and works well with what you're doing.

Craig Purser:
We're going in the right place. And we're identifying what it is that needs to be done. And everybody you know, and this you know, I cite that statistic of of a generation. Twenty two years is a generation of of consumption shift. It's not going to change overnight. But if we can kind of change, you know, challenge convention and start doing things differently, I'm optimistic. And I think that, you know, the the fabric and the backbone and the place where this industry is. We got this. We got it.

Tracy Neal:
So what are what are some resources that the average distributor employee can seek out? I know you probably have a Facebook page.

Craig Purser:
Yes. So so our art really our web our web page is where most of the material.

Tracy Neal:
NBWA.org?

Craig Purser:
.org, you got it. And it is it you know, whether it's it's collateral materials, whether it's videos, whether it's storytelling, anything in the advocacy arena that a distribution company wants or needs. They should start there.

Tracy Neal:
I also get your daily email. And one of my favorite things on daily email is the distributor employee profile.

Craig Purser:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
You will randomly take a distributor employee somewhere in the country and give short paragraph about who they are and what they do.

Craig Purser:
We started we started this conversation around those hundred thirty five thousand hardworking men and women, and that is essential. We've got to continue talking about the value that those folks provide. I mean, it's interesting because I was with a policymaker a year or two ago in a state and the state was they were looking to actually to change some of their their legislation. And this was something that the distributors were in on. And he said, in our state, we got 1,500 beer distribution jobs. Can you imagine what we would do, what our economic development folks would do to attract 15,000 good jobs, good wages, all with benefits? You know, in this day and age and he's like, what are we doing to protect those 15 hundred jobs? And so so jobs, jobs, jobs is very important. That's a huge part of what we've done. And that that whole initiative of highlighting those hardworking men and women is awesome. And you know what we'll do what we'll do when we when we run one of those is we'll take it and we will blanket the state that they're from. To all of the congressional delegation. We've had a number of those folks that have gotten letters from policy leaders. And, you know, not everybody's high on Congress nowadays. But when you've got a rank and file warehouseman that's work for a company for 27 years and he was featured on our website and he gets a letter from Senator So-and-so. That's pretty that's pretty awesome...

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. That's pretty cool.

Craig Purser:
For that for that person. And it's a you know, it it it makes them proud of what they do. And I think, you know, the more we can do to celebrate those hard working men and women, that's a huge part of our story. And for some of those folks that want to pick our pocket, they want to take us out of the equation, that want to be able to, you know, sell their products that way.

Tracy Neal:
That's one of reasons why we do the podcast too because...

Craig Purser:
Absolutely.

Tracy Neal:
One of the things I identified with when I was in on the beer side was that I love the camaraderie of this industry, but it disappears so quickly the minute you get in a car and go on your route, well, you're lonely out there and you kind of you can get caught up in into picking up breakage in a display. That's why on display. And you go out there for seven or eight hours and it gets a little lonely. You forget there's 150,000 other people doing it.

Craig Purser:
That's right. And it really it's it's special. And it's funny because, you know, I think about other jobs that I could do. And it's it's, you know, would you rather sell beer than than.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah.

Craig Purser:
You know, that whole life insurance?

Tracy Neal:
Than anything.

Craig Purser:
Can you imagine that? Those are the guys that you know. It's just hard to get passionate about it. And.

Tracy Neal:
Not just because it's beer, but many other things I love about selling beers in the grocery store. You've got one of the highest velocity rates and one of the highest rings in the grocery target.

Craig Purser:
Well, and let's really talk about what the system provides for that retail establishment and ultimately for the consumer is more choice, more choice and variety. I mean, you go to a grocery store, beer aisle and I mean, you got imports and you've got you know, now you've got a hard seltzer's and FM base, but you've got imports and crafts and premium and matchsticks and you've got this innovation and these things that are different and new and so much diversity and all the style diversity. And you go to the soda aisle and you've got these variations of Coke and Pepsi and maybe a little Dr. Pepper frontage. You know, it's different. You go to the salty snacks and you've got two manufacturers represented. You know, you go to you know, you name it. You claim it in it. We we are selling something that we think you hit. You're right. We take it for granted. And and if we stop and we realize it, we are fortunate and we are blessed that we get to do this.

Tracy Neal:
So the resources are out there. Start with NBWA.org, the Web page from there and get the daily email. There's also the NBAWA Facebook page, NBWA twitter account.

Craig Purser:
Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, all three presence, more of the more recent hashtags we've used as follow your beer. So #followyourbeer we'll populate a bunch of stuff.

Tracy Neal:
iSellBeer.

Craig Purser:
That's good. Well, I like iSellBeer. We need to hashtag each other, hashtag each other.

Tracy Neal:
You know, when I started the iSellBeer name. The hashtag had been used less than 300 times.

Craig Purser:
Is that right?

Tracy Neal:
I looked it up. Less than 300 times. And so now I'm actually sending hats and shirts and koozies to sales reps who use the #iSellBeer.

Craig Purser:
That's awesome.

Tracy Neal:
Out there in their social media. We're also, we're iSellBeer Nation is our name on the social media. We're also Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. So if you're out there, you're selling beer. Join us on iSellBeer, iSellBeer Nation and hashtag us. We'll send you a hat. Shirt. Koozie coaster.

Craig Purser:
Excellent.

Tracy Neal:
Something like that.

Craig Purser:
I'm glad we did this Tracy. This is awesome.

Tracy Neal:
Me too. So one last thing for any distributor leaders out there, you want to give a thank you to build your career. I mean, 22 years is a long time. I'm sure that there were some out there. You think you know what? That person really took me under their wing and helped me grow my career. And to get to where I'm at today.

Craig Purser:
Well, you know, it's part of the challenges that you're you there. There's part of the challenges that that there's almost too many of them mentioned and you leave somebody out. But, you know, it's interesting because we have such a blessing and a bounty of different folks that make up this industry. And, you know, I've had some some great leaders and great bosses. It's also been fun to watch some of the turnover on the supplier side, because, you know, even though we butt heads, sometimes there's some great leaders there. But as it relates to distributors, you know, we I will I will pick on one who just recently lost his father. And it was interesting because George O'Connor is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and his father just recently passed away. And it was, you know, and his dad was in business with him.

Tracy Neal:
What type of distributor?

Craig Purser:
So he's in he's he's got more and in two or three different territories in Arkansas. And but I pick on that on him just because he he's been in my thoughts a lot lately, because he just lost his father. And, you know, the thing about George and so many of these leaders is at their core. They care about their family and they care about their business and they care about doing the right thing. And, you know, in this day and age, that's pretty damn strong. And when I think about all the folks that I've worked with, the folks that I've worked for, it it you know, that family, that business and doing the right thing pretty much sums it all up. And if you know, if we're simple people and we want to know whether it was, you know, your teacher or my high school football coach, you learn those kinds of things from people in your life and you're gonna be okay.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. Excellent. Well Craig, I've enjoyed this. Thank you for taking time out. When you get back to the conference and listen to Harry talk some more. By the way, have you heard Harry's interview that we did?

Craig Purser:
No, but I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Tracy Neal:
You need to listen to it. It's quite entertaining.

Craig Purser:
Excellent.

Tracy Neal:
Harry Schumacher was a great candidate. And we had a great conversation.

Craig Purser:
I'm pleased to join the luminaries that you've heard. I actually was was pleased to see Mike Fox was on your list, who's a tremendous guy, been wonderful to me. A guy that's no longer in the industry. But he's just a delightful, delightful guy. And Billy Deluca, who I also know did one with Ed McBrien, a number of just wonderful, wonderful people. So I'm honored honored to be part of this.

Tracy Neal:
I'll tell you something I haven't announced yet too.

Craig Purser:
What's that?

Tracy Neal:
I'm really excited about this. I have made friends with a sales rep who I didn't previously have a relationship with and my beer career. I made friends with this one individual. I won't say who they are, where they work, because he has agreed to go under the microphone with me incognito and discuss his perspective of being a sales rep and a distributorship.

Craig Purser:
Oh, I love that.

Tracy Neal:
On a macro sense.

Craig Purser:
That's great.

Tracy Neal:
When I hear to complain about it...

Craig Purser:
Right. Right. Right.

Tracy Neal:
From a macro sense, what do you see your career? What are the good things you like about it? How is the compensation? How's the workload? How's the work life balance? Do you feel special, all that?

Craig Purser:
Well, if you if you go video, you'll have to put the hood over his head.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. But I'm really excited about getting him out there incognito.

Craig Purser:
That's good. Salesman ex. Well, we'll look forward to tune it in. But I appreciate it. Thank you very much, Tracy. Cheers.

Tracy Neal:
All right.

Craig Purser:
Cheers.

Tracy Neal:
Thank you Craig.

Craig Purser:
Thank you man.

Tracy Neal:
So what's the best tasting beer in America? Who cares? That's for the consumer to decide. And until they do, you will keep selling them new brands every day as a just distributor sales rep. You can become a part of the iSellBeer Nation by subscribing to this podcast and using the #iSellBeer in all your social posts. Also, be sure to join the iSellBeer Nation Facebook group and visit our website. Our industry is an up and down the street business where local relationships matter. I want to thank you for making me part of your day and wish you good luck on the objectives for your next account call. In fact, I know you're gonna crush it.

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