The Best of Beers

The beer industry has become more dynamic over the past 10 years with the emergence of craft beer. The trend brought a change to consumers’ buying habits and forced distributors such as The Best of Beers of Hickory, N.C., to start looking at business differently.

“Business was pretty much the same for about 50 to 60 years and then with the growth of craft beer – the No. 1 buzzword in the industry – things started changing,” President Randy Truitt says. “Consumers drive everything; they are the boss. We are very successful at partnering with high-quality, highly sought-after craft brewers to add to our portfolio to make us relevant.”

Although it has been a distributor for Anheuser-Busch since Prohibition was repealed in 1933, The Best of Beers prides itself on being a nimble distributor to deliver popular domestic beer along with the latest craft brews. With a solid history in the beer industry, The Best of Beers looks to a bright future as the fourth generation of Truitts takes the lead. “The domestic beer market has been flat or down over the past five to seven years and again, that’s primarily due to a change in model in the beer industry today,” Truitt explains. “It used to be you were a Bud or Miller person and that was your badge. Now, the 21- to 34-year-olds are just the opposite. They are curious and don’t want to be tied to one thing. Their badge is more curiosity and the difference in beers.”

Staying Relevant
The Best of Beers has remained a small, family owned distributor since it was founded 82 years ago because Truitt believes bigger is not always better. “I am here every day and I can get in the trenches pretty quick and make the calls,” he says. “That’s a real key to how we run our business. Not to say I’m on Mount Olympus throwing down thunderbolts, but I know the smart decisions to make to be a good mentor and make the right decisions for all involved.”

Being small allows The Best of Beers to develop more personalized relationships with its brewery partners. When brewers choose a wholesaler they want to know the owner as well as the craft beer manager. “It’s kind of like meeting your girlfriend’s parents,” he says. “The ownership angle is very important and I’ve tried to be very active. If the owner is not fired up, the product won’t be as big of a success.”

Truitt looks forward to spending personal time with brewers in addition to the time spent together focused on business. “I am 63 years old, but I communicate well with people in their 20s and 30s,” he says. “I think the craft brewers have an old fashioned feel and think very hard about the person they are dealing with. It’s not something we give their generation enough credit for and they are the greatest entrepreneurs. There is a personal aspect of dealing with craft brewers that people don’t understand.”

Many craft brewers begin as home brewers and Truitt says helping their product become available and grow a wild following is what The Best of Beers is all about. “The industry in general is a great deal of fun and if you look at the occasions that people use beer for, it’s all very social,” he adds. “Brewers are great folks and we become really close.”

Right Choices
The Best of Beers is committed to the craft beer trend and agile when it comes to selecting brewers, products and locations to distribute. The challenge in the industry is the promiscuity consumers have with brands and varieties, Truitt says. “When we bring something in, it can be hot as hell for a couple weeks or months, then something else tends to come along,” he explains. “Being nimble has become very key to how we do our business and making sure the beer is the best it can be.”

The Best of Beers will continue to grow by adding new craft beer lines while continuing to be a great distributor for Anheuser-Busch, which is also acquiring craft breweries. Truitt believes that craft and domestic beers can be symbiotic partners in creating a more efficient distribution system. Although there is no magic formula to continued success, The Best of Beers will stay focused on new developments and work hard to be involved. “Going forward, we don’t want to just think outside the box. We like to say here that there is no box,” Truitt says. “Looking at things just on the surface seems ridiculously inefficient.”