Passion for its Craft

Kohler Distributing Co. is not only an advocate for quality beer – it serves a valuable
sales tool for niche breweries, thanks to its craft and specialty beer divison.

By Kathryn Jones (Published by Phoenix Media Corporation. © 2012. All rights reserved)

Other companies may scale back in times of economic instability, but Kohler Distributing Co. – a Hawthorne, N.J.-based beer and wine wholesaler that sells more than 6 million cases a year – has forged ahead, undertaking new initiatives over the past few years to maximize efficiency, drive growth and improve its bottom line. “We show our partners our commitment to growth and to the well-being of our brands by investing in our people and resources,” says Frank Politano, vice president of sales and marketing. “We felt that by investing when times are tough, we would be more poised to compete when things do turn around.” In the wake of the economic downturn, Kohler Distributing shifted its business development focus to adding new and/or growing existing specialty beer brands, such as craft brews and niche imports, outside of its core beer portfolio. This has been a strategic advantage for the company since “the growth of the craft segment has been the only growth in the beer business in the past few years,” Politano maintains.

Perfecting Its Craft

As the largest beer distributor in northeast New Jersey, Kohler Distributing has the policies, procedures and people in place to ensure continued success.

By Kathryn Jones (Published by Business Media Publications Ltd. © 2010. All rights reserved)

Beer and wine distribution is a highly competitive industry, especially in the Northeast, but Kohler Distributing Co. proves that progressive companies who care about their suppliers, customers, employees, and surrounding communities always take the leading position. Headquartered in Hawthorne, N.J., Kohler is the largest beer distributor in the northeast New Jersey territory of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Morris counties; and with recent expansion into Union, Essex and Hudson counties, it now sells more beer than its competitors combined. When Andy and Irene Graham purchased Kohler Distributing Co. in 1947, the company was selling 50,000 cases of beer annually and doubled that number by the time their sons, Gary and Scott, took over the business in 1983. The ensuing consolidation of brewing companies, brands and wholesalers prompted the brothers to take proactive steps to grow the company. By 1990, Kohler was selling more than 3 million cases annually. “The year, we will do two thing,” says Frank Politano, vice president of sales and marketing. “We will have surpassed 6 million cases in annual sales, and we will have something that I think is unheard of in this business – and one of the things we’re most proud of – it will be our 20th consecutive year of growth. Even in a tough economy, we still showed positive growth last year.”

Time to Get Crafty

Kohler Distributing Co. finds new pockets of opportunity within its business.

By Jennifer Cirillo (Published by Beverage World magazine, September 2009)

At Kohler Distributing Co., a 6-million-case beer and wine wholesaler based in Hawthorne, N.J., USA, the economic downturn prompted the company to undertake several initiatives over the past 18 months to maximize efficiency, drive growth and improve the bottom line.

Frank Politano, vice president of sales and marketing, calls the effort a “reorg,” a business development plan focusing on growing brands outside of its core beer business. “Gary’s [Gary Graham, Kohler’s president] big focus is do what you do really well before you move onto something else, and we do our core business real well,” notes Politano. Kohler’s core suppliers are Coors, Crown Imports, Heineken USA, Boston Beer Co., Yuengling, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Carlsberg, Sierra Nevada, Spaten and Hofbrau.

While some companies might opt to scale back during a time of economic instability, Kohler decided to take a different approach and invest in its people and its business. “And it’s a risk to do that,” Politano admits, “but we think that this will pay off in the long run.”

Part of the reorg was to create a craft and specialty beer division about a year ago and add a new position to head up the division. Within the past seven months or so, the wholesaler has partnered with several new craft and specialty beer suppliers.