Experts Present Global Perspective on State of Alcohol Industry

Dec 16, 2010, 12:39 ET from Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

Industry Impacted Internationally by Falling Dollar, Rising Oil Prices

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Executives from the wine and spirits industries, along with a U.S. government official, shared their perspectives on how the global economy affects the U.S. beverage alcohol industry at the Second Annual State of the Alcohol Industry Media Briefing. The event was hosted by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) at the National Press Club.  

WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf moderated the panel, which included: Timothy Reif, general counsel, Office of the United States Trade Representative; John Baker, executive vice president and COO, National Wine & Spirits, Inc. and Republic National Distributing Company of Indiana, LLC; John McDonnell, COO, Patron Spirits International; and B. Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, Research & Knowledge Group, National Restaurant Association.

Reif discussed the Obama administration's policies in trade and said that as a result of the recent trade agreement with South Korea, U.S. companies would be more competitive within that market.

Baker, who also serves as chairman of WSWA, said "The U.S. beverage alcohol industry has a well-established place in the global economy, but we are impacted by the falling dollar and rising OPEC crude prices. Wholesalers are to a great extent importers as well, so we are bounced backwards by unwarranted trade restrictions here and abroad, yet propelled forward by non-domestic supplier innovation."

The beverage alcohol industry is critically important to the U.S. economy, according to Wolf. "The American wholesaler is dramatically impacted by the shifts and growth of the global economy, making us the ideal bellwether for the industry and a key barometer of the nation's economic vitality," Wolf said.

According to the Beverage Information Group's 2010 Liquor, Wine and Beer Handbooks, beverage alcohol ranks as the fourth largest beverage type in the U.S. and represents $188 billion in annual retail sales.

McDonnell provided an overview of where the industry is headed on a macro level, with a focus on international commerce. "You have to be very culturally adept to preserve the perceived value of the product when you market internationally," McDonnell said. "It's important to be true to the brand, wherever the customer is located. And we believe there is still a lot of room to grow the industry in other parts of the world. We seek to be in emerging markets before they reach maturity."

The U.S. restaurant industry has evolved into a mega-industry, "an economic juggernaut that spans nearly 40 distinct segments, from tableservice and quickservice restaurants to foodservice operations in businesses, schools and military installations," Riehle said.

Riehle presented research from the National Restaurant Association that offered strategic insights into that industry's unique challenges and opportunities as restaurant operators strive to meet the growing customer demand for food and beverages away from home. Riehle included the top 20 trendy offerings in food and beverage in the restaurant industry, including the move to locally-grown and raised products, sustainability, and nutritionally balanced meals for children.

Following the media event, WSWA hosted a reception featuring the hottest products in the industry, including Patron's top products.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) is the national trade organization representing the wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry. It is dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of wholesale distributors and/or brokers of wine and/or spirits.

SOURCE Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America