What the acquisition of local liquor distributor Major Brands means for St. Louis
How will the sale of Missouri’s largest local distributor affect local businesses — and you?
The acquisition of St. Louis-based Major Brands, Missouri’s largest wholesale liquor distributor, by Breakthru Beverage Group was announced in early January, and the transaction is expected to close this spring. The sale of one of Missouri’s biggest beverage players is obviously big news for the local liquor industry, but what does it mean for consumers and businesses that work with consumers? major brands ?
If you’ve ever purchased liquor from retail stores, bars, or restaurants in Missouri, you’ve almost certainly purchased a product that’s part of the major brand portfolio. As a consumer, the big question is whether the acquisition of the company will affect the range of products available to you in stores and venues around St. Louis. Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum said she doesn’t foresee any brands being lost to the local market – if anything, the consumer will have more choice. “People want to be in Missouri, and we’re trying to introduce new brands to our portfolio,” she said. “You always try to bring brands that you think your consumers want to market. This is what we do and continue to do. »
Local site operators also reacted to the announcement of the acquisition. Ted Kilgore, co-owner of Planter’s House and Small Change, said Breakthru Beverage Group brings a good reputation to the Missouri market. “I’m sure the big brands would look at any company that bought them,” Kilgore said. A customer of major brands for 24 years, Kilgore said its bars buy more stock from the distributor than from any other supplier. “I hope nothing will change in terms of their loyalty to us, as well as ours to them,” he said.
Local sites and suppliers will be eager to see how the transition unfolds, but McCollum said customers can expect continuity and consistency. “They are going to have the same sales representative. Their products will come out of the same warehouse, the same people will touch them along the way, they will have the same driver,” McCollum said. “All of these touchpoints that are personal and local are not changing.”
Local laws governing the distribution of alcohol differ widely from state to state, as do market conditions. In an acquisition like the Breakthru-Major Brands deal, this incentivizes the acquirer to rely on local experience. “Breakthru does not have an operation in Missouri,” McCollum said. “So it’s not like you combine two companies and all of a sudden you don’t need X or Y or Z anymore. They want to take over the operations of the company in Missouri.
Kevin Lemp, founder and owner of 4 Hands Brewing Co. and 1220 Artisan Spirits, said he sees “a lot of upside” in the acquisition. “I feel like it’s going to be business as usual, with pretty huge outside resources that Breakthru has up and down,” Lemp said. “Being a multi-state operator could potentially shed new light on the opportunities in our current market.”
He said 4 Hands has had a “wonderful relationship” with major brands over the past decade, but the brewer also has a good working relationship with Breakthru, which has sold 4 Hands in the Chicago market for several years. years until Breakthru released beer. business in Illinois.
Breakthru’s network includes 14 US markets, as well as Canada. It’s a potential avenue for local Missouri beer, wine and liquor brands to expand into new territories. “There may be opportunities through their network,” McCollum said. “I think it’s an interesting element. People always think, ‘What am I going to lose?’ with a change – not, ‘What am I going to win?’ ”
Lemp is cautiously optimistic about the prospect of expanding its products into new markets. “There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle,” he said. On the one hand, Lemp said the 4 Hands brand is “hyper-focused” on Missouri and Illinois. On the other hand, Lemp believes there are potential standouts among 4 Hands and 1220’s broader portfolio – for example, 1220’s range of canned cocktails. Securing this opportunity will require patience, establishing relationships and a lot of due diligence. “It’s not as easy as Breakthru going in and flipping a switch,” Lemp said.
When the deal is done, one thing that may change is the name of the major brands. If so, it would probably be Breakthru Beverage Missouri; however, this has not been confirmed. But McCollum is adamant that the company’s future will be guided by the same principles that have sustained it for nearly nine decades. “We have been in business for  years,” she said. “And that’s because every brand we support is close to our hearts. It matters to us.