Tom Wark | fermentationwineblog.com
The most shocking thing about the new Liberation Distribution (LibDib) wholesale platform is that the idea to automate distribution of alcohol on a platform that invites everyone onboard apparently escaped the great minds occupying the middle tier.
I jest. Of course American wholesalers didn’t think of the most obvious and efficient way to mitigate the distribution bottleneck for artisan wineries, brewers, cideries, and distillers. They aren’t in the business of efficient or obvious. No, it took someone who experienced first hand the absurd consequences of wholesale distribution and antiquated three-tier law to come up with a beautiful and elegant solution to bringing the growing set of artisan “Makers” to market.
Cheryl Murphy Durzy is the founder of Liberation Distribution. Having confronted the frustration of dealing with wholesalers who either blocked the way to market for all but the largest brands or happily let producers’ products waste away in a warehouse, Durzy decided she could do it better. And she did.
Liberation Distribution is simple. Producers sign up and onboard their products. LibDib presents its book online. Accounts buy online and the producer delivers. LibDib takes a cut. But more important, LibDib is an equal opportunity wholesaler:
“Any ‘Maker’ who wants to distribute their products to states on the LibDib system is welcome to sign up, set their price, and wholesale. Anyone…All brands deserve a route to market”
Consider the last part of that quote: “All brands deserve a route to market.” Not “all brands deserve to succeed.” Not “all brands deserve a built in customer base.” Simply, “all brands deserve a route to market.” And it’s true. But consider that under the strict three tier system championed by Durzy’s wholesaler competitors for decades, the rule has been that no brand has the right to a route to market, let alone deserve it. Instead, the big wholesalers have operated under the mantra that only wholesalers shall determine which brands have a route to market.
LibDib is currently licensed as a wholesaler in New York and California with expansion to Illinois and other states likely in the near future.
The most important thing about LibDib is that it finally gives wineries, brewers and distillers an efficient, inexpensive and nearly risk-free way of offering their products to some of the most prestigious and important restaurants and retailers in the American marketplace. Durzy has pledged that she’ll never enforce a Franchise statute. That alone is reason for small, artisan producers to give the LibDib system a try.
Among the most impressive elements of LibDib is the elegance of the platform. Simple to use for producers and simple to navigate for accounts. The challenge, of course, is that a small, artisan distiller in Kansas using the LibDib system to offer wines at wholesale in California won’t have access to a large group of sales people on the street. But let’s face it, the big wholesalers who control most markets don’t use their sales people to market small producers anyway. And the flipside is that restaurants and retailers can order as little as a bottle or two if they just want to try it. There are no minimum purchases at LibDib.
It won’t take long for the copycats to come out of the woodwork, this idea is so brilliantly suited for today’s market of too many producers of alcohol, too few wholesalers, and too antiquated and stodgy regulations. But LibDib has a nice lead in what will be a new category of wholesalers. Durzy has spent lavishly on her platform, making it a seamless experience for producers and buyers.
But again, I have to go back to the traditional, bulky, slow moving wholesalers. How is it they didn’t start doing this a decade ago when the complaints about small producers having no path to market through the consolidating middlemen were in full swing? I’ll tell you how. It is the most obvious non-outcome of a system of distribution that for decades has been built and rebuilt around deep pocket middlemen with no interest in innovation or serving anyone but themselves despite their privileged and cozy mandated status.
It’s gonna cost them millions, if not billions down the road.
In the mean time, LibDib should become a chosen outlet for the ambitious artisan producers that want to continue to grow. There are now over 15,000 wineries, distillers, and brewers in the United States. The vast majority are small and a good many of those would love a chance to break into wholesale markets on at least a limited basis. Now they have a path.