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NBWA's annual meeting rated a huge success.

NBWA's annual meeting rated a huge success

The National Beer Wholesalers Association met for its 54th annual convention and trade show September 22-25, in Las Vegas, NV. According to Frank McNeirney, the NBWA's director of industry affairs, the convention was the most successful in years. "With the addition of the trade show this year," he said, "we found attendance was up considerably. It's possible that the two-year hiatus between trade shows whetted everyone's appetite."

McNeirney reported that comments by attendees and exhibitors were broadly favorable. "Virtually all the members and exhibitors that we talked to had positive things to say," he said, "and people were particularly happy that all the events were under one roof this year."

McNeirney noted that next year's NBWA convention, to be held in New Orleans, will not incorporate a trade show. He did not rule out an eventual return to an annual trade show format, however. "The jury is still out on that," he said.

The convention schedule incorporated two general sessions, headlined by a series of noteworthy speakers. Harold "Hap" Boening served as moderator, welcoming wholesalers to Las Vegas, and introducing lead-off speaker, Peter Coors, chairman/chief executive officer, Coors Brewing Co.

"I know I'm preaching to the choir," Coors told the gathered wholesalers, "but it's really important that you're here, and I want to thank you for your strong involvement in this industry."

The central theme of Coors' keynote address was in keeping with the Coors' Brewing Co.'s growing environmental emphasis. "If environmental issues are not one of the most important things facing this industry," Coors said, "they might be the most important thing facing the industry. There is no doubt that the future of the industry will be profoundly affected by environmental issues.

"In the past," Coors continued, "resources have been seen as commodities. And, because our planet has an incredible capacity to absorb waste materials, the issue of managing solid waste has received little attention. However, we are getting close to nature's capacity to absorb such waste.

"The world is facing extraordinary environmental challenges," Coors said, "keeping our air and water clean--and managing solid waste. We are at a crossroads," he said. "If we continue to desire goods and services for our extraordinary quality of life, we will continue to generate a large quantity of solid waste. As a society, we can choose to deal with this problem through government regulation, or we can allow the free market system to tackle it."

Coors cited advancements made by the private sector towards reducing the problem of solid waste, including the development of the aluminum can and compliance with state bottle laws. Coors also reported his company is working to meet ever-higher levels of recycling. "However," Coors said, "environmentalists are not satisfied with our progress."

Coors noted the impending consideration of the resource and recovery act, a national bill that will be brought up in 1992, and delivered a call to action on the issue of solid waste. "It is time as an industry to turn talk into reality," he said. "It's an exciting time for the industry--we have a chance to make things happen."

Coors was followed by Jim Koch, Boston Beer Co. president, who delivered addressed the subject of craft brewing.

"Microbrewers are very important to the beer business," Koch said, "more so than their size would indicate. Despite the fact that microbrewers produce less than one percent of the beer, they get 45 percent of the press, and 65 percent of the favorable articles. Microbrewers give the industry a human face."

Koch said that the progression of the American wine industry, particularly the rise of craft wineries, could provide parallels for the future development of the brewing industry. "Thirty years ago," Koch said, "Americans didn't take domestic wine very seriously. With wines like Thunderbird and Mad og, every week was a good week. Few serious wine drinkers believed American wineries would ever amount to much. Now, serious wine drinkers know that the U.S. is equal to any in the world."

Koch pointed to similarities with the beer market. "American beer drinkers are now at what I like to call the |Blue Nun' stage," he said. "They're just beginning to realize that beer has all the complexity that wine does. As they do, they'll begin to appreciate the range of beers produced here."

Following Koch's address, the outgoing chairman of the NBWA, Winburn "Brother" Stewart took the podium. "The NBWA is as effective as our dues will allow," he said, "but we are not achieving the success we deserve.

"One of my greatest disappointments has been the lack of support from many wholesalers," Stewart continued. "They know that the NBWA will defend their interests anyway, so it makes good sense to them not to join."

Stewart condemned this shortsighted approach. "It is my belief," he said, "that not being a full dues-paying member will affect your future just as surely as cutting service to retailers."

Stewart also noted the successes of the NBWA. "The NBWA PAC is the number-one political action committee in the beverage alcohol industry," he said, "thanks to the support of member wholesalers."

Stewart pointed out the strong impact president Ron Sarasin has had on the organization. "The NBWA has really benefited from the leadership of Ron Sarasin," he said. "His network of contacts and dynamic personality has helped bring congessional attention to the problems of beer wholesalers. Thanks to Ron Sarasin, beer wholesalers are no longer absent or silent at hearings on Capitol Hill."

Following this introduction, Sarasin took the podium, and outlined a new program between the NBWA and Beer Institute designed to combat underage drinking.

PHOTO : INCOMING CHAIRMAN Kirby Lawlis (left) offers Winburn "Brother" Stewart grateful thanks for his stint as chairman.

PHOTO : LIFE ON THE HILL -- The Honorable Tip O'Neill, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, regaled the audience with amusing Washington anecdotes.

PHOTO : LEAD-OFF HITTER -- Harold "Hap" Boening presided as moderator at the convention's general sessions.

PHOTO : BOSTON BEER CO.'S president, Jim Koch, exulted in the growing appreciation for craft-brewed beer in the U.S. market, and noted that wholesalers can reap benefits from this trend. "No wholesaler needs a microbrewery brand in their portfolio," he said, "but the right one could add two to three percent to your total gross margin."

PHOTO : BEER IN A BAG -- John Iverson, president and Cynthia Iverson, vice president, of Axbridge Beer were on hand to promote their "beer in a bag."

PHOTO : SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY -- Wanda Barker, sales manager for Waymatic, Inc., talks to a trade show attendee.

PHOTO : NBWA TREASURER, Bill Theis, offered a heartening report on the association's economic condition. "We will complete this fiscal year in good financial health," he concluded.

PHOTO : HAPPY TO BE ALIVE -- Jay O'Connor, account executive for the Boelter Cos. exuberantly greeted guests at the company booth.

PHOTO : RON SARASIN presented a commemorative award to the family of the late Ken Kerr, past chairman. Sarasin then announced the creation of an award to memorialize Kerr's efforts on behalf of the NBWA. "R. Kenneth Kerr revitalized the NBWA PAC and made it one of the strongest in Washington, D.C.," Sarasin said. "In tribute to his efforts, we have created the R. Kenneth Kerr PAC award, to be awarded to those who go beyond the call of duty in furthering the NBWA's PAC effort."

PHOTO : GREEN SPEAK -- Peter Coors, chairman and chief executive officer of the Coors Brewing Co., delivered the convention's first address. Coors emphasized the primacy of environmental concerns today, particularly the issue of solid waste management. He called this period, "An exciting time for the industry, because we have an opportunity to make things happen."

PHOTO : CLARION CALL -- Kevin Forth, incoming vice chairman of the NBWA, called on wholesalers to engage themselves fully in the coming legislative battles. "Every wholesaler must now wear two hats," he said, "their selling hat and their legislative awareness hat. We can have even greater influence to shape our future," Forth continued, "but it's up to us. These days, no wholesaler, large or small, can stand alone. All must participate."
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Title Annotation:National Beer Wholesalers Association's 54th annual convention and trade show
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Oct 14, 1991
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