Office Hours with Importers and Distributors at USATT 2017

USATT17 Office Hours Q&A Session was hosted by Steven Raye, President of Bevology. The audience had a chance to ask one-on-one questions about building a successful brand to members of an expert panel: Martin Sinkoff of Frederick Wildman, Rob Bradshaw of Cape Classics and Michael Yurch of Blue Sky Group.

USATT’s Office Hours effort was led by Sid Patel, Founder, and CEO of USA Trade Tasting and Beverage Trade Network and was hosted by Steve Raye, president of consulting firm Bevology.

About USA Trade Tasting:

USATT is an annual show for retailers, sommeliers, bartenders, importers and distributors to network, learn and find new opportunities to grow.

Every year, the USATT Show brings together small and medium-sized importers, distributors, retailers and press professionals of the US wine, spirits and beer industry in New York City for 2 days of learning, buying and selling, networking and fun — all designed to help participants grow their bottom line. Visitor trade registrations are now open.

About the Event Organizer:
Beverage Trade Network (BTN) is a leading online marketing and B2B networking platform servicing suppliers, buyers and beverage professionals in the global beverage industry. BTN provides a selection of sourcing solutions for importers and distributors as well as an extensive range of marketing and distribution services for international suppliers. BTN also runs a lineup of B2B trade shows around the world. For more information about BTN, please visit

USA Trade Tasting 2018 Exhibitor Registrations Now Open.Become an Exhibitor Now.

Make Your Wine Store a Lean, Mean, Selling Machine

Stephen Fahy of the Wine Library emphasized that producers always have to be thinking like a marketer. Wine brands, he said, need to take an activist approach to getting noticed within the U.S. marketplace. That means infusing your brand with passion and enthusiasm. And it also means staying one step ahead of what customers want in the marketplace, “Look for new angles, new perspectives, and new opportunities. Always.”

About Stephen Fahy: 

Stephen C. Fahy, DWS is the Sales Director and Senior Buyer at the Wine Library and is passionate about the business of direct-to-consumer wine education and the complete customer service experience. He has proven to be a specialist in finding and promoting a wide range of exciting wines from around the world, working directly with importers, distributors, and the wineries themselves. His palate is widely recognized by an ever-growing local, regional and national consumer base, due in large part to the extraordinary quality of the wines he selects to put on offer, and loves the excitement of the business, especially when his contagious enthusiasm spreads to others.

For more than a decade prior to Stephen’s role at the Wine Library, he managed and ran the wine retail programs for another key, large-scale wine merchants in both New Jersey and Manhattan. He also serviced and sold to some of Manhattan’s top restaurants and retailers while a Wine and Spirits Consultant with Winebow.

Stephen has been an active Adjunct Professor teaching “Concepts of the Sommelier” at Montclair State University. This three credit University course grounds students in the principles of wine tasting, key varietal and regional knowledge, and the service expectations of the wine professional in both on and off-premise settings. Stephen has also been actively consulting with the London-based research and business strategy firm, Wine Intelligence as a Research Associate specializing in the U.S. wine trade and consumer sector.

In 2011, Stephen earned his Diploma in Wine & Spirits (DWS), with Merit, from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust in London. He is the proud father of three girls and with his wife, enjoys the hustle and bustle of the Garden State where he lives, in northern New Jersey.

About USA Trade Tasting:

USATT is an annual show for retailers, sommeliers, bartenders, importers and distributors to network, learn and find new opportunities to grow.

Every year, the USATT Show brings together small and medium-sized importers, distributors, retailers and press professionals of the US wine, spirits and beer industry in New York City for 2 days of learning, buying and selling, networking and fun — all designed to help participants grow their bottom line. Visitor trade registrations are now open.

About the Event Organizer:
Beverage Trade Network (BTN) is a leading online marketing and B2B networking platform servicing suppliers, buyers and beverage professionals in the global beverage industry. BTN provides a selection of sourcing solutions for importers and distributors as well as an extensive range of marketing and distribution services for international suppliers. BTN also runs a line-up of B2B trade shows around the world. For more information about BTN, please visit 

USA Trade Tasting 2018 Exhibitor Registrations Now Open.Become an Exhibitor Now.

Highlights from Day 1 of USATT 2017

Representatives from across the wine industry met in New York City on May 16 for the second annual United States Trade Tasting Show


The second annual United States Trade Tasting (USATT) conference kicked off on May 16 with more than 2,000 attendees and 138 exhibitors from more than 20 countries. As Steven Raye, pointed out in the opening keynote, this year’s event is designed to give emerging wine and spirits brands a smarter way to enter the U.S. market by connecting them with importers and distributors and sharing best practices from across the industry.


Brandy Rand, Vice President of IWSR (USA), led off the morning session with a review of some of the key trends in the marketplace today. Two of the hottest trends are “Premiumization” and “Category Blur” (the creation of new hybrid drinks as well as consumers who consume alcoholic beverages across categories). U.S. spirits are now an “affordable luxury” and IWSR is seeing tremendous growth in the premium and ultra-premium categories.

In order to stand out in the U.S. marketplace, Rand noted, some brands are adopting alternative packaging (such as wine in cans and boxes) and adopting marketing messaging that emphasizes their “artisanal” and “craft” origins. Among consumers, one new trend is a changing flavor profile that emphasizes “spicy/smoky/savory” rather than just “sweet,” which had been the previous trend. There has also been what IWSR refers to as the “Hispanic phenomenon,” which means greater popularity for categories like tequila, mezcal, and imported Mexican beers.

Some of these trends visitors were able to see directly on the USATT 2017 showroom floor, which opened at 11:00. For example, Vodquila is a new hybrid vodka and tequila drink created for tequila drinkers who want a smoother sipping experience. For many visitors, the highlight of the Grand Tasting in the first floor main hall was the ability to sample wines and spirits from all over the world, including products from up-and-coming wine regions like Lebanon, South Africa and China.


In the morning session, Chris Mehringer, President of Park Street, talked about the basics of building a long-term, sustainable business model for the U.S. market. As he pointed out, it’s important to have a realistic plan and sufficient resources before meeting up with distributors. Any go-to-market strategy needs to be market-driven, coherent, balanced and flexible. As part of this strategy, brands need to keep in mind how they can differentiate themselves in the marketplace and how they can create economies of scale.


Josh Wand, Founder of BevForce, explained how importers and distributors can build a strong sales force for the U.S. market. As Wand explained, it’s all about hiring the best team possible. Start off by hiring for passion and expertise and then establish challenging goals for this sales staff. He also outlined two of the keys to employee retention: offering fair market value compensation and building a healthy, positive sales culture. Attracting and retaining talent, he noted, is the key to the long-term success of your business.

In the afternoon session, Donna Hartman, attorney at OlenderFeldman LLP, covered the key points of wine distribution agreements, walking participants through the differences between drafting distribution agreements for franchise and non-franchise states. She also noted some of the important legal points to keep in mind as brands expand in the U.S. marketplace and build relationships with distributors.

Jonathan Newman, Chairman and CEO of Newman Wine, talked about the Top 10 ways for brands to get noticed and picked up by national chains and retailers. Getting positive press in the major industry publications still matters, as does holding regular tastings to build customer awareness. He also mentioned the important things that brands can do to make their products stand out on the shelves of retailers, such as creating the right types of labels and using the right kinds of point-of-sale (POS) materials that help retailers sell their wine.

Stephen Fahy, Sales Director and Senior Buyer at the Wine Library, talked about ways for wine and liquor stores to turn into “lean, mean selling machines.” He boiled it down to a few key points. One important point is data, which he said now “drives the engine.” You absolutely have to have the data to know who are your best customers, in terms of how often they buy, how much they buy, and how willing they are experiment with new categories. Another key is being bold and standing out – you need to be fearless about being passionate, enthusiastic and even flamboyant. You need to be an “activist” – if you stay quiet, you will be forgotten.


Finally, the day wrapped up with a Master Class on Chinese wines led by Chateau Rongzi. Participants were given a brief history of Chinese wines and an overview of how the wines are made at Chateau Rongzi before sampling a number of different wines – the first public tasting of these wines in the United States market.

Outside of the conference sessions, there was a palpable buzz on the floor throughout the day, and there’s more planned for Day 2 of the event. Things kick off at 9:00 with a special Office Hours session moderated by Steven Raye, featuring a number of prominent importers and distributors.

There are also two afternoon Master Classes planned, featuring the wines of Tejo (Portugal) and Beaujolais (France). In addition, participants will hear from Thomas Barfoed, Managing Director of JF Hillebrand USA; Adam Lambert, Seller of Beer & Spirits; and Richard Halstead, COO of Wine Intelligence.


And, of course, the Grand Tasting hall will be open again on the first floor, giving everyone a chance to meet and mingle with importers and distributors as well as experiment with wines and spirits from across the world.

USA Trade Tasting 2018 Exhibitor Registrations Now Open.Become an Exhibitor Now.

What U.S. Retailers Are Looking for and How to Pitch Them

On a daily basis, a wine and liquor retailer/wholesaler must manage a litany of items. Among those things is a slew of requests from a large number of winemakers who are eager to get their offerings on store shelves. When making a pitch to them, its important for a representative to be focused and respectful of the retailers time. Also vital is the ability to make a brand stand out from the rest in a crowded U.S. market.  

Meet the Retailers Needs

One of the most important themes in any sales pitch? Authenticity.  Retailers will be looking for an authentic story that tells of provenance. Theyll pass this along to the customers to help improve a brands identity. Ben von Doussa, USA Market Entry Manager for Wine Australia, likes to remind winemakers that every year the TTB approves a whopping 180,000 to 200,000 SKUs for wine and spirits in the United States. Because of this, a sales pitch must be incredibly compelling in order to garner any attention.

Wine Australias vision, going forward, is for Australia to be recognized as the worlds pre-eminent wine-producing company.Another key to standing out in the U.S. market is to focus on what makes Australian fine wines special when compared to other countries. Discussion of the diverse, unique regionality and superior terroirs found throughout Australia, as well as the skilled and innovative people behind the wine, helps to set Aussie wines apart from those made by other wine-producing hard hitters. The exciting thing about this? Its exactly what U.S. retailers are currently looking for. They want luxury wine offerings with a story and a sense of provenance behind them. Moving forward with this information in hand, Wine Australia is confident that Aussie wines have the capacity to be recognized as the best in the world.

What do U.S. retailers want from the New Australia? Listening to the needs of retailers is important and when von Doussa contacted them to talk specifics, they expressed excitement about the potential of new offerings to revitalize the Australian wine category. There have been approximately 50 Australian brands competing for an ever-shrinking amount of American shelf space over the past years. Retailers are looking for something new to attract customersattention.  

The story of origin is critically important in these new brands. Wine consumers want to purchase wine with a sense of place. As they open a bottle over dinner with friends, they want to be able to discuss where the grapes were grown, the purity of the water used to grow them and the growing conditions that make that region different from the rest.

Authenticity is also a significant factor to consider. When entry-level brands flooded into the U.S. wine market, it resulted in damage to the overall image of the Australian wine industry among American consumers. Retailers decided that most Australian brands werent able to deliver the kind of quality-to-price ratio that they needed. Margins matter, and representatives must demonstrate that offerings from the Australian category are capable of delivering the margins seen by other segments such as California or Europe. Its no longer acceptable for fine Australian wines to be perceived as an entry-level product.

In forming a sales pitch, there should be three areas of focus. Lead with all the specifics that make a wine unique. Media ratings from third-party sources like Wine Spectator are highly valued in the U.S. market. In addition to this, provenance, authenticity and a wines extraordinary value through luxury price points will help build a story that retailers want to hear. U.S. retailers are very motivated by driving margin, especially with the online competition that exists in the wine market. To top off the triad of sales pitch organization, offering regional exclusives is an excellent strategy to help build a relationship with various retailers.

Know the Customer

As wine representatives pitch various retailers, their presentation should vary according to the needs of each individual business. These needs are defined by the shopping behaviors of the customer base of that retailer. For instance, warehouse club Costco is perhaps the holy grail of accounts for wine brands. This is because they move a high volume of product, selling it to customers who arent concerned with price point and make wine purchases based on reviews and ratings. This differentiates Costco from other clubs such as BJs and Sams. They cater to a customer base that is primarily motivated by price point and is looking for cost-effective wine options.

Apart from Costco, stores with specialty wine programs should be another area of intense focus for winemakers and their representatives. Places like Earth Fare and Wegmans cater to wine-centric customers who love having a good story behind their wine. Customers who frequent specialty wine shops spend lots of time researching online ratings and are drawn to great quality wine with attractive packaging.

Grocery chains can prove to be a tough nut to crack for luxury wine brands, but ignoring them is a grave error. Brands that can break into a grocery store such as Kroger or Publix at a luxury price point will enjoy the ability to move a large amount of product. Grocery stores want quality wine and are happy to provide a selection for their customers who are looking for a higher price point. However, the current selection of Aussie wines being presented at most grocery stores is being sold as entry-level, low-cost offerings. Grocery stores run in contrast with the drug store wine market in the U.S., where customers are primarily motivated by a wines price point and packaging and are typically shopping for the lowest-priced products. These are not the best choice to focus on for sales.

Independent wine retailers such as Sherry-Lehman and Binnys in Chicago provide a market where price point is not an issue for the clientele. These kinds of retailers sell to a customer that is focused on ratings, as well as a wines story. Before making a choice, these customers need to know where their wine is from, how it was made and what makes it different from the brand sitting directly next to it on the shelf.  

As years go by, more and more of the wine market is playing out on the internet. Sites such as and WTSO cater to customers who do intensive research before making a wine purchase. Ratings play heavily with these customers, and they are interested to know the story behind any brand they consider buying. Price point is not a leading priority for online wine customers.

Wine and liquor chains with multiple locations such as ABC or Apple Jack function similarly to specialty grocery stores. They market wine by placing a spotlight on ratings and the story. Attractive packaging also works to garner the attention of customers in these stores. Small mom and pop stores cater to customers who are primarily focused on ratings and packaging. Although the price point isnt a big concern, mom and pop stores can prove to be challenging due to low-volume sales. A supplier will need to cover extensive ground to reach substantial numbers with independent retail stores.

Success in the U.S. wine market truly comes down to research and preparation. Price points are best determined by looking at the competition. Winemakers and their representatives must have a unique, compelling story preparedone that makes the retailer and the customer feel a connection with a given brand. Representatives must arrive at each store with an understanding of what aspects of wine purchasing are important to that specific customer base. Keeping these things in mind will greatly increase a brands chances of edging out the international competition in the teeming and ever-changing U.S. market.    

USA Trade Tasting 2018 Exhibitor Registrations Now Open.Become an Exhibitor Now.

Mark Your Calendar to Join Us at the USA Trade Tasting, NYC, May 16/17, 2017

On May 16 & 17 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, join over 2,000 trade show visitors, that include buyers, importers, distributors and retailers and 132 exhibitors from 20 countries at a high-energy, global conference in New York City that has been designed to inspire and empower you with the best ideas from all over the world of how to market, sell and grow your business. It’s brought to you by Beverage Trade Network (BTN), the leading platform connecting the global beverage industry.

You’ll also have a chance to network with12 globally-recognized keynote speakers, including top thinkers from Beverage Media, Bevology, International Wine & Spirits Research, J.F Hillebrand and Newman Wine.

Here’s what you can expect:

#1: Incredible networking opportunities: Two content-full days of learning and networking with some of the brightest minds in the wine, beer, and spirits industry. There will be extensive networking opportunities throughout the event, including USATT Office Hours, where you can have your specific questions answered by experts.  This is a one on one session with importers/distributors with panelists Rob Bradshaw of Cape Classics, Mike Votto of Votto Vines, Martin Sinkoff of Frederick Wildman and Mick Yurch, formerly owner of Sherry Lehmann. It will take place on Thursday, May 17th at 9:30 AM.

#2: Best-in-class content: We’ve set up a speaker schedule of 12 TED-style talks that will challenge your view of the wine, beer, and spirits industry. In addition, three master classes are scheduled, where you can learn more about the wines of up-and-coming wine production areas including Tejo Wines from Portugal, China, and Beaujolais. View Full Schedule. 

Make sure to register for the Wines from Tejo Masterclass to be conducted by wine educator and In the Grape author May Matta-Aliah.  

#3: A peek ahead at new products: See unique and innovative products, and new offerings from the beer, wine and spirits industry where you will be able to learn about new wine, beer and spirits offerings before anyone else. Buyers will get a chance to look at new and innovative brands and concepts from all over the world at the show. Suppliers will get key buyer feedback to help plan their go-to-market strategy.

See what’s on at USATT 2017.

Here’s why you should attend this conference…

#1: You will learn proven techniques for entering the U.S. market: If you are looking to grow your distribution in the U.S. market, you will have plenty of opportunities to connect with distributors, importers and retailers. Moreover, each of the12 TED-style talks have been geared to the specific needs of brands looking to enter the U.S. market. The focus is on practice, not theory.

#2: You will get valuable feedback on how to speed your time to market: Not only will you get insights from fellow conference attendees, you will also have opportunities to mix and mingle with 2,000+ trade show visitors who are attending the Grand Tasting event. This is a unique opportunity to see what sophisticated New York wine and spirits connoisseurs think of your product.

#3: You will build awareness of your brand: A new free program for USATT exhibitors, called Show Deals, will help you drive more traffic and close more business during the event. Show deals are two-day discounts for attendees of the show from the beverage industry. These specials are only available at USATT 2017 and provide a strong incentive to close business during the event.

#4: You will meet the world’s newest wine, beer and spirits brands: This year’s show is a truly global event, with exhibitors from over 20 countries. As part of our focus on bringing you the very best from all over the world, attendees of the USA Trade Tasting show will also have a unique opportunity to learn all about Chinese wine regions and varietals, including the elegant wines of Chateau Rongzi.

See the agenda and the full speaker line-up at this year’s Conference.

#5: Full access to the content of the show including EVERY session – We understand that you may want to spend time on the trade floor of the Grand Tasting during part of the show, or may be involved in meetings while some of the sessions are going on. That’s why we will be providing each attendee full access to all of the great content at the event, including video and social media highlights.

USA Trade Tasting 2018 Exhibitor Registrations Now Open.Become an Exhibitor Now

How to Draft a Solid Distribution Agreement for Franchise and Non-Franchise States

Distribution AgreementDistribution Agreement

(Image: Donna H. Hartman, Esq)

Donna focuses her practice on the representation of companies in the alcoholic beverage industry. In her more than twenty years of experience, she has worked with numerous preeminent brands.

Her areas of expertise include corporate legal affairs, general corporate, commercial transactions, due diligence, acquisitions/dispositions, legal and regulatory compliance, employment law, and intellectual property management. Donna represents the Millstone Spirits Group LLC, a Pennsylvania-based craft distiller, The Connacht Whiskey Company Ltd., based in Ireland, as well as others in the industry.

Previously, Donna was Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary to Rémy Cointreau USA, Inc., a global industry leader of premium beverage alcohol products. Donna is also actively involved in the beverage alcohol industry, and has held various leadership posts at the National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc. (NABI) and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

Time & Venue :

The Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City on May 16th at 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm.

Grab your USATT conference passes and learn more from Donna H. Hartman about distribution agreements.


USATT Conference is limited to 300 people only. Register today to confirm your seat and learn all about Sales, Marketing and Distribution. USATT Conference ticket includes your entry into the grand tasting area as well. We hope to see you in NYC. View Speakers | View Full Schedule | Register.

Event Producer: Beverage Trade Network

USA Trade Tasting is brought to you by Beverage Trade Network, the leading online platform dedicated to connecting the global beverage industry.

USA Trade Tasting 2018 Exhibitor Registrations Now Open.Become an Exhibitor Now.