Unveiling the Future: Key Takeaways from the 2023 NBWA Annual Convention

Explore key takeaways around the future of the industry, leveraging technology for growth, and more from the 2023 NBWA Annual Convention.

October 26, 2023

Unveiling the Future: Key Takeaways from the 2023 NBWA Annual Convention

The recently concluded National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) Annual Convention in Las Vegas was a true reflection of the dynamic and ever-changing beverage industry. Distributors, suppliers, and industry experts gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities shaping the future of the industry. Throughout the event, various key themes came to the forefront, shedding light on the ongoing transformation within the industry. In his opening remarks, NBWA CEO Craig Purser spoke about current challenges like appealing to younger, legal-drinking-age (LDA) consumers, political battles, and F&B giants entering the industry. Purser urged wholesalers to look at these and future concerns as industry-wide challenges that need to be tackled head-on. In this article, we will delve deeper into some of the primary takeaways uncovered from the NBWA Convention and offer a perspective on effectively addressing these challenges.

Navigating Industry Crossroads

We live in a world where consumer preferences ebb and flow unpredictably. A key example of this is the increasing popularity of modern health trends, such as "Sober October" and "Dry January.” Craig Purser highlighted data revealing a substantial 30% (2.2 million) decline in the number of younger, LDA consumers since 2018. While these consumers aren’t drinking alcoholic beverages, data from NielsenIQ suggests they are drinking more NA beverages. “Between August 2021 and August 2022, total dollar sales of non-alcoholic drinks in the US stood at $395 million, showing a year-on-year growth of +20.6%.”

With changing demand, it’s more imperative than ever to have the right product, at the right place, at the right time. Having access to insightful data enables informed decisions about which products to stock, how to allocate resources efficiently, and when and where to focus marketing efforts. In an industry where supply chains, inventory management, and distribution networks are intricately intertwined, it’s important to work together with suppliers and retailers to succeed and thrive. Tools like Retail Insights provide access to powerful retail inventory and depletion data that help mitigate out-of-stocks and minimize the amount of time spent taking inventory so sales reps can spend more time selling. Robbie Maletis, General Manager of Sales at Maletis Beverage spoke about being proactive in the face of industry change with Kyle Billings, Director of IT/Logistics of Pope Distributing, and Patrick Tickle, CEO of Encompass Technologies. Robbie summed it up with, “Things are going to be different. If we look back five years ago, there have been a lot of changes in this industry. We know that the business of tomorrow is going to be different than the business of today.”

Building a Future-Proof Distributorship

The significance of technology in the beverage industry has never been more apparent. It is clear that the future is happening now and it will not wait for those who are not prepared. It is fundamentally transforming how distributors and suppliers conduct their operations, encompassing everything from supply chain management to customer engagement. Kyle Billings stated, “We got to a point where our old hardware needed to be replaced and we found comfort with Encompass in going through all the change because we knew we were going to be future-proofed. We weren’t going to have to change ERP systems ever again. While we were changing, we knew we were going to have a partner that would keep us updated.”

​​Building a future-proof operation is not limited to just one tier of the beverage industry. The three-tier system is built on the principle of mutual support, with retailers relying on distributors for a variety of services.

If technology can help move products through the three tiers faster, that's a win for everybody.

Kristen Giger

eCommerce Strategy Manager, Boston Beer Company

In the seminar, “Maximizing the Potential of Your Sales Team and Brands” with Alex Brewington, VP of Operations of Iowa Beverage, and Kristen Giger, eCommerce Strategy Manager of Boston Beer Company, panelists explored how eCommerce solutions like dsdlink empower sales reps and retailers with the tools they need to increase sales and maximize efficiency. “B2B transactions shouldn’t be any different than B2C transactions. With dsdlink, we give retailers the opportunity to purchase products digitally the same way they do personally,” said Alex Brewington. 

Aligning People, Processes, and Technology for Growth

Labor challenges have become increasingly common and difficult to address. As the industry evolves, the demands on the workforce change as well. Distributors must adapt to new technologies, market shifts, and consumer preferences making effective change management and employee retention crucial. Finding effective ways to retain and recruit individuals was a topic discussed in the session, “Utilizing Modern Technology to Transform Your Operation” with Robbie Maletis. “If we could find ways to utilize and harness technology to make task-oriented jobs easier, that would be a great benefit, and if we could utilize technology to make those jobs more meaningful, and give more autonomy to the employee, that allows them to make a larger difference within our organization,” Robbie said.

If we leveraged technology in the right way, we could turn it into a point of strength for our company.

Robbie Maletis

GM of Sales, Maletis Beverage

A final point NBWA CEO Craig Purser underscored was the imperative need for the entire industry to unite. Whether confronting labor-related hurdles or dealing with brand boycotts, the reverberations of these challenges have a far-reaching impact, extending throughout the industry as a whole. Purser stated that while some distributors “are selling more beer than ever, someone sitting in the row behind you is facing dramatic declines that have nothing to do with anything they did or didn’t do.” While you may not have control over external factors, you do have the ability to shape your success by proactively preparing for the future and fostering collaboration with the three-tier system.  


The 2023 NBWA Annual Convention was a call to action, encouraging industry players to adapt, innovate, and come together for sustainable growth. It’s time to recognize that the dynamic landscape of the industry demands proactive measures and collective efforts to address emerging challenges and opportunities.

Watch the highlight video of our seminar sessions below.


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