Friday, August 06, 2010

Buy Alabama’s Best but Not If It’s Beer. Is That Official?

This stuck-off-in-a-corner poster still caught my eye when I stopped in the Alabama State Welcome Center on I-20, on the way back to Houston. (See, dear colleagues – marketing can attack no matter how unexpected the venue.)

Why, I turned to the otherwise lovely woman in charge of the making visitors feel welcome, was there no beer in that poster? Alabama-brewed beer?

The look on her face when she repeated the word “Beer?” didn’t need much interpretation. I feel as though I barely escaped from that center unburnt-at-the-stake. It is possible I misunderstood her reaction. But you know, last time I looked beer is not only a “product,” it’s even the direct result of agricultural produce…along with talent, perseverance and creativity.

I am sure that Commissioner Ron Sparks and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, along with Alabama Grocers Association President Ellie Taylor, are doing their dead-level best to promote George’s Old-Time Barbecue Products and Golden Flake Snack Foods. You can see the whole list of Buy Alabama’s Best (BAB) members right here and I’ll bet they are good people, every one of them.

The brewers are not on this list.

An actual Alabama brewpub such as Montgomery Brewing Company, which I blogged about here, may not qualify; as far as I know the brewpub makes its beers for on-premise consumption only.

But please let me just mention [1] Huntsville’s Old Towne Brewing Company, whose beers I have not yet sampled, and [2] Back Forty Beer Company in Gadsden (ditto). Also [3] Birmingham’s Good People Brewing, the under-2,000-barrel/year brewery whose products are pretty darn tasty. All the products seem to be available at various restaurants and pubs throughout the state.

Shoppers can actually buy these (though the purchases might have to be consumed on site, tsk tsk).

Without meaning to provoke, let me put the marketing questions to Sparks and Taylor: Why no Alabama beer in your promotion materials – or in fact in your entire BAB program?

One random fact: the Brewers Association notes that sales volume at craft brewers climbed 9% in the first half of this year, during which the US beer industry’s total sales volume fell 2.7%. That, ladies and gents of the BAB, is “craft brewers” like product-makers 1, 2 and 3 named above. They are making fine beers. Riding a wave of popularity. And having to do most of the work using their own funds and their own fans.

Alright. There are difficult demands placed on state ag departments at the best of times. Plus, marketing locally made products against the tide of national consumer brands and heavy advertising budgets is no picnic. But don’t miss the opportunity to tap into a great fan base. Include brewers in the Buy Alabama’s Best marketing campaign.

Please direct just a little state-supported love to advertising and selling Alabama beers.

PS: Signalwriter is in Texas and can’t be fully tuned-in on Alabama’s beer market. One of you “experts” is welcome to guest-post here about the status of craft-beer marketing in the Heart of Dixie. Please ignore, for the moment, the 10+ Alabama wineries whose bottled products also don’t appear in the photo above.


Mary Jo Martin said...

At the risk of starting a religious war, do you think the Southern Baptists may have something to do with it?

Richard Laurence Baron said...

I'm stunned, Mary Jo - you're suggesting a subjective decision about marketing? (Thanks for the observation.)

Lauren Cole said...

No group is excluded from the Buy Alabama's Best program. We are open to all manufacturers whose products are sold at retail, which for BAB generally means grocery stores. Any company can join the program by paying the participation fee listed here:

This includes Alabama brewers and vintners, who are welcome to apply.

Lauren Cole said...

Also, your company must fall under into the category of being headquartered in Alabama or you must have a production facility in Alabama, therefore employing Alabamians.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thank you, Lauren, for the additional details and clarifications. Best of luck marketing Alabama's Best.