The Downsides of Traditional Distribution (And What to Do Instead)


The Downsides of Traditional Distribution (And What to Do Instead)

Why traditional distribution is often not the right choice for craft brands, and the alternatives that they should be using instead.

The alcohol industry is no stranger to change. As technology and consumer habits evolve, so too does the way that alcohol brands reach their customers. One of the most significant shifts in recent years has been the move from traditional distributors to alcohol distribution platforms. But why is this happening? What are the drawbacks of the old system, and how do platforms offer a better solution? Let's dive in.

The Downsides of Traditional Alcohol Distributors

Traditional alcohol distribution, particularly in regions like the USA with its three-tier system, has long been the backbone of the industry. However, it's not without its disadvantages.

Limited Control: Traditional distributors act as intermediaries between producers and retailers. This means they control which products are promoted and how they are priced, leaving brands with limited control over their own product positioning.

Higher Costs: Distributors add a significant markup to cover their operational costs and profit margins. This not only reduces the profits for alcohol brands but can also lead to higher retail prices, potentially impacting sales.

Barrier to Entry: For small and craft brands, securing a deal with a distributor can be challenging. Distributors often prefer to work with established brands that guarantee high volume sales, making it difficult for new or niche products to reach the market.

The Advantages of Alcohol Distribution Platforms

Given these challenges, many alcohol brands are turning to distribution platforms. But what advantages do these platforms offer?

Greater Control: Distribution platforms put brands back in the driver's seat. They allow producers to control their product listings, set their prices, and directly manage their distribution, ensuring their products are represented in the way they intend.

Lower Costs: By removing the middleman, platforms can reduce the cost of distribution. This not only improves profit margins for producers but can also lead to more competitive prices for consumers, boosting sales.

Accessibility: Distribution platforms are typically more accessible to smaller brands. They offer a route to market that doesn't rely on high volume sales, making it easier for craft and niche brands to reach their audience.

Flexibility and Innovation: Platforms often provide additional tools and services, such as data analytics, marketing support, and logistics solutions. These can help brands optimize their distribution, target their marketing more effectively, and streamline their operations.

Global Reach: Many distribution platforms operate internationally, allowing brands to reach markets that would be difficult to access through traditional distributors. This can be a significant advantage for brands looking to expand globally.


While traditional distributors continue to play a role in the alcohol industry, it's clear that distribution platforms offer a compelling alternative. They address many of the limitations of the traditional system, offering greater control, lower costs, and better accessibility, particularly for craft and independent brands.

As technology continues to reshape the industry, we can expect the shift towards platform-based distribution to continue. For alcohol brands, embracing this change and harnessing the potential of distribution platforms can be a powerful strategy for growth and success.