The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2014

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Page 56 of 128

56 / the tasting panel / march 2014 by Jonathan Cristaldi W hen Jay Harkins, CEO of Blackheath Beverage Group, talks about under- standing the difficulties for wine and spirits brands coming to market, he speaks from 15 years of experience in all tiers of the industry. The former VP of Sales for Domaine Select Wine Estate, a veteran of Southern Wine & Spirits of NY, and the Gallo organization, Harkins is a friendly-faced, firm-handshake kind of guy, well- dressed and exuding pride and passion for his two-year-old company, which he fondly refers to as "an incubator" for emerging brands. Blackheath is essentially a new model in the liquor industry. For emerging brands (those roughly under the 100,000 case mark), the operational costs—industry-standard compen- sation of an executive team and national sales force of key market representatives, and many other overhead expenses—are enough to put companies deep in the red well before they can even get to market. "Previously, the best national option was a full-service importer, but your profits are limited by your success, because the importers typically apply a healthy margin to each case," explains Tom Michaelsen, Blackheath's Director of Marketing. "Blackheath defies this model. We have an experienced national sales team working with a strategic portfolio that we take to market with greater efficiency than any other vehicle. We also train our sales team on sell- through to make sure the product is going off the shelves." On the Blackheath Beat FOR EMERGING INDEPENDENT BRANDS IN NEED OF SALES AND MARKETING SUPPORT, BLACKHEATH BEVERAGE GROUP IS A GODSEND PHOTO: DAN BIGELOW Jay Harkins, CEO, Blackheath Beverage Group. Blackheath's logo is evocative of the company's focus on distilled spirits.

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