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Black History Month: The Beverage Perspective.

Let’s talk about equity, shall we? FIG has an opinion about public statements versus action, and today’s blog is no different. As a company, we are committed to seeing changes and ending lipservice. Several mega suppliers have come out with public statements - we’re talking about Diageo, Constellation, Brown-Forman, Anheuser-Busch, and others. These companies have all announced commitments upwards of $100M to creating “equity” in the beverage industry.

Less than 3% of the industry is represented by minorities, less than 1% of that is owned by women. I commend them for making these statements and encourage them to make good on their promises. I think you know where I’m going next, right? You guessed. Action. What actions are being taken?

What we don’t need are more corporations writing $10,000 checks to a thousand companies. Instead, we need to see these corporations commit to setting small businesses up for success. Real success. For a small business, $10,000 goes quickly. But what a difference access to high-quality commercial-grade equipment would make, advanced distilling processes, or gaining access to preferred distributors. Those are the changes the beverage industry needs to commit to. Writing checks is easy. It also lets them off the hook when those small businesses they “supported” don’t succeed. It’s an illusion - because the goal isn’t really to change the industry, it’s to make it appear as if it’s changing. Well. We call BS on that.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about distribution because we know a few distributors are pulling the wool over many eyes. Well, not FIG. We know of a boutique distributor that recently brought on a black owned Bourbon brand with zero intention of helping them be successful. A senior executive said they don’t like the brand’s bottle and don’t think the product is right. Our question - did they tell the bourbon company that? Nope. They brought them on for the apparent reason - so they don’t look racist and thus their PR firm can send out a press release about how forward-thinking they are and how they’ve adopted diversity.

Well, we call BS on that too. This company doesn’t have the right intentions. They are only concerned with appearing to take action. But are they creating equity? Are they leveling the playing field? Not even close. That’s not even the scary part. The frightening part is how many companies will fall for this okey-doke? Not doing their due diligence, not asking the right questions. I’d say more than a few.

If this distributor had the right intentions, it would make a few suggestions to that brand. Advice based on their years of experience, knowing the industry and their buyers. They did not have that intention from the start. What does that mean? It means that the bourbon brand will never move the cases it could. It will never have premium shelf placement. And it will never have the buyer exposure it could. At least not with that distributor. Meanwhile, its competitors will continue to carve out significant pieces of the share. Again where is the equity?

In the spirit of Black History Month, beverage industry, we challenge you to do better. To stop talking about it and start being about it. To stop faking and start producing. The proof is in the pudding, right now there’s a lot of mouths moving. But soon, the dollars or lack of will be proof of evidence. It’s time to stop thinking minorities and women aren’t as smart as you are. You’ll soon be held accountable.


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