The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), Alexandria, Va., hosted its 77th Annual Convention Sept. 28-Oct. 1 in New Orleans.

The first full day of the convention focused on the regulatory, commercial and economic value of distributors. NBWA’s then Chairman of the Board Greg LaMantia spoke about recent changes in the industry and warned against attempts to make detrimental changes to effective state laws that support today’s independent distribution system. NBWA President and Chief Executive Officer Craig Purser noted the explosive growth in a number of breweries operating in the United States and the enormous choice and variety for consumers as a result of an independent, open distribution system. He also described how local distributors listen to the desires of local retailers and consumers and then work strategically to place products and build beer brands and highlighted the economic value that beer distributors deliver in terms of jobs, commerce and tax revenue.

In a panel discussion on Sept. 29, Mike Gretz, president of Norristown, Pa.-based Gretz Beer Co., moderated representatives from four breweries as they discussed their views on issues facing the beer industry. They also emphasized distributors’ roles in building brands and the importance of industry partnerships for growing the beer category.

Following the general session program, NBWA opened its Product Demonstration Showcase. Back by popular demand, the showcase featured products and services from more than 130 exhibitors, including imported and domestic beer from 30 different breweries, non-alcohol beverages, warehousing technology, financial services software, promotional products and more.

On the second full day of the conference, Eric Best, general manager and partner of Bob Hall LLC, Upper Marlboro, Md., assumed the role of 2014-2015 chairman of NBWA’s board of directors. As chairman, Best will help guide the association as it advocates for licensed, independent beer distributors and educates elected officials, regulators, media and the public about the value of beer distributors and America’s effective system of state-based alcohol regulation.

Also on Sept. 30, Adam Vitale, president of G&M Distributors Inc., moderated a panel of beer industry experts and observers who addressed the globalized yet local beer industry from all angles, examining the current risks and opportunities that exist in today’s marketplace.

 NBWA’s 78th Annual Convention and Tradeshow will take place Oct. 11-14, 2015, in Las Vegas.