At its 81st Convention, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Craig Purser and outgoing NBWA Chairman Jim Matesich, CEO of Matesich Distributing, welcomed a crowd of more than 1,600 people and highlighted the many accomplishments of the industry during the past year. The two also unveiled the Beer Growth Initiative (BGI), an industry-wide effort to improve the category health of the beer industry.

“At this pivotal time in our industry, it’s great to be in San Diego with so many hardworking and impressive individuals from across the country,” Purser said. “Our annual convention offers an opportunity for beer distributors to connect, network, share best practices, and learn how to grow their business. This year we are thrilled to announce the work of the Beer Growth Initiative as it endeavors to find solutions to sell more beer, an idea the entire industry can get behind.”

NBWA officially announced the BGI in partnership with the Brewers Association and the Beer Institute at the convention. The effort is specifically designed to identify opportunities to grow the beer category and brings together large brewers, small brewers, distributors and industry experts to address beer’s steady decline throughout the past number of years. Preliminary research and discussions have sought to better understand consumers, beer policy, experience and image. Moving forward, the industry is trying to better understand and prioritize emerging legal-drinking-age (LDA) consumers between the ages of 21 and 29, focusing outreach on digital media and new technology.

“The challenges facing the beer industry present an opportunity to transform our approach and develop new beer lovers,” Matesich said. “I am happy to report that the group has made major progress in finding gaps and identifying opportunities to improve perceptions and experiences, along with finding ways to strengthen sales and execution in the on- and off-premise retail markets.”

Purser and Matesich also presented the Life Service Award to the late Sen. John McCain, a member of the beer distribution family, for his embodiment of service to the country. Accepting the award on behalf of the McCain family were McCain’s son Andy, president of Hensley Beverage Co., and Bob Delgado, CEO of Hensley Beverage Co.

The NBWA also named Michael Schilleci, president of Supreme Beverage Co., as its new Chairman.

“We are thrilled to welcome Michael Schilleci as the new Chairman of the NBWA Board,” Purser said. “Chairman Schilleci has decades of experience as a beer distributor and has served in several leadership roles within NBWA. He understands the critical mission of NBWA and the priorities of America’s 3,000 independent beer distributors.” BI