In the late 19th century, artists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were among those who broke away from the Impressionist art movement with pointillism, a technique in which small dots of color are positioned in patterns to form an image. As part of the Neo-Impressionist movement, the work “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Seurat is among the most famous of this technique where small brushstrokes of color unify to depict Parisians at a sunny park along the Seine. For Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), the coming together of two family owned companies in the early 21st century has painted a picture of an organization built on strong foundations and rich history with a shared vision.
Formed in 2007, RNDC emerged from the amalgamation of Block Distributing Co. and National Distributing Co. “Family has always been at the center of what we do. It remains one of our core values and is part of our company culture,” says Tom Cole, president and CEO at RNDC. “We were able to bring the best business practices of each individual company to create a company that is in it for the long term. The families are in the business every day — from the Board, Senior Next Generation Leadership and new ventures such as CBD.”
These best practices include RNDC’s five core values: family, accountability, professionalism, service and honesty.
“These drive our mission to be the distributor of choice for our suppliers and customers,” Cole says. “We differentiate ourselves by ensuring honesty and integrity are the forefront of what we do — we are fully transparent with our business partners. We deliver on our commitments and ask others to hold us accountable. We are also able to make decisions quickly — our owners are ready to jump in and act.”
Cole also notes that RNDC being family owned while professionally managed is a unique model within the industry. However, this does not hinder the power of its local operations.
“We pride ourselves in being lean corporately, allowing us to expedite decisions,” he says. “Our corporate functions are centralized, but our markets are decentralized, allowing them to make local decisions that make the most sense for their states.”
The reach of those local markets continues to expand, now totaling 38 ― 37 states and the District of Columbia. Thanks to recent joint ventures and partnerships, RNDC has been able to broaden its national footprint. In 2019, the company entered into a joint venture with Young’s Market Co.
“Partnering with Young’s Market expanded our reach to 10 additional western states, including California, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, making us a company that can partner with suppliers coast to coast,” Cole says. “RNDC’s business model changed how Young’s did business, including how transparent they were with suppliers. As a result of our efforts, Young’s not only regained supplier partners, but they increased market share on the west coast. Recent additions include Gallo retail, Treasury Wines, Crimson, Banfi, Palm Bay and Fredrick Wildman.”
In early August, RNDC completed a deal for a partnership with Heritage Wine Cellars Ltd., allowing RNDC to enter the Illinois market.
“By expanding our footprint into Illinois, we create strategic opportunities that will benefit our business partners in a rapidly changing and highly competitive marketplace,” Cole says.
Most recently, RNDC announced its expansion into five new Control States. The five new states are Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
“I’m proud to lead the expansion into five additional Control States,” said Joe Gigliotti, RNDC Region President-Control States, in a statement. “We are standing up a new sales team in each of these states, and we plan to strategically increase our presence as we build the business. It’s a unique opportunity and one that will be a huge benefit to RNDC suppliers and customers.”
As RNDC expands into these states, the focus will be on spirits to start, adding wine as the business grows. RNDC expects to begin selling in these states beginning fourth quarter of this year, it notes.
“This is a crucial strategic move to offer our suppliers broker access across all 17 Control States,” Gigliotti said. “We are offering a Control State solution, giving our suppliers a unique advantage.”
However, entering new markets is just one of the ways that RNDC is evolving with today’s market trends. As Cole noted earlier, the company is entering the CBD space in markets where legal at the state level. Digital adoption also is among the platforms that RNDC is embracing to expand its capabilities to support the three-tier system. For these reasons and many more is why Beverage Industry has selected RNDC as its 2021 Wholesaler of the Year.
Succeeding and thriving
As a leader in the wine and spirits wholesale community, RNDC knows the importance of positioning its portfolio to support the legacy brands that many consumers hold dear while tapping into the vanguard trends driving new growth.
“RNDC embraces innovation in the wine and spirits space. For example, one current trend is ‘clean’ products, highlighting how the grape or grain is grown and how they sustainably bottle it,” Cole explains. “We see blockchain as an emerging consumer trend. Brands are beginning to embrace the use of influencers on social media to highlight these unique traits. While embracing changes like these, we also understand the importance of well-established brands rich in tradition. There is room for both.”
RNDC’s current portfolio includes a variety of wine suppliers such as The Wine Group, Trinchero Family Wines, EJ Gallo, Stella Rosa, Kobrand, Jackson Family Wines, Wagner Family Wines, Delicato, Fetzer, Palm Bay and Ste. Michelle. Within the spirits community, RNDC’s portfolio features Sazerac, Brown-Forman, Proximo, Remy Martin, Pernod Ricard, Tito’s, William Grant, Stolichnaya and Edrington.
Cole notes that its immersion in its craft wine and spirits portfolio is providing the company with an opportunity to engage with new consumers. This collective focus further helps supports RNDC’s relationship with its partners across the three-tier system.
“Our vision is to be the distributor of choice for those who value the three-tier system,” he says. “Our growth and expansion offer our suppliers and customers the opportunity to work with one distributor in a variety of markets. We can also offer a greater selection of products at competitive prices.”
Yet, traditional wine and spirits is not all that encompasses the RNDC portfolio anymore. In July, the company announced it will enter the CBD space in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas, which are states where CBD is legal and legislated by the state, Cole notes.
The inaugural brands are Day Trip, Oh Hi, Sati Soda and Wyld CBD.
“RNDC is uniquely positioned to help suppliers bring these products to market,” Cole explains. “There are many similarities between the cannabis-CBD business and the alcohol industry. At RNDC, we are adept at assisting businesses succeed and thrive in a highly regulated environment with differing state and local regulations. In this regard, we believe we can share our expertise with our CBD industry partners.”
Noting that RNDC views this market as an exciting and dynamic area of growth, Cole suggests that the wholesaler anticipates an engaging, proactive future.
“Ultimately, RNDC plans to bring more markets online as laws and regulations permit,” he says. “Also, RNDC is currently in negotiations with a number of other strategic CBD food and beverage suppliers, each of which are also well-positioned to be leaders in this category.”
Although a robust, diverse portfolio has enabled RNDC to serve the needs of its customers, the wholesaler’s efforts to embrace transformative technology advancements is further bolstering success for the company and its distribution partners.
“Data has become the key to unleashing new value and insights in the end-to-end distribution process,” says Darrell Riekena, chief information officer at RNDC. “From supplier to consumer purchase, data is driving action and decision from what used to be an inventory driven model to a data driven model. Distributors have the ability to have deeper conversations with suppliers and customers leveraging advanced supply chain planning and forecasting capabilities, social media, marketing and consumer buying pattern insights, all through various types of analytics.
“Data has become the connective tissue for distributors and suppliers, customers, and consumers,” he continues. “In addition, over the past year, the digital route-to-market as been accelerated due to the pandemic, driving maturity in eCommerce, the digital shelf, direct-to-consumer capabilities, new strategic partnerships in the supply chain and delivery. The industry as a whole is transforming in the digital age.”
Riekena notes that RNDC is enlisting digital solutions that provide seamless experiences and value for suppliers, customers and the sales team.
“For our customers and sales teams, we are assessing our current customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities and defining a new strategy to better serve our customers, build and maintain customer relationships, and empower our sales force,” he says. “We are also focused on strengthening our end-to-end selling model with new digital capabilities to transform our route-to-market. Our supplier experience is one focused on leveraging data to drive new and differentiating conversations and valuable insights on product performance within a category or market, as well as responses to various marketing or consumer buying behaviors.”
Among the ways the wholesaler is employing technology to serve its partners is with eRNDC, an online tool designed for its customers and suppliers to make shopping, ordering and connecting even easier.
“eRNDC offers a rich online B2B product search and ordering experience with increased connectivity, access to account information and sales support,” says Tracy Arial, senior vice president of eCommerce and digital. “Combining Silicon Valley innovation with years of beverage sales and marketing experience, eRNDC enriches the relationship with customers and suppliers while complementing RNDC's long history of quality customer service, distribution, and product expertise. eRNDC brings the nation’s leading wholesale beverage alcohol distributor online.”
Currently available in 14 markets ― Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland, New Mexico, Florida, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota and Washington, D.C. ― eRNDC will soon launch in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Hawaii and California.
When designing and rolling out eRNDC, the company took into consideration the reactions its might get from its customers as well as its sales team.
“We have seen the full range of reactions from our associates and customers,” Riekena says. “We saw excitement and concern about how eRNDC would impact our sales representatives. We had customers who were ready for self-service with new ways of working and we had customers who were adamant they never wanted to use technology. This is why we developed features in eRNDC targeting all walks of customers and sales representatives.
“We want to meet them where they are and provide what they deem valuable,” he continues. “eRNDC has always been about providing convenience and new capabilities that matter ― it’s exciting to see the continued adoption from our sales reps and customers as they explore and learn more about eRNDC.”
However, eRNDC is not the only way that the wholesaler is leveraging technology to further the progress of RNDC. Riekena notes that the company is using advancement to identify avenues for carbon footprint reduction as well as technology around automation and the next generation of mobile connectivity networks.
“In 2021, RNDC warehouses started the deployment of an automated and paperless point of delivery solution for its field workforce,” he says. “Receipts upon delivery are now electronic instead of the traditional printed paper copies, saving tons of waste annually. Automation is also occurring across various manual business processes through robotic process automation and brought down manual labor hours from days or weeks to a few hours. In addition, RNDC is piloting a 5G networking infrastructure to understand the potential of 5G in flexibility, connectivity and speed, as well as enable a foundation for future digital capabilities within the warehouse.”
Additionally, RNDC created a joint analytics lab with Liberation Distribution (LibDib), its strategic partner for eRNDC, to develop artificial intelligence algorithms for its wholesale digital commerce experience. “This joint effort fuels insight and automation, creating new opportunities for our eCommerce platforms,” Riekena says.
RNDC’s commitment to furthering its digital capabilities as well as its steps to engage in emerging categories have helped the wholesaler stand out as a leader in the three-tier system. Yet, its connection to the communities it serves and the philanthropic support it provides ultimately plays a major role in not only its legacy but in the company’s future.
“At RNDC, our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activations are created to ensure positive and long-term sustainable community partnerships,” Cole says.
And Cole notes that it’s the company’s associates who are the driving force behind these CSR activations. “Our goal is to strengthen the social character, well-being, and growth of the many communities where we live and do business,” he says. “We align nationally with several RNDC Charities of Choice while also providing each location the opportunity to support organizations that best serve the needs of their local communities.”
One of the company’s most recent activations was a month-long support of Feeding America.
“Our associates generously donated money to help ensure equitable access to nutritious food for all. Additionally, many associates volunteered at local food banks,” Cole says. “This multifaceted approach raised $30,000, which equals 300,000 meals and provided labor for the food banks that distribute those meals. We were proud to galvanize our workforce for the greater good.”
The company also is doing its part to address the rise of drug and alcohol abuse.
“Since the pandemic, drug and alcohol abuse has skyrocketed so we are proud to launch an enhanced, robust platform to promote Responsible Consumption of the products we distribute,” Cole says. “This is our way of equipping our associates and communities with tools and resources to combat binge-drinking or any form of substance abuse.”
In August, RNDC also activated its annual RNDC Relief Fund Donation Campaign to help raise money for the RNDC Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to RNDC Associates impacted by natural disasters, and will have activations supporting Prostate Cancer Awareness, Breast Cancer Awareness, as well as its Season of Giving in November and December.
Beyond RNDC’s community ties, the wholesaler also deepening its initiative surrounding social issues. As such, the company has taken action to support a more diverse workforce as well as a more inclusive culture and community.
“We developed programs and practices that attract, develop, engage and retain racially diverse talent and build a strong sense of inclusion and belonging for normally marginalized, underrepresented associates of color,” says Erika Hopkins, vice president of culture, social responsibility and DEI at RNDC. “In 2020, RNDC introduced Root-Out Racism, an intentional plan to educate and change mindsets, one person at a time. The program includes five components: Anti-Racism Microsite; Black Leadership Advisory Council; Spirit to Speak Series; Associate Resource Groups and Unconscious Bias Training. These five elements have been hugely impactful within RNDC and serves as the foundation of our Inclusion and Diversity strategic plans.”
Hopkins adds that RNDC created strategic alliances with leading organizations such as Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Hispanic Education Fund, Professional Diversity Network and Stanford Graduate School of Business Black Leaders Program. “Combined, our Inclusion and Diversity efforts have helped RNDC to create a more inclusive culture overall,” she says.
With such strong ties to the communities it serves, RNDC continues to exemplify the characteristics that earned it the honor of Beverage Industry’s 2021 Wholesaler of the Year.