Ben Arnold Beverage Company

Expert marketing and fingertip technology sustain wine and spirit sales in South Carolina
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

In Ridgeway, South Carolina, Ben Arnold Beverage Company is one of the largest distributors of premium spirits and wine in the Palmetto State. The company has been doing business since 1935, offering a complete range of category-leading brands in nearly every corner of the beverage business.

Ben Arnold Beverage Company

But it is more than selection that is driving major market share for Ben Arnold. The company has leveraged key distribution infrastructure, technology, expert marketing strategies and a trusted sales team to become one of the market leaders.

More than just another transaction

“There’s been a revolution of sorts in the beverage business and today, the industry is more attractive to people,” explains Sean O'Connor, president and CEO of Ben Arnold. O’Connor, who came to Ben Arnold with 25 years of experience on the supplier side of the beverage industry, says the company’s advantage resides in truly understanding the needs of suppliers and customers.

“Today, it’s not as much about going in, taking orders and pushing cases and being so transaction driven; it’s more in-depth than that, being a consultant to the customer” says O’Connor. “Our sales reps are really brand storytellers and they have a good understanding of how to balance our customers’ needs on an immediate basis, as well as building a long-term vision for the account. It’s about building sustainable business year in and out.”

With upward of 420 employees, Ben Arnold distributes more than 2.5 million cases a year and has feet on the ground in all corners of the state. “Our central warehouse is in Fairfield County, with executive offices in Ridgeway,” says O’Connor. “We also have four regional warehouses in Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and a large 16,000-square-foot warehouse in Charleston.”

The company is backed by parent corporation, The Charmer Sunbelt Group (CSG), one of the nation’s leading distributors of fine wines, spirits, beer and other beverages. “Although we only distribute premium spirits and wine, CSG markets other categories and has operations up and down the East Coast, as well as the Southeast and in the West,” says O’Connor.

Investing in people and processes

With a 400-plus-person team, O’Connor says Ben Arnold’s greatest asset is its people. “This is why we spend a significant amount of time in the development of our sales and support staff,” he explains. “We invest in their learning, training and development so they can be best prepared to tell a brand’s story.”

Ben Arnold’s team utilizes content and advertising support from suppliers to connect with customers. “This support allows them to focus on the benefits and make relevant presentations to our customers,” says O’Connor. “We’re focused on the reasons why certain brands and products will work for our customers, more than just the transaction. The strong marketing infrastructure we have in place helps with customer and consumer engagement. We believe not only in selling in, but also selling through.”

Ben Arnold Beverage Company

Ben Arnold also arms its team with the technology to make better presentations and make tracking easier. “As a company, we’ve made a heavy investment in tablet-fingertip technology,” he says. “Not only do we have pricing programming information at our fingertips, but also sales goals, score cards and models. Our managers have all of this too, so it creates a high level of accountability and builds a strong coaching culture.”

“We’re the only major distributor in South Carolina with our own marketing department,” adds O’Connor. “This helps us gauge customers. For just one state, we’re working with very different regions — something that works on the coast might not work as well further inland. It’s about developing and understanding consumers and building contextual relevance.”

Big business in the south

From Charleston to Greenville and everywhere in between, O’Connor says there’s one thing in common: healthy local economies. “There are strong economic winds at our back,” he says. “There’s a lot of job creation going on with companies looking to do business here and tourism continues to grow in the state. We’re in a good position to take advantage of this growth.”

Emergent local economies coupled with more innovation in recent years in the beverage industry have business buzzing for Ben Arnold. “We really specialize in category-leading brands, leaning more toward the premium segment,” says O’Connor.

“Flavored whiskey is resonating strongly with consumers,” he shares. Our whiskey-bourbon portfolio has always been strong in the South, but even more so recently with the addition of some relevant trademark innovation from our core and gem suppliers.”

Ben Arnold is also seeing growth in the wine sector. “We have a very premium wine portfolio which is right in the sweet spot with today’s consumer,” adds O’Connor. “We’re also seeing a surge in sparkling wines such as prosecco and Champagne. Traditionally, this is reserved for holidays and celebrations and we still see the spike around the holidays, but the sparkling category is now less seasonal. People are using sparkling wines as a mixer in cocktails and a nice prosecco on a hot summer day has great appeal.”

With a burgeoning brands and sectors in all corners of the wine and spirits market, O’Connor says Ben Arnold is well-positioned for great organic growth in years to come. “South Carolina is thriving and there’s a high level of economic activity,” he says. “With our marketing strategies, team and technology in place, our opportunity to grow our market share is very good.”

As consumers in South Carolina sip on sweet economic prosperity, Ben Arnold Beverage Company continues to distribute category-leading names in spirits and fine wines.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Remy USA