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Gulf Distributing Holdings LLC: The Sweet Taste of Success
Gulf Distributing Holdings LLC (GDH) is comprised of four divisions: Gull Distributing Company of Mobile LLC, Goldring Gulf Distributing Company LLC, Allstate Beverage Company LLC and Energy Beverage Management LLC. Together these four companies represent the efforts of the Maisel family to assemble a comprehensive portfolio of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to suit an increasingly large variety of palates. Over four decades the Maisels have led the Mobile, Ala.-based company and its subsidiaries through emerging markets into increasingly positive profit margins.
“We have 98 facilities and 600 employees and we represent just about every beer company and brand outside of the Anheuser-Busch family,” asserts Chris Haas, CEO of Goldring Gulf Distributing. “We distribute a line of sodas and beers, as well as Red Bull, across southern Alabama, southern Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle.”
Bottling a Comprehensive Portfolio
Over the years, the company has grown from a relatively small operation to one of the top 25 largest distribution companies in the country by recognizing and acquiring strong organizations. Freida G. Maisel purchased Jax Distributing in 1973, renamed it to Gulf Distributing Company of Mobile LLC and built on its presence in the market since 1935. Elliot Maisel founded Energy Beverage Management LLC in 2000 to be the exclusive distributor of Red Bull products (Energy Drink, Cola and Energy Shots) to 18 counties in Mississippi. Goldring Gulf Distributing was formed in 2001 from the merger of Gulf Distributing Company of Florida LLC and N. Goldring, and brought a multi-line distributor running distinct selling divisions into the fold. Finally, the knowledge and talents of Allstate Beverage Company LLC of Montgomery, Ala., which was founded in 1950, joined the company in 2009.
Together, these companies offer domestic, import, craft and keg beer, “progressive adult beverages” (flavored malt beverages) and such brands as 7Up, A&W, Country Time Lemonade, Arnold Palmer Half & Half Iced Tea and more. “GDH is essentially the parent company for four other operating entities, each with its own unique market share and business identity,” explains Haas. “To this day we are still family-owned and -operated, but there are now a number of employees with stock in the company, myself included.”
As markets change and economies fluctuate, GDH has come to see that a unified corporate identity would simplify operations and make expansion easier. “We’re now in the process of creating a more corporate identity for the companies,” says Haas. “When I came on 12 years ago, each operating identity had its own markets and its own clients, even though many of those clients had a presence in some of our other markets. It became very clear to us that there is a need and a desire for us to be more of a seamless entity, with locations to support the regional operations, but as a wholly owned entity with better customer support and in a better position for growth. Even though it was a huge investment for us to restructure the company this way, we know that it will help us to provide our clients with more consistency.”
GDH’s industry continues to see growth opportunities in new and exciting sectors, and the company has been able to capitalize on these. Simultaneously, GDH’s region of activity has met some unforeseeable challenges in recent years with which the company has had to contend.
“Especially after the 1970s, the craft beer industry has been growing, but in the past five years it has really picked up speed,” explains Haas. “Three or four years ago we had 300 to 400 SKUs whereas now we have over 1,000 because our offerings have expanded to carry more products in a wider variety of sizes. Normally, the beverage industry is pretty stable because when there is an economic dip, consumers will trade down to items with smaller margins, so business stays pretty healthy.
“In the case of the [Deepwater Horizon] oil spill, that was just the kind of catastrophic event that can really disrupt operations,” continues Haas. “We essentially cover the entire region that was affected by that oil spill and it’s a very tourism dependant area so that was very tough for us. We pulled through just fine, but it did wreak some havoc on the industry.”
Drinking In Potential Opportunities
More recently, the company has been working to bring in new brands for different market segments and investing in the necessary infrastructure to support operations. “We have been focused on bridging the gap between our high- and low-end offerings, and it’s a real challenge for us in a lot of ways because that kind of strategy is almost better suited to the wine industry. These craft beers for the mid-markets are all about hand-selling and at smaller volumes and really building the brand identity for the consumers,” says Haas.
“In the past few years we have also invested in some major renovations and construction at our facilities, especially the Mobile and Montgomery facilities, putting in brand new temperature control systems and racking,” Haas further explains. “We also introduced night deliveries, which have been a big hit in the tourist areas because in the daytime the traffic is so bad and the stores are so jammed that many of the clients don’t even have the ability to receive the items.”
In the foreseeable future, GDH plans to continue pursuing new markets as opportunities arise. “Obviously, we’re looking to grow organically and we are doing so right now,” says Haas. “We’re always looking for new brands and new categories that won’t cannibalize our existing operations. We have begun preparing the business to begin selling electronic cigarettes, which we see as a great opportunity with a lot of interest from our existing client base, but aside from that we want to focus on growing as a total beverage company. We are heavy into Red Bull and sodas, so our No. 1 priority is to grow through acquisitions. We’re an approved buyer for Miller Coors, so we’re just waiting for another company to put the for sale sign up.”
Synonymous with quality, award-winning service and superior products, Gulf Distributing Holdings LLC will continue to be an integral part of making its communities better, more enjoyable places to live and consume responsibly.