Family, accountability, professionalism, honesty and customer focus. These are the core values guiding the mission of the Republic National Distribution Company (RNDC), which aims to be the national distributor of choice for alcoholic beverage producers who value the three-tier system.
RNDC is also committed to building branded products and profitability for all parties involved, and to serving the needs of its associates, suppliers, customers and community.
Rooted in family business and with a legacy that dates back more than 100 years, RNDC continues to evolve over time, and respond to the changing landscape of the beverage industry and the world. With a large merger recently under its belt, the company stepped up to support its partners during the Covid-19 pandemic while continuing to invest in internal operational and analytical enhancements. The result is a constant performance uptick for what is now the second largest alcoholic beverage wholesaler in the country, operating in 30+ states.
Fostering Growth Through Partnerships
RNDC’s history traces back to the 19th century. That’s when Newman Goldring opened a beer distributor business in Pensacola, Florida.
Goldring eventually joined forces with two other distribution businesses owned by the Block and Dreeben families to form the Republic Beverage Company. Consolidation allowed the businesses to capture a larger footprint, and other family-owned companies soon followed suit. The Carlos and Davis families decided to merge their businesses and become the National Distributing Company. All five of these families had common suppliers and had known each other for years; they were friendly competitors for many decades.
As time went on and competition increased across the country, both companies faced new challenges related to information technology, operations and personnel. In 1997, the decision was ultimately made to merge the Republic Beverage Company and the National Distributing Company to form an even larger partnership that became known as the Republic Beverage Company.
This new business model involved creating a corporate structure of external executives that reported to a board of directors. This balance of a family-owned company managed by outside executives made the organization unique.
Ten years later, the company transitioned again, and RNDC was officially formed.
In 2019, RNDC finalized a joint venture partnership with Young’s Market Company, a large distributer based in the western U.S. that was run by the Underwood family for generations. Young’s Market Company became a division of RNDC. As a result of the merger, the company now services customers in 32 states plus the District of Columbia, employing nearly 13,000 people.
“We’ve known the Underwood family for generations,” says Tom Cole, president and CEO of RNDC. “We partnered in Arizona since 2011, which was our first venture to try a partnership and learn from each other how we managed the business and looked at opportunities. Our confidence in that partnership grew even more as we leaned on each other’s leadership strengths. It has been incredibly satisfying to see our friendship flourish into an effective partnership.”
RNDC built upon its long history of creating successful partnerships to ensure that the Young’s Market Company merger was thoughtfully and effectively executed. Additionally, RNDC utilized its strengths in the areas of information technology, logistics, and human resources to prepare for what was a relatively smooth transition process.
The company spent a great deal of time and resources in West Coast business development, including opening new chain distribution facilities in California and Arizona, investing in automation of its Seattle facility and rolling out new automation in Portland. RNDC also invested in new training resources in California to assist associates and customers with fine wine training.
As a result of these and other efforts, RNDC effectively doubled the resources that were in place before its merger with Young’s Market Company.
“A partnership or merger with RNDC was something that my family had talked about as a possibility for a long time,” says Chris Underwood, CEO of Young’s Holdings and former CEO of Young’s Market Company. “We felt a partnership with RNDC would enable us to compete better in the marketplace and reap the benefits of our combined scale to reduce costs below what either company could achieve on its own. We also felt, critically in our view, that partnering with RNDC would enable our employees to flourish and find more opportunities in a changing industry.”
To date, RNDC’s performance managing the former Young’s Market Company’s 10-state area has exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“We have seen a dramatic improvement in the Pacific Northwest with our operations team,” says Jay Johnson, West Region president with RNDC. “Both Washington and Oregon now sit atop our Gold Standard scorecard, and we continue to work to improve every day. We increased capacity in California and Arizona and our teams are performing at a high level. We have much more investment planned for the West Coast, and we look forward to continuing to improve our service, knowledge and presence in the marketplace.”
RNDC Pivots During a Global Crisis
Shortly after the partnership with Young’s Market Company was finalized, the Covid-19 outbreak burst upon the world. RNDC worked to make quick decisions that benefited all three tiers of the distribution system.
“The impact of the pandemic to the entire supply chain was significant, resulting in shipment delays, equipment shortages, out-of-stock products and labor disruptions,” says Steve Feldman, EVP of operations with RNDC. “Our concern was getting products from suppliers to customers in the midst of changing consumer patterns, which impacted production on the supplier side.”
With many on-premise locations closed, and a large percentage of people quarantining at home, the beverage industry experienced drastic changes virtually overnight.
Certain drinks became more popular, resulting in suppliers struggling to keep pace with demand. Packaging demands increased for cans, and aluminum manufacturers were unable to produce quickly enough. RNDC worked closely with suppliers, advancing forecasts and placing orders early to effectively plan production. This flexibility in purchasing was especially helpful with overseas products that generally have a longer lead time for delivery.
RNDC also worked with carriers to ensure equipment availability, so they could transport product when it became available. Customers partnered with RNDC to reevaluate plans as demands shifted and when supply chain disruptions affected the ability to fulfill certain orders.
The company also re-assigned its on-premise sales representatives to retail routes while their customers were shut down, improving RNDC’s ability to merchandise the heavy loads in retail. Both premises working together created what everyone dubbed “One Premise.”
RNDC also created to-go drink kits, allowing customers to continue selling to consumers who were picking up carryout food. Creativity and flexibility within markets gave the company an opportunity to offer take-home cocktail kits that allowed consumers to mix their drinks at home.
Despite the many challenges posed by the past year, RNDC helped its partners make it through the most uncertain periods of the pandemic — and successfully implemented substantial internal changes as well.
RNDC Focuses on Technology and Data
A key attribute of the success of RNDC — as well as of its many legacy family businesses — is the understanding that organizations must evolve and modernize over time.
RNDC’s digital platform, eRNDC, is available in a majority of the company’s markets. The platform enhances and streamlines customer and supplier relationships, while elevating existing sales team execution, customer service, distribution and product expertise. Its offerings go beyond basic online ordering, and give users access to centralized information that’s relevant to them, including product details, account and delivery information, recommendations from sales representatives and consumer data insights.
By creating, collecting and consolidating more data than ever before, RNDC has reshaped the company’s understanding of its customer base, and helped initiate engagement between customers and sales. The eRNDC platform’s strong reliance on data also supports the automation of business processes, making it easier for sales representatives to access information.
In October 2020, eRNDC Mobile was released, giving customers access to a rich shopping experience, and connecting them to sales representatives from the ease of a mobile device. Additionally, RNDC recently announced the creation of a joint analytics lab with LibDib, a craft spirits distributer, focused on developing artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms for the businesses’ wholesale digital commerce experience.
“The joint effort is fueling insight and automation and is finding new opportunities for both ecommerce platforms to benefit customers, suppliers and the RNDC sales force,” says Tracy Arial, SVP, ecommerce and digital with RNDC. “Additionally, the proliferation of digital technology has made real-time data access paramount to the success of brands.”
In February 2021, RNDC and LibDib partnered with Tickr, an AI-driven media analytics platform used by top global brands including Porsche, Johnson & Johnson and Olympus. This new collaboration will help RNDC take its AI and visualizations to the next level by providing instant access to a comprehensive representation of sales and brands at any given moment, offering a holistic view of brand performance available across the beverage distribution industry.
Suppliers will also have access to real-time data dashboards powered by Tickr that use internal and external data sources to publish brand and product performance by geography and segment, relevant media coverage, social media activity and site analytics. Dashboards will include wholesale, internal sales and distribution data fed from the proprietary eRNDC and LibDib platforms.
Getting Better and Giving Back
In the coming year, RNDC will focus on pursuing additional geographical growth, with plans to expand its footprint into the states of New York and Illinois. It will also continue focusing on the West Region integration, and make ongoing investments to improve operational processes in that area. Plans to expand eRNDC to the majority of markets by the end of the year are currently in process, as are plans to continue growing the LibDib partnerships beyond the eRNDC and Tickr platforms.
RNDC is also focused on strengthening its internal culture, while remaining committed to social responsibility and philanthropy.
In 2020, the company launched a Racial Equality Plan, and formed the Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC), which focuses on championing anti-racism initiatives and challenging larger societal issues currently affecting the country. BLAC also supports RNDC’s Black associates and communities, and advocates for inclusion for all people of color. The council advocates for anti-racist practices, resulting in fair and equitable consideration and treatment for all company associates and partners.
Moreover, RNDC is expanding an Associate Resource Groups program previously started by Young’s Market Company that focuses on issues affecting women, LatinX, military, Black and LGBTQ+ associates. New Sustainable Development Goals were recently introduced to promote associate and community wellbeing, equity and equality, and environmental sustainability.
“Now more than ever, providing an inclusive workplace that fosters a sense of belonging is a vital piece of our company’s purpose,” says Erika Hopkins, VP of culture and corporate social responsibility with RNDC. “We know that the celebration of diversity, in all forms, helps us create an unparalleled workplace experience that values the unique backgrounds, skills and perspectives of our associates, our business partners, and our communities.
RNDC also participates in numerous philanthropic and advocacy efforts to support its surrounding communities.
As the company is strongly committed to social justice efforts, it made significant financial donations to the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 2021, and continues seeking opportunities to help underserved communities across the country. RNDC also supports several charitable organizations on an ongoing basis, including the American Heart Association, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Toys for Tots, and Feeding America. New partnerships with the National Arbor Day Foundation, the National Urban League and the National Environmental Education Association are planned for later this year.
The company also provides financial contributions and coordinates volunteer efforts in each of its local markets.
The RNDC Scholarship Program helps the financial wellbeing of company associates and their families. The program gave $1.6 million to qualifying students enabling them to earn college degrees. The RNDC Relief Fund provides financial support to company associates impacted by natural disasters. An annual campaign for the fund matches donations from company associates — to date, the RNDC Relief Fund has raised close to $10 million.
It is the company’s spirit of responsibility and commitment to ongoing improvements — for its partners, for its employees, for its community and for itself — that makes RNDC poised for success for at least the next 100 years.
Melissa Sherwin is a freelance writer and marketing communications strategist from Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in Chicago’s Daily Herald newspaper, Time Out Chicago, Suburban Life newspapers, and various magazines. She is also the author of several children’s books. Follow her @MelissaNSherwin. Read her recent piece, How Molly’s Spirits Leverages Data and Technology for Growth.