Friday, January 28, 2011

The Narragansett story

Imagine an industry with hundreds of competitors, including several multibillion corporations with fat marketing budgets, national reach, and nuclear-powered partnerships with complementary businesses. Add to that an archaic system of bringing product to market that gives great power to distributors and independent retailers. Finally, top it off with a customer base that not only obsesses about product quality, but is also incredibly sensitive to price.

No, I'm not talking about media. Rather, this is a story about beer. And while you may think it would be crazy to try to break into any business having the characteristics described above, that's exactly what the people behind the Narragansett Beer Co. have been doing for the past five years -- with a fair amount of success, as I learned today from one of the company's executives. Narragansett's V.P. of Sales Bill Heslam happened to be at the local package store when I was picking up a half-case, and kindly answered some of my questions about the revival of the brand (established in 1890, it went through a period of decline and was shut down in the 1980s, before new investors brought it back in 2006) as well as recent wins, including a well-regarded industry prize and expansion into a new region. Toward the end of the interview, Heslam also discussed how the company uses technology to give it an edge.

Here's the entire video, shot in Auburndale, Massachusetts:

More videos from my blog about entrepreneurship and innovation:

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