The modern beverage marketplace prioritizes choice, flexibility and variance. Today’s consumers have a versatile palette, eager to chase trends like non-alcoholic spirits and spiked kombucha. The beverage industry is finally in a position to support an explosion of new brands, distributors and retailers who can anticipate, curate and deliver for these ever-changing interests. Who is at the forefront of that change? Although underrepresented and underestimated at every tier of the beverage industry, Black-owned businesses are thriving.
We dug into our data and connected with our users across the three-tier system to learn more. We found that not only have Black-owned businesses proven hearty against one of the most difficult periods the hospitality industry has ever faced, but in many cases they have astronomically increased their sales despite the recent challenges.
Black-Owned Brands on the Rise
Black-owned brands were on the rise well before the pandemic. We dug a little deeper into the brand names and categories trending strongest.
Ciroc Ultra-Premium Vodka increased its sales on Provi by 39%in the 12 month period from May 31, 2021 to June 1 2022.
Cincoro Tequila Reposado, jumped a massive 669% in the same time frame.
DeLeon Blanco rose 552%
In addition to vodka and tequila, Black-owned brands on Provi are also excelling in the wine domain. During this same period, Provi sales from Black-owned brand Maison Noir showed:
Maison Noir's Cabernet Sauvignon rose 541% while its Pinot Noir climbed 174%
Big and small, these brands are here to stay. The top categories rising are no coincidence. Tequila as a whole has been on the rise for years. Were Black-owned businesses able to anticipate these beverage trends and invest early? Scot Forte, the founder of the first and only Black-owned distributing company in Georgia, Forte International Spirits, says the answer to that question is a definite and resounding yes.
Unique Insight & Predicting Trends
Scot Forte saw that Black-owned brands were underinvested in by large manufacturers and distributors, inspiring him to tackle marketing and distributing products from underrepresented creators as a personal mission. Changing the industry would be a challenge, but Forte knew that his investment would be rewarded with success, commenting, “The African-American community and other minority groups have not historically enjoyed the privileges of participating in this type of business. Forte International Spirits is committed to changing that dynamic.”
Forte explained that more diverse professionals can recognize incredible products that larger manufacturers or distributors might miss.
“It’s archaic and un-American to think that a woman can’t produce an exceptional vodka or someone of Asian descent can’t create an ingenious fermentation method.”
And small starting distributors are in an excellent position to find these products and introduce them to the right audience.
Forte International’s approach is focused on community, priding itself on bringing a small-town feel to their booming market of Atlanta, Georgia, putting relationships first as the path to building brands in the region. And the strategy works! Even during a pandemic, Forte International’s business has grown by 78% nationally since June 2020.
Scot Forte has solid advice for fellow Black-owned beverage distributors: honoring community doesn’t only mean pride in your staff (though that is also critical), but also each of the suppliers, bars and retailers you partner with. If the system isn’t giving you a seat at the table, set your own table and celebrate everyone who comes to the party. We heard this advice echoed again when we connected with our partners at the third tier of the beverage industry: bars, restaurants and retailers.
Surviving a Pandemic as a Bar or Restaurant Means Relying on Community
It’s no secret that the pandemic has been excruciating for bars and restaurants. The small businesses to survive this crisis have been the ones able to gather support from their communities as they quickly converted to 30-degree outdoor seating and take-home cocktail kits. This commitment to and from their customers was key to the success of many of the Provi users we talked to, including Jessie and Andrea Rayford at Jessie’s Smokin’ NOLA.
Rayford explained that during difficult times she is able to lean on her loyal customers. “It is very important to get to know your customers. If you do, they will support you and always be there for you.”
But it's clear this loyalty began well before the pandemic hit. When asked why she decided to start her business, Rayford’s answer was simple. “I was tired of working for other people. I felt I was not getting paid for my level of experience [and] wanted to make people happy with my food.” Rayford explained that there is nothing that makes her and her co-owner happier than sharing the foods they know and love.
The loyalty Rayford built extends beyond her customers and back to her employees. Rayford cautioned, “I have found it is very hard to hire people, being a Black owner. If you find an employee that is decent, honest and cares about their work, pay them well to keep them.”
Black business owners are already more likely to manage unfair challenges their White counterparts don’t, like securing investment, being taken seriously and getting appropriately recognized for their work. Add that the turnover rate in the hospitality industry already ticks at around 75%, and you have a mess of difficulties that a Black restaurant owner has to work through before they get to share the joy of their food and drink.
For Rayford, building a healthy and well-paying workplace can only improve the customer experience. If your customers can see how much you care about your employees and your business, they will care too, and show you the support that you need. This strategy has worked well for Jessie’s Smokin’ NOLA. From Cajun fries to catfish, Jessie’s Smokin’ NOLA is the premier destination for authentic New Orleans cuisine in Colorado.
Black-owned businesses are only going to keep growing. The business-owners we talked to have a recipe for success that’s as easy to appreciate as it is difficult to replicate: they create genuine, meaningful relationships with their customers and partners, and building that community also helps them anticipate huge growth opportunities in the business that others might miss. We’ll drink to that.