Last month ByQuest, the Brand Package Realization company, had the pleasure of hosting the concluding “Virtual Toast” for the Public Policy Conference, sponsored by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS – and American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA – The focus was simple: how can we band together and support the craft spirits producers, and how can they support themselves while the impact of shutdowns continue? The discussion centered around the reality facing craft distillers and the impact regulatory changes can have in supporting the industry’s most vulnerable. Outside of public policy, the panel also brought suggestions for how distillers can make meaningful changes in their business, and pull through these challenging times. 

Policies That Keep Business Open 

Bill Thomas, owner of the Jack Rose Saloon in Washington, DC, shared how he’s taking advantage of the area’s relaxed reselling opportunities. Within our nation’s capital, Bill is able to repackage 750ml product into smaller sizes, and resell those in tasting kits or cocktail packs with everything a consumer needs to enjoy a drink at home. 

The reality is that Bill’s ingenuity is not compliant in the majority of states. Restrictions on repacking further exposes bars and restaurants, with critical dollars tied up in their remaining inventory. Current public policy also limits the ability for on-premise owners like Bill to continue exposing consumers to the new and innovative brands our craft distillers are creating. Having public policy that follows the Washington DC model, or looks at the recent Kentucky HB415 law, will allow increased flexibility for distillers and on-premise owners to reach consumers. We look forward to seeing how policy will continue to adjust in the coming months and years. 

Band Together and Get Digital 

The worst outcome is if we lose our craft distillers. The innovation and creativity generated from this portion of our industry drives new consumer demand and continues to push all players in the market forward. They were the inspiration for ByQuest’s Unstandard Vintage Forward and Wildly Crafted glass collections. So what recommendations did our panel have to prevent this outcome? 

First, make local connections. Cross promotion creates a bigger audience for all of the producers involved. Producers should look at how they can support other local businesses in their area. 

Our other two panelists, Peggy Stevens, Founder of the Bourbon Women Association, and Deborah Brenner, Founder & CEO of Women of the Vine & Spirits, both encouraged any producers that haven’t been thinking digital that now is the time to go all in. What is your brand doing on social media? When was the last time the brand posted on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter? Have you engaged with the audience on your own pages, and also with other producers? In the COVID economy consumers will increasingly discover your brand first in a digital format, so a strong first impression here is critical. 

Finally, how can producers make virtual tastings work for them? Specific state regulations will dictate how product gets to consumers and the trade, but now is the time to determine how both of these groups will connect with your brand moving forward. The panel also encouraged producers to record any virtual events. Snippets from a virtual tasting can become great content for new consumers to learn more about the brand. 

With innovative thinking, digital prioritization, and education for our local and federal representatives, we can continue to support this industry we love into a new era. Do you have other ideas on how producers can succeed during this time? Comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts. As always, keep unpacking.