RNDC has also been investing in technology, notably bringing ‘online distributor’ LibDib into its fold.
April 14, 2020 – To say Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC) has been in expansion mode lately is an understatement. Last year, the second-ranked U.S. wholesaler added 10 western states and more than $3 billion in revenues via a new joint venture with the Underwood family’s Young’s Holdings. Across both legacy RNDC markets and the new Young’s joint venture totaling 32 states, RNDC had revenues of approximately $11.8 billion last year. RNDC has also been investing in technology, notably by bringing online distributor LibDib into its fold. According to CEO Tom Cole, that move has accelerated the company’s eRNDC e-commerce initiative, which is intended to streamline operations and is slated to reach all RNDC markets by the end of the year. SND editorial director David Fleming and executive editor Daniel Marsteller spoke with Cole and LibDib founder Cheryl Durzy recently to discuss the road ahead.
SND: How have RNDC and LibDib adapted to the COVID-19 crisis?
Cole: First and foremost, we at RNDC-Young’s are concerned about the safety of our associates, their loved ones, and our customer partners. We’re in a very dynamic situation with states, municipalities, and the federal government all trying to do the right thing. We’re reallocating our resources away from the on-premise channel to the retail trade, where we’re experiencing significant business increases. We’ll continue to serve our customers and suppliers in full compliance with government guidelines.
Durzy: LibDib has been working remotely, and our online platform is allowing us to place and process orders efficiently. Resellers needing to restock their shelves and e-commerce sites are buying from us. With tasting rooms closed, our winery and distillery friends are struggling. However, there is opportunity for retailers, bars, and restaurants to sell by the bottle. Buyers like the fact that they can buy by the bottle or case from us and provide their customers with something small-batch and unique. These small businesses desperately need support right now.
SND: The RNDC-Young’s joint venture officially took effect last summer. How has it worked out in the early going?
Cole: The Young’s integration is going fantastically. Jay Johnson is leading that business as president of Young’s Market Company, a division of RNDC West, and we’ve been making decisions about how to build the best team we can out of both companies. The Young’s team is dedicated, loyal, intelligent, and hard working, and ready to become part of a bigger entity. We’re bringing the resources of our national accounts organization as well as logistics, operations, and technology to the effort, and we’re investing for the long term.
SND: How does the rollout of eRNDC and the LibDib alliance play into that?
Cole: About three years ago I noticed the launch of LibDib, which was planning to address the opportunity for small producers to get to market in a three tier-compliant manner. I quickly found out it was also a leap forward in terms of technology. I saw it as giving RNDC an inhouse resource that no one else would have. It provides us an opportunity to be in all 50 states with a whole new model that we can scale, and it can be an incubator for smaller brands that may then graduate into the RNDC portfolio.
Durzy: We’re a fully licensed distributor, with restaurants, bars, and retailers buying directly from us via our online platform. We’re currently in five states, with 11 licenses pending. We’re using a lot of the RNDC warehouses as our at-rest stops and for delivery.
SND: How does eRNDC differ from the LibDib platform?
Durzy: With LibDib, suppliers can enter their own products, upload their own data, and it’s instant across all markets. We worked with the RNDC team to build eRNDC the same way. But eRNDC also has a sales rep component.
Cole: That component provides a lot of self-service for buyers so our salespeople can focus on selling. All RNDC suppliers have now transitioned to the eRNDC supplier portal, which has been key to supporting our suppliers during the crisis. It provides 24/7 online visibility into the status of requests, as well as the management process of brands and distribution. Our suppliers and internal teams are using the portal to track status online in real-time. The rollout of eRNDC has been accelerated, and by the end of July 80% of RNDC’s customers will have access to online ordering. This is a huge milestone in our digital transformation.
The full interview appears in the April 1&15 issue of Impact. Download a PDF of the full issue here.