The alcoholic beverage business is extremely competitive, as well as global. Manufacturers represent large international companies. The distributors, in many cases, are national in scope and size, too.

As a small company, we don’t have the resources to compete. So we have to target the smaller, emerging new channels. By being nimble and fast and using new packaging like the Zork closure, we can go after those new channels. Large companies may spend years doing research on a product. We’ll try a new product out in the market before they have a chance to try it out in their boardroom.

The Other Guys represent a younger, newer direction of our company. Our focus is on wines that are upscale, that represent trade-up opportunities for our accounts and consumers. We partner with small, eclectic, boutique wholesalers throughout the U.S. They have incredible wine knowledge and tight relationships with their customers.

Fine wine bottle shops and fine restaurants with white tablecloths-that’s really our niche, and it’s what helps us distinguish ourselves. They’re looking for something different and The Other Guys, as the name implies, is different. Our brand line is “Laid-back Guys, Standout Wines,” and we want to make sure our packaging is standout, too.

But right now, there’s a trend towards off-premise: the retail side. Instead of ordering wine while eating out, consumers are bringing wine home. So off-premise packaging is more important now. Will the product stand out on the shelf and get the attention of the consumer? Once it does, will its use bring them back to purchase it again?

On-premise accounts look for more traditional packaging and experience. Off-premise, however, lends itself to bright, bold packaging. TheZork closure, for example, meets the needs of both on- and off-premise customers. An alternative to corks and screw-on closures, Zork has three parts: a polyethylene tamper-evident cap, a foil barrier layer and a polyethylene plunger.

The Zork closure helped our Leese-Fitch brand gain a foothold and momentum in the upscale wine-by-the-glass market. Our on-premise customers are open to the Zork because it doesn’t require a wine tool, which are forever getting lost. Bartenders love it because they can, within seconds, pop the Zork off. Sommeliers like the fact that, unlike the screw cap, the Zork “pops,” which is important to customers in tableside service.

But on-premise business is suffering as people have less disposable income and are going out less. The good news is people are still buying wines in wealthy, affluent areas or areas where you have a lot of young people with no dependents. That’s where Leese-Fitch has an advantage. With its combination of label design, branding and Zork closure, Leese-Fitch stands out.

With our product introductions, we’ve been slightly ahead of the curve and we’ve been right on the money…it’s the difference between the leading edge and the bleeding edge. We may have had early adopters in a particular segment. Then, we find six months later that a segment that had previously been resistant to something is now excited about it.Going after these smaller, granular markets is just part of our business strategy to increase market share and sales.

With the market trends we’re seeing right now-high gas and commodity prices, and a stagnant economy-companies need to be nimble and look for where the opportunities are. In many cases, those niche markets are test platforms for real-time market research.F&BP