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Interview: RNDC Makes Its Move In Illinois

July 2, 2021

esterday, second-ranked U.S. wine and spirits wholesaler Republic National Distributing Co. (RNDC) announced its entry into Illinois through a partnership with in-state player Heritage Wine Cellars, expanding its national footprint to 33 markets.SND editorial director David Fleming caught up with RNDC president and CEO Tom Cole and Heritage owner Steven Hirsch to hear more about the deal and what lies ahead.

SND: What were the strategic reasons for making this move, from both sides’ points of view?

Cole: From an RNDC perspective, as a national wholesaler, we need to have a presence in all states. The addition of the great state of Illinois and a top-level fine wine and spirits wholesaler with the quality and professionalism of Heritage Wine Cellars is a perfect strategic move for RNDC. The Heritage team, leadership, and owner-presence of our partner Steven Hirsch, combined with RNDC’s industry leading performance and business processes, will provide a platform for strong growth for our suppliers and customers into the future.

SND: Are there any big supplier compatibilities worth noting in this deal?

Cole: RNDC and Heritage share almost all of Heritage Wine Cellars’ top 20 wine and spirit suppliers. We at RNDC will look to bring our business practices to support and grow their current portfolio of suppliers. Additionally, we are aligned philosophically on how we work collaboratively and respectfully with our supplier partners and the on- and off-premise customers in Illinois to build their business.

SND: Steven, what were the reasons for going with RNDC? What drew you to them as opposed to someone else?

Hirsch: I built Heritage with a vision to be the best premium wine and spirits wholesaler in America. We have grown in size, scope, and reputation. I realized that to continue to grow and achieve our potential, we needed a partner with the same customer-first vision. RNDC was the perfect partner to help us attain our vision for the future.

SND: According to Impact Newsletter’s 2021 projections, RNDC has a 20.3% share of the U.S. wine and spirits second tier, with revenues at $12.3 billion. How will this deal change those numbers?

Cole: With the acquisition of Heritage and the current RNDC growth, we look to surpass $12.5 billion in 2021.

SND: How do you expect the integration to proceed?

Cole: By and large, with Steven and his team, led by Jim Oliver, remaining in their current roles, it will not be disruptive. Immediately we will begin to look at bringing RNDC resources and best practices from both companies to help the customers and consumers of wine and spirits in Illinois have more choice and selection.

SND: What about RNDC’s outlook going forward? Is more expansion still on the agenda in terms of new markets?

Cole: Yes! Following our successful partnership with Young’s Market Company in 10 western states, now operating as RNDC, we’re currently in discussions across America with wine and spirit wholesalers and our supplier-partners.

SND: How generally are you seeing U.S. market trends this year? Following the great off-premise surge of 2020, is the on-premise rebounding for both your companies—and is off-premise growth staying strong? Any particular categories worth noting?

Cole: The on-premise business continues to grow as more restaurants, bars, and hotels open across America. We see consumers who have been longing for the on-premise experience of dining and enjoying wine and spirits in their favorite accounts with friends and loved ones. Off-premise business continues to be solid. Seltzers continue to grow in more drinking occasions as the peak of summer approaches and consumers get back to being comfortable traveling.

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