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Business aviation helps beer wholesaler close deals

Jet extends company’s reach in competitive market

Basically, anything you introduced; people would give it a try.”

That’s how Chris Caffey of Caffey Distributing describes craft beer in the United States around 2015. The industry was booming, and breweries were thriving. The Brewer’s Association, a trade group, reveals a 16% growth in retail dollars in the craft beer industry from 2014 to 2015. Caffey said people loved the new approach to beer and hopped on board quickly.

The industry, according to Caffey, has evolved since.

“In some respects, the craft beer category has matured,” Caffey said. “The consumer still is attracted to craft beers, but I would say they’re experimenting a little bit less and purchasing more brands that they know.”

Even so, Caffey said one thing about the business has remained constant – the importance of cultivating solid relationships with brewing partners. That’s where his CESSNA CITATION CJ4 jet comes in.

“We still do use it for networking and expansion, but it’s evolved to managing partner relationships. We represent around 50 different suppliers, so we still have lots of relationships to manage. There always seems to be a demand for us to come somewhere,” he said.

“It’s still the most efficient way to get the work done.” - Chris Caffey, president and CEO, Caffey Distributing

Craft beer boom

Business aviation can benefit distributors and wholesalers aiming to widen their reach at a faster pace.  In the beer industry, wholesalers comply with the standard three-tiered system of beer distribution, but often face a challenge in attracting independent breweries.

U.S. craft beer sales have steadily risen year over year, according to statistics from the Brewers Association.  Even as the industry has evolved and matured, growth remains. Those numbers account for much of the overall beer sales, as the market has increasingly experienced slow growth.

Source: Brewer's Association

When the craft beer industry exploded back in 2015, Caffey Distributing was operating a Cessna Citation CJ3+ business jet with Caffey himself in the cockpit. He said the aircraft helped the company recruit new beers into the market and expanded territory.

“I think our efficiencies are even greater because I’m an owner and operator.” Chris Caffey, president and CEO, Caffey Distributing

With a wide range of brewery partners, Caffey said his team benefits significantly from the increased efficiency of an aircraft. That became even more apparent after upgrading to the CJ4 jet.

A bit more range and a bit more payload,” Caffey said about the upgrade. “The CJ3+ jet was a great airplane as well. But we’ve picked up a little bit of payload and we’ve picked up a little bit of range on the CJ4 aircraft.”

A typical trip for Caffey usually involves flying out of Greensboro early in the morning with his team to meet a client, then returning to the company’s Charlotte offices later in the day to prepare for the following day’s events. Some of the company’s clients still do two-day events, but Caffey said he’s still able to be efficient with his time. He offered up a recent example:

“Before we had the airplane, a two-day event would be three nights. Now, typically we go one night. We fly in the morning, do the first day of the event, stay the night and do the second day. As soon as it’s over we’ll come back. It’s very efficient for us,” he explained.

Caffey Distributing has grown its aircraft along with the company. Caffey has progressed through the Citation model line flying a Cessna Citation MUSTANG jet, Cessna Citation M2 jet, Cessna Citation CJ3+ jet and now the Cessna Citation CJ4 jet. 

“You don’t realize the efficiency and the convenience you get with the airplane until you have it.” - Chris Caffey, president and CEO, Caffey Distributing

It’s clear Caffey has spent a significant amount of time in the business aviation realm and he said he’d encourage other businessowners looking for increased efficiency to do the research.

“I do think it’s important to be mindful of the mission. It seems kind of cliché, but it is very true. If you need a 2,000-mile airplane, don’t buy a 1,200-mile airplane thinking we’ll stop and it’s not a big deal. If you need a 2,000-mile airplane, buy a 2,000-mile airplane,” he advised.

“Flying has always been a passion of mine, and I’m fortunate that our business needs involve an airplane,” Caffey said. “I’m lucky to have been in a position to develop the skills and qualifications that have made me able to be the pilot CEO.”