Each month, ForceBrands partners with The Tasting Panel magazine. The Tasting Panel offers an insider’s look at the tastemakers and trendsetters in today’s growing beverage industry. From winemaker profiles, to brands that are the bartenders’ best friend, this monthly publication gets up close and personal with today’s influencers and explores the products they love the most. With a readership of 85,000 professionals across all levels of the industry, The Tasting Panel maintains its position as a leading authoritative voice in the beverage industry. This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of The Tasting Panel.

As the Chief Operating Officer of one of North America’s leading beverage companies, E. Lloyd Sobel works closely with Breakthru Beverage Group’s portfolio of esteemed suppliers and customer partners and is responsible for optimizing company-wide sales and commercial functions to ensure superior performance.

Lloyd SobelForceBrands: What do you consider to be the most exciting initiative you’ve implemented as COO?
E. Lloyd Sobel: Since I’ve assumed the role of COO, we’ve evolved our service model across our North American footprint to be more agile, and we implemented an EDGE program to reward and recognize high performers. We also accelerated our investments in more diverse technology platforms and commercial capabilities to help our supplier and customer partners grow their businesses and forge deeper relationships with consumers.

FB: Given the industry trend toward consolidation, how do you see Breakthru setting itself apart from other major distributors?
ELS: Across North America, Breakthru is united in its mission to help our partners grow and improve their business performance. What distinguishes us in the industry is our diverse portfolio of iconic, craft, and artisanal brands; our platform for service and performance excellence; and, most important, our dedicated associates. We stay ahead through our strong relationships and strategic partnerships; state-of-the-art facilities; logistics and operational expertise that ensure efficiency and execution excellence across our footprint; and investments in our talented people. We top it off with a deep commitment to continuous improvement.

FB: What are some ways Breakthru is adapting to advances in technology?
ELS: We continue to build out our digital capabilities and platforms to make it easier for our customers to transact and do business with us. Our united Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, SAP, has been the centerpiece of real-time business capabilities. Within the next year, our entire footprint will be running on this platform, which will enable financial, supply chain, and operational efficiencies and equip our associates with real-time information to better serve our customers and suppliers.

FB: One of the most disruptive industries to the beverage world is cannabis. Does Breakthru have any plans to collaborate with this space?
ELS: We are closely monitoring the cannabis market as it continues to emerge as a new frontier across North America. In 2018, we launched Kindred Partners, a wholly-owned subsidiary providing recreational cannabis–brokerage services for the Canadian adult-use market. Kindred has not only allowed us to pursue a new growth opportunity, it has enabled us to get direct experience with this market and better understand [it].

FB: Building a strong team culture is one of the most effective ways to attract and retain talent. How would you describe Breakthru’s culture and its impact on the company’s success?
ELS: We are proud to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace with the best and brightest in the industry. We invest in associate education, training, and certification and recognize strong performance from our associates companywide. Rallying together in our commitment to grow Breakthru’s business as a team benefits both our bottom line and our culture. We are also defined by our relationships, rooted in integrity, trust, and transparency with suppliers, customers, and the communities in which we live and work. Giving back and being socially responsible is more than what we do, it’s who we are.

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