In the past 10 years, America's taste in alcoholic beverages has changed drastically. Consumers went from three of four beer choices to hundreds of craft and microbrews popping up across the nation. Recently, hard ciders, popular in Europe, have also seen an increased interest among consumers in the U.S.
One spirit that has seen a particular rise in popularity is an American original - Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Bourbon is one of the more specific recipes out there, and while tastes and prices vary greatly, the ingredients cannot be substituted. Bourbon must be comprised of at least 51 percent corn mash, aged in a charred oak barrel for at least two years and as many will also tell you, must be made with limestone spring water found in the state of Kentucky. However, there is a small number of bourbon brands distilled outside of the commonwealth.
Expansion rarely a simple task
With such specific ingredients and a long aging time, meeting an increasing demand has proven difficult for bourbon makers. According to the Lane Report, there are currently 4.9 million barrels aging in Kentucky - that's more than one barrel per resident of the commonwealth. It's also a 115-percent increase since 1999.
According to Manufacturing.net, Makers Mark recently announced a $67-million expansion of its Loretto, Ky, distillery. The expansion comes following an outcry from the bourbon-drinking public that occurred when Maker's Mark announced it would cut, very slightly, the percentage of alcohol in each bottle to stretch its supply.
Maker's Mark saw a 10.7-percent increase is cases shipped between 2012 and 2013, a massive jump for a company that cannot do anything to increase the speed at which its product is ready for market. The idea to thin the bourbon was quickly scrapped and while the expansion was already planned, the outcry solidified it as a necessity.
Growth happens fast for manufacturers
There is no question that increased demand for their product has been good news for bourbon manufacturers. However, rapid growth can derail quality and hurt brand reputation if not handled right. Many very small manufacturers may be able to control inventory with paper-based systems, but as demand grows, so will the need for automated data collection.
With improved tracking and data collection, companies can ensure that as their products grow in popularity, the customer service they were able to offer as a smaller business does not fade. Fans of the brand, especially those who were followers before popularity spiked, will expect the same level of quality they always received.
Delivering this quality means responding to disruptions in the supply chain with haste and utilizing data collection systems that integrate with existing ERP software. As a business grows, the ability to monitor what goes on in the warehouse or manufacturing facility will be one of the most important metrics to the enterprise. Organizations may need to bring on new suppliers, employees and distributors and must be able to monitor their productivity.