Jeff Ottoboni of Mendocino County’s North Coast Brewing wins a Wine, Beer & Spirits Industry Awards brewery CEO category
The winner of the brewery CEO category in North Bay Business Journal’s beverage alcohol industry awards says support of team members helped the company navigate the pandemic restrictions.
How did you get into the industry? And what has been your career track since?
I was in the wine business, holding a variety of executive positions, for over 30 years before transitioning to beer about a year ago.
How have you or your company influenced the industry in the last five years? What are key accomplishments?
North Coast Brewing Company (NCBC) is a pioneer in the craft brewing industry and differentiates itself as a B Corporation with a focus not just on profits, but on its community, the environment, and people.
It has donated substantial sums of money to a variety of endeavors (including music and music education as well as Marine Mammal Science). Most recently, we have partnered with U.C. Davis to fund an endowment for a diversity-based scholarship to the Master Brewer’s Program.
Our mission statement: “Making the World a Better Place, One Pint at a Time” sums it up well.
What changes have you noticed in your industry in the last five years, and how have you and/or your company moved to capitalize on or adjust to those changes?
Increased competition and consolidation have marked the industry over the past five years. We have continued to focus on our core mission: making quality beer, philanthropy and taking care of all our stakeholders.
How have you responded to growing competition from craft spirits and alternatives such as hard seltzer?
Although some of these alternatives continue to acquire shelf space, we have very strong heritage brands and a business ethos that is very much our own. We continue to find that our customers believe in our mission and values and support us because of that.
How has the pandemic affected your business? What has been the impact of restrictions on visitors, closure of restaurants and bars, surge in online shopping, and rise in digital consumer experiences and marketing?
We have focused our sales efforts on off-premise, although continuing to support our on premise customers as much as possible.
Onsite at the brewery, we have hired a management team capable of executing outdoor dining with safety our number one focus.
We have been very fortunate to retain the support of our key stakeholders, and our internal team has been instrumental in guiding us through a very difficult time.
How have you responded to the challenges and opportunities of the virus-influenced economic downturn? How much are these measures making up the difference in sales?
Our sales and leadership team has done a remarkable job of focusing on those areas of the market still open. Although we have experienced a sales deficit, the situation could have been a lot worse without the collaboration and support of virtually all team members.
Which of your adjustments and initiatives do you think you’ll continue past the pandemic, and why?
A careful focus on priority business operations and financial feasibility, although not absent previously, will continue. I think we have also learned to stretch our resources and that there is a difference between necessary and mandatory.
Also, and perhaps, most importantly, the enhanced communication at all levels that the pandemic has required and the ability to be flexible will continue to be part of our DNA.
How are the North Bay wildfires and power shut-offs affecting the outlook for your business?
With our location, we have not really been affected directly, although the resulting impact on our customers has only heightened the need to focus on priority business operations and careful resource allocation.