A new beverage packaging company launched by two area entrepreneurs aims to address a void in the local craft beverage industry supply chain.
Craft Beverage Warehouse
, located in Milwaukee’s Century City business park, assists small to mid-sized craft beverage companies with packaging, shipping and inventory space. The company was founded by Kyle Stephens of Good City Brewing
and Michael DeGrave, co-owner of Milwaukee real estate company Cream City Capital
Craft Beverage Warehouse provides local beverage companies with the ability to purchase packaging materials in smaller box or bundle quantities rather than by the pallet or truckload, an option that Stephens said is limited locally.
With the added option of purchasing small quantities of packaging materials, beverage companies benefit by increasing their cashflow, a factor that has proven particularly important as these companies experience the economic impact of COVID-19, said Stephens, Good City Brewing vice president of finance and administration.
“If you think about it, you have a small brewery that’s doing a couple thousand barrels a year and they have to bring in $20,000 worth of cans at once, that could be a month or two of their revenue,” Stephens said. “Especially today, everyone’s keeping a close eye on their cash balance.”
There is also a limited supply of aluminum in the industry, an added burden for local craft beverage companies who may not have existing relationships with the industry’s biggest product packaging players like Ball Packaging or Crown, Stephens said.
“In a lot of cases, they’re not taking on new customers even if you have a successful growing brand,” Stephens said. “You compound the potential cashflow implications of purchasing at large scale with also maybe not being able to find the product you need.”
However, Stephens said CBW has existing relationships with aluminum suppliers, adding that he is confident the company will have the packaging supplies needed to serve its customers.
“We’re trying to solve this packaging issue, which is a tangible item because we’re selling a product,” Stephens said. “But we also want to be a resource for our customers that maybe don’t have the time or the ability to spend the time on this.”
While this new venture is separate from Good City Brewing, CBW will operate in a 4,500 square-foot space within Good City Brewing’s 53,000 square-foot facility. Stephens and DeGrave will manage the wholesale packaging company at first with the idea of hiring more employees as the company scales, Stephens said.
“Being in this neighborhood and the connections that I’ve built, and Good City has built really makes us think that the future is bright,” Stephens said. “As the need is there for employees, we know the right groups to reach out to and we think there’s access to employees who will do a really good job for us.”