New CEO of Sprecher hopes someday to take Glendale brewery international

Monday, February 10, 2020
Margaret Naczek, Business Journal


In his first week as the new CEO of Sprecher Brewing Co., the former Samsung and GE Healthcare executive Sharad Chadha has a special routine when he heads to work. Every morning, he goes to the manufacturing side of the Glendale brewery and takes a video on his iPhone.

Chadha waits for an important sound to start his day — the sound of Sprecher bottles clanking together as they head down the bottling line.

"This is the sound of growth and prosperity," he said. "This sound is when our factory is running."

On Jan. 31, Sprecher announced that founder Randy Sprecher sold his company at 701 W. Glendale Ave., the first new brewery to open in Milwaukee since Prohibition, to Chadha and a group of local Milwaukee investors.

Shadha, a Whitefish Bay resident, said he had been a fan of Sprecher products for many years and had known Randy Sprecher for about 12 years before the two struck up a conversation in June 2019 about Sprecher wanting to retire and sell the business.

With a team that includes former Coca-Cola and MillerCoors executives, Chadha has lofty goals that include higher distribution, more products and a customer-centric focus for Sprecher.

"It’s going to be a national and international iconic brand one day," he said.

Since opening in 1985, Sprecher has been a great product company, Chadha said. With a portfolio of 30 craft beers, root beer, hard seltzer and craft sodas, the company's focus has been on developing high-quality products. Traditionally, the company shied away from strong relationships with distributors and additional partnerships.

Sprecher is the official root beer of the Wisconsin State Fair and the Milwaukee Brewers. Chadha said now such partnerships will continue to grow and multiply.

"I think fundamentally it’s sales and marketing. Beer as you know is a trickier structure with distributing partners being key. We have to improve our relationship with our distributors. We have to listen to our consumers and our customers and really play well and get along and support and be a customer-centric and a channel-centric organization," he said.

It's not mutually exclusive, he added. He hopes to continue Sprecher's strong portfolio while also maintaining a professional focus on distribution and sales.

Chadha wants to begin with a focus on Wisconsin and Midwestern distribution, but he has ambitions to have Sprecher products in Canada, Asia and Europe. In the past, he said Sprecher has not always had a positive relationship with distributors.

"We want to embrace them," he said.

With the company's portfolio size, Chadha said Sprecher Brewing should be five times or 10 times the size it is now. He said going into the future months the company will have to rationalize its portfolio and focus on the key products that customers love.

Former MillerCoors executive Jim Kanter is Sprecher's new chief commercial officer who will run retail and alcoholic beverages. Chadha said in order to determine Sprecher's key products, the brewery will use its taproom as a lab space for research.

Chadha also has goals to add a second or third shift to the brewery. Currently it only operates one.

"We could double, triple our production and go many more places and be available much more," he said.

Glendale is not a travel destination right now, but with Sprecher Brewery's expansion, Chadha said, "Why not Glendale?"