For Chadha, speed is key in future success of Sprecher Brewing

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Margaret Naczek, Business Journal

 

What does it mean to be craft? Sharad Chadha reflected recently.

It's about excellence and expertise, he thought, whether that's in carpentry, quilt making or, in the case of Sprecher Brewing Co., soda and beer.

"We are beer and soda makers. That's our craft," Chadha, the new CEO of Sprecher, said. "We want to be the best in our craft worldwide. We want to be known for it."

Thirty-five years ago, Glendale-based Sprecher Brewery became the first craft brewery to open in the state since Prohibition. It developed its expansive craft beer portfolio, built partnerships in Milwaukee including with the Milwaukee Brewers and Wisconsin State Fair, and was nationally recognized for its fire-brewed root beer.

Now, Chadha and his team, which includes former MillerCoors executive Jim Kanter, enter a pivotal time, taking the company from a product-focused to customer-focused business model for added distribution, centralized products and stronger market. Chadha became the new CEO at the end of January after acquiring Sprecher Brewery with a team of local investors.

"Sharad and I joke every day that we're building the plane as we fly it," said Kantor, Sprecher's chief operating officer.

In Chadha's first meeting with the Sprecher board, three themes, which he believes are central to company success, came up —employees, customer centricity and innovation.

"We want to be more an employee-empowered organization," Chadha said.

The former GE Healthcare executive assured employees of Sprecher's permanence in Glendale.

Employee empowerment also stemmed from the brewery's goal to be craft. For Chadha, that means everyone from the mechanic who fixes the manufacturing lines to the person handling invoicing and billing need to the best in his or her craft.

"We are trying to revive this culture of exceptionalism of our quality. Sprecher stands for quality," he said.

With a portfolio of more than 30 craft beers, craft root beer and soda and a new line of hard seltzer drinks, high-quality products have always been a central focus to Sprecher. Last year, the company launched an Old Fashioned-flavored hard seltzer as well as a line of nonalcoholic craft waters. But now, Chadha said, it's about also creating a customer-centric approach with improved relationships with retailers, consumers and distributing partners.

Also, with a diverse portfolio comes an innovation pipeline, Chadha said. Sprecher is a brewery, root beer and soda company. Chadha said he wants to focus on these core segments but continue to keep the core products vibrant. To rationalize the portfolio, the brewery will implement new marketing techniques on certain beers like the Pineapple Express to push demand.

Expanding distribution and ramping up production capabilities are two key goals for the new CEO. One of the greatest challenges presented in his industry is managing time, Chadha said.

"We want to do things with speed," he said.

Sprecher's size allows the brewery and soda manufacturer to innovate quick, produce beverages on a shorter timeline and market more efficiently.

In order to increase production capacity, Chadha said he plans to start with an extended first shift and then go to two shifts. Sprecher has the capacity to house three shifts. Chadha also said the Glendale brewery is open to other ideas including contract manufacturing or co-packing.

With a customer-centric focus, Sprecher also is working on improved relationships with distributors to increase overall distribution. Chadha said the brewery is starting with southeastern Wisconsin distribution followed by the Midwest region.

Currently distributed in 30 states, Chadha said the brewery also wants to push into more international markets such as Mexico and Canada. He said the brewery recently met with business entrepreneurs from Japan.

"First let’s stick to our core. Let’s get Milwaukee. Let’s get Wisconsin and let’s grow from there," he said.

In 2020, Chadha and his team have a goal of expanding production at least 20%. That, Chadha said, is the conservative estimate, though he hopes for 50-100% growth.


SHARAD CHADHA

  • Title: President and CEO
  • Organization: Sprecher Brewing Co.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree and MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Family: Wife Linda and son Brij
  • Hometown: Raised in New Delhi
  • Resides: Whitefish Bay
  • Age: 47
  • Hobbies: Reading, political shows, exercising
  • Books currently reading: "What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence" by Stephen A. Schwarzman
  • Fun fact: "Have walked on fire (hot coals)"
  • Favorite place in Milwaukee: Bradford Beach
 

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