Ridgefield’s Corwin Beverage Co. is getting out of what it calls the “highly competitive beverage distribution business,” selling its nonalcohol division to food and beverage giant PepsiCo Inc., the company announced Thursday.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. It brings to a close a business that has spanned 81 years and four generations of family ownership.
Corwin distributes a product line of more than 300 beverages across the state, including craft beer and wine through its Kendall’s Pioneer and Browar Polska brands.
What will happen to local brewers distributing alcohol through Kendall’s Pioneer and Browar Polska remains to be seen.
“The company is actively exploring transition options regarding its craft beverage business through assignments to other distributors in accordance with its beverage distribution agreements,” read Corwin’s statement to the press.
The business got its start as Pepsi Cola of Vancouver in 1941. It later became the Corwin Beverage Co. and has remained in the family the entire time.
“Corwin Beverage Co. has been a proud distributor of beverages, including craft beverage distribution through Kendall’s Pioneer and Browar Polska, for more than 81 years,” read the company’s statement. “During that time, the Corwin family has had the opportunity to work with many great people and actively engage with the community, which in turn helped Corwin develop and grow as a thriving business and contributor to the region.”
Clark County craft brewers who have been distributing their products through Kendall’s Pioneer and Browar Polska were not pleased by the news, according to a statement from the Northbank Brewers Alliance.
“This consolidation serves to injure the Northbank brands held by Corwin and will echo for years to come in Southwest Washington craft beer,” read the group’s statement.
The alliance said Corwin didn’t give sufficient notice to the brands that would have allowed them to pivot in a reasonable manner.
“This short notice has already led to layoffs at the individual breweries and will most definitely lead to more in the future,” read the statement.
Individual brewers began to be verbally notified on Monday morning that their distribution through Corwin would be ending.
The alcohol will only be allowed to stay in Corwin’s warehouse until May 1, according to Bolt Minister, owner and brewer at 54-40 Brewing in Washougal. Though, Minister said, he was told Corwin wouldn’t be purchasing any past the second week in April.
“All of us have very hard decisions to make about business planning our way out of this,” Minister told The Columbian.
Corwin’s statement said that the transition process is expected to be completed on or before April 30.
A representative from PepsiCo Inc. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.