From MillerCoors to Sprecher: Kanter’s experience gives Glendale brewery an edge

SCOTT PAULUS – Jim Kanter is the chief commercial officer of Sprecher Brewing Co.

Jim Kanter is a name in Milwaukee’s brewing scene. For over a decade, he was a top executive with MillerCoors, now part of Molson Coors North America, where he worked in marketing, commercial development and sales before being named MillerCoors general manager.

After leaving his MillerCoors position in August 2019, Kanter is back in the Milwaukee beer industry, this time with a well-known local craft name, Sprecher Brewing Co. With Sharad Chadha taking over as the company’s new CEO, Kanter will serve as chief commercial officer, backed by his years of experience in the beverage industry.

“I grew up in Milwaukee, and I knew this brand and the iconic nature of it with the great nature that it has. Once I looked at a few things, I said this is something that has even more potential than the current team even knows about,” Kanter said.

Craft is what separates the Sprecher brand, he said. Craft bleeds through the brand from the iconic 16-ounce glass bottles for root beer to the large portfolio of craft beers. Kanter said he wants to embrace the heritage of the company to make it both a good regional brand and national brand.

With everything from craft soda to hard seltzer to craft beer, an immediate priority is getting the portfolio organized.

“I think the challenges are overcoming the myriad of things that we have and organizing them into a more concentrated plan of attack with our distributors, our retailers and ultimately getting that energy level and buzz with our sodas and with our beers to our end users or our consumers,” he said.

Kanter stressed the value of Sprecher’s hard seltzer. The brewery offers both a raspberry and an old-fashioned flavor, which Kanter calls the brewery’s “best kept secret.” He also added that the brewery’s summer seasonal will join the latest craft beer trend with a juicy IPA that will target the 21- to 35-year-old consumers.

When prioritizing the portfolio, Kanter said a unifying characteristic is the localness of the beer brands. With some of the brewery’s income products, Kanter and the rest of the Sprecher team hopes to skew younger, toward that 21- to 35-year-old demographic.

“People are just consuming less overall, but they want more quality. That’s what we provide,” he said.

Kanter believes the brewery’s the greatest challenge could also become the brewery’s greatest strength. Kanter said Sprecher needs expanded capacity. Already Chadha said that brewery has plans to add a second or third shift.

Chadha also said the brewery hopes to develop stronger relationships with its two Wisconsin distributors. Kanter had previously done extensive work with both of them, which he hopes will strengthen the brewery’s distribution relationship.

“The good news for us is I know them. They know me, and I’m a known entity and hopefully that’s a good thing. I think it is,” Kanter said.

Already the brewery is putting programs in place to push its hard seltzers into distribution as the brewery gets closer to the summer months. Kanter said hard seltzers follow the same seasonality as beer, and the brewery currently is starting to ramp up distribution.

“We’re going to move quickly. We have very flexible capacities and flexible capabilities in how we make things. We can kind of react a bit quicker here. Our goal here on the commercial side is to make our company easier to do business with,” he said.

Margaret Naczek, Milwaukee Business Journal

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