Bottler of the Year 2012

In 1945, Newell Sargent and his wife, Mabel, purchased a bottling facility in Worland, Wyo. The plant opened for business two years later with a single production line that bottled Canada Dry, Pepsi and Nesbitt Orange sodas. Two full-time employees produced, sold and distributed about 1,100 cases a week, according to the company. In 1948, the couple acquired the Schlitz Beer franchise, which helped them survive sugar rationing difficulties during the Korean War, it says.


The company was shaken in 1960 by the death of Mabel Sargent, who was killed in a vehicle accident on one of her routes. Her death, compounded with increases in company sales and growth, resulted in Newell’s need for a business partner. Forrest Clay joined the company in 1961 and helped to continue to strengthen its success. In the ‘60s, the company purchased the 7-Up Bottling Company in Thermopolis, Wyo., and Pepsi-Cola and 7-Up franchises in Casper, Wyo., expanding its territory.


In 1970, 13 independent bottlers joined together to build a canning line in the Worland plant, which officially formed the company known as Admiral Beverage Corp. As time went on, Admiral Beverage grew by purchasing some of these bottlers. Today, the company owns numerous PepsiCo and DPS franchises throughout its nine-state territory. Notably, it acquired the 7-Up Bottling Co. in Salt Lake City, the Coors distributorship in Salt Lake City and the DPS franchise for the entire state of Alaska. Most recently, Admiral Beverage acquired the MillerCoors distributor for the entire state of New Mexico, which has a portfolio of brands such as Corona, Heineken, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and a host of craft and import beers, says Kelly Clay, president and chief executive officer of the company.


There are a lot of synergies between beer and soft drinks, Clay says. In many cases, being involved in both categories can help maximize operating efficiencies; however, they must be handled as two separate selling systems, he advises.


“They’re two different products, two different consumers, two different categories,” he says. “So while you want to take advantage of the back room, warehousing, logistics, those type of synergies, you have to understand that you’re marketing to two different consumers and you have to approach your selling, your marketing and your merchandising separately.”