With more than 50 suppliers from four continents in the Palm Bay International family, the first question you have to ask Chairman David Taub and his son, President and COO Marc Taub, is, “Are you sure you’re a small importer?”
“Compared to a Diageo or a Bacardi, sure, we’re small. But that’s to our advantage. It lets us be more patient, lets us allow the brands to grow,” Marc explains. “A lot of the bigger companies need to make their numbers very quickly, so they need a new brand in their portfolio to hit the ground running. We need to make our numbers too, of course, but because of our size—and a few other things—we can afford to let the brand take a little more time to find its audience.”
Taub, the third generation running Palm Bay, points to two new brands that they’ve just introduced as examples: Fontanafredda from the prestigious producer of the legendary Barolo, and Trimbach, one of the most esteemed names in fine wines from Alsace since 1626.
“Both of these estates have what we like to call the ‘awe of authenticity’—brands that have a distinct point of view. One shaped by origin, terroir and winemaker. Something unique that will capture the imagination—and palate—of the consumer, the retailer and the distributor.” This is a quality shared by many estates within the portfolio, such as Planeta, Col d’Orcia, Rocca delle Macie and Poliziano from Italy, and S. A. Prüm from Germany.
It’s a smart strategy, and it’s probably one of the reasons why among the 50 producers Palm Bay imports, several brands lead their respective categories. Cavit is not only the number-one Pinot Grigio but also the number-one Italian wine in the U.S. Santa Rita leads the 750-ml. Chilean category, Citra is the number-one Montepulciano and Lunetta Prosecco is the top-selling Prosecco.
But it’s not something that happens overnight; it’s a strategy that began more than three decades ago. Before they were importers, the Taub family was a New York distributor. “We repped all the other companies—Bacardi, Jim Beam,” David Taub relates. “And we handled the New York State region for the Gallo family, back in the ‘jug wine’ days.” Marc actually began his career in California in Gallo’s training program and later in sales and sales management.
This is just a selection of of Palm Bay International’s growing wine and spirits portfolio.
But it was in 1977 that David founded Palm Bay with his father, Martin Taub, making the leap initially with just one supplier in their portfolio—the northern Italian producer of Principato and, of course, Cavit.
“I don’t know if it’s our distributor roots or what, but we’ve always prided ourselves on staying very close to the ground,” David explains. “It’s why we were able to recognize before anyone else that, as Americans were becoming more knowledgeable about wines, their taste profile was leaning towards a fruitier flavor; which is why we were the ones to introduce the Pinot Grigio category in the States.”
Marc continues, “It’s a real two-way street. Because we’re small , we are nimble and can really respond to trends that we see in the market place faster than large companies. We enjoy close relationships with the trade, from key retailers to leading sommeliers. They alert us early on to developing trends, such rising demand for Malbec and southern Italian whites like Fiano and Falanghina, and we can quickly respond with brands like Salentein from Argentina and Feudi di San Gregorio from Campania. And because we are so close with our distributor partners, we are able to meet the market demands swiftly and effectively.”
But how do you maintain that as you grow?
“Part of it is through our dedication to being very personally involved in the brands we work with.” David explains. “This isn’t just business; it’s family. We’ve had some of these supplier relationships literally for decades.”
“But you’re right” Marc interjects, “it’s something we have to be very focused on, and it’s why we recently restructured Palm Bay—to better fit with what our partners needed, and to make sure we keep those relationships and those lines of communication wide open.
“Our sales organization is now comprised of four business units: Quantum Brands, our wines that have broad market distribution, and Genesis Estates, our more artisanal and terroir-focused wines; then there’s Esprit du Vin, which focuses on France’s châteaux and estate-bottled producers and, lastly, there’s our spirits unit, with brands like 901 Silver Tequila and Voli Light Vodkas. As you know, spirits is a whole other world, but one which we feel is important to be strategically involved with and can leverage given our wholesaler relationships.”
David interrupts, “You know, that reorganization—that was all Marc’s doing. It was his foresight and he showed tremendous leadership to make it happen. It wasn’t easy and what he did was quite remarkable.”
Smart leadership. At Palm Bay International, it seems to run in the family.