Serious About Supply & Demand

Sunil Gandhi finds new ways to help innovative alcoholic-beverage firm Mark Anthony Brands plan its production and distribution

Mark Anthony Brands is one of North America’s most diversified and successful private beverage companies, with a primary focus on alcohol products. Helping to lead its continued charge on the fiscal front is vice president of finance Sunil Gandhi. He’s committed to building an organization that can achieve long-term success, and daily he leverages his 12 years of experience in the alcoholic-beverage sector to connect demand and supply. He recently took some time to explain the process to Advantage in greater detail.

The David-versus-Goliath attitude is a critical component of our corporate culture. We know we must do things differently and better than others if we are to succeed in this highly competitive marketplace. Mark Anthony Brands is a truly entrepreneurial story built by founder, chairman, and CEO Anthony von Mandl—which is rare in a space like consumer products. We pride ourselves on being willing to break boundaries and keep ahead of the competition with innovation that is tailored to the Canadian market.

We continue to invest in Canada through our brewery in Delta, British Columbia, and our wineries in the Okanagan Valley [also in British Columbia]. Unlike others, which have been moving jobs out of Canada, we’ve been increasing our level of local investment, committing to the success of our customers and consumers, who have been so loyal to us.

In my role, I am responsible for the traditional aspects of finance you would typically expect. However, I also hold accountability for pricing and demand planning. I have always been motivated to identify ways to extend the reach and value of the finance function. These additional areas of responsibility have really served to bring my team and myself to the core of the commercial operating rhythm. Both of these functions are strategically important to any company, but particularly so in the highly regulated world of Canadian alcoholic beverages, where your customers are principally made up of provincial liquor jurisdictions.

Leading focused project teams to drive improvements in organization structure, supporting processes, and enabling technology over the past two years have been great sources of both personal growth and satisfaction.

How Are You Growing?

The company has expanded to 3 main offices, located in Vancouver, Toronto, and Chicago, with satellite sales offices located in other cities

Price positioning in the alcoholic beverage market is a crucial component of commercial strategy. However, historically, our approach to pricing focused on the administrative aspects as opposed to analysis. If the business was to continue its strong growth trajectory, this had to change. As a result, we relocated the [financial] team to Toronto to bring them closer to commercial stakeholders while concurrently implementing processes and improvements to streamline operations and developing supporting analytic tools to improve productivity. The focus of the team is now firmly on insight generation rather than administrative tasks. These changes are already paying dividends through the identification of incremental revenue opportunities and tighter competitive positioning across our core product categories.

At Mark Anthony Brands, [as is] common with all consumer goods companies, there is a constant challenge to balance supply and demand. Taking on responsibility for demand planning meant that my team and I now had a central role to play in this process. We operate in a highly dynamic environment with strong seasonality. Ensuring the right product is in the right place for our consumers to purchase is key to our success. As would be expected, inventory management and shelf availability issues were part of our day-to-day challenges. In response, we created a new demand-planning function, supported by a consensus-forecasting process and statistical tool set whose main responsibility is to work with sales to deliver the most accurate projections possible, reflective of historical patterns of demand, promotional activity, as well as competitor and environmental factors.

Our focus is on creating a “one number” mentality encompassing sales planning, production, and performance measurement. We are still in early days but are already seeing greater alignment between commercial and operational functions, which is expected to deliver continued business benefits as we enhance and evolve our approach.
I am extremely fortunate to work in an entrepreneurial environment where I am encouraged to extend my reach and grow both professionally and personally. These opportunities are not just available to me but to employees across the company. This is enabled in no small part by our owner, who invests in product innovation and the continual growth of our people. This has created a culture where we all have the opportunity to play a bigger role in continuing the Mark Anthony success story.