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Michael Ritoli

What 2020 has taught the Asahi team

August 7, 2020
By Alana House

It’s been a huge six months for Asahi Premium Beverages (APB), from supporting its on-premise customers during lockdown to winning Most Improved Supplier of the Year at the 2020 Australian Drinks Awards and the recent announcement that it is combining with CUB.

But one thing has remained constant for APB: the importance of being responsive and agile as its customers’ needs rapidly evolve.

Michael Ritoli (pictured main), General Manager Sales, said taking out Most Improved Supplier of the Year is proof of the outstanding performance by his team.

“It’s fair to say, our team were elated with winning this award and it’s a credit to everyone across the Asahi business who has contributed to this achievement,” said Ritoli.

“With any industry award, it’s always a combined effort; we’re incredibly lucky to have an amazing team at Asahi. Spanning across sales, marketing, supply chain and the many other support structures, we all unite in making Asahi a superb place to work.

“It’s a fantastic achievement to win the Most Improved Supplier as it recognises all the hard work our people put into providing the best service we can to our valued partners.”

Ritoli said it was the dedication, determination and hard work of the team over the last 12 months that contributed to the result. Examining the results from the 2019 Advantage Engagement Survey proved invaluable in identifying areas of improvement.

“We analysed the feedback from the previous year and put in place a strategy to address areas that we believed required us to lift our game,” he said.

“An action plan was developed engaging all functions of the business, with many people contributing, ensuring that the feedback was actioned and we closed the gaps from the prior year.”

Hundreds of members of the drinks industry watched via Zoom as the Supplier Awards were announced in a virtual event hosted by Shelly Horton on July 30.

The winners were chosen via the annual Advantage Engagement Survey. The Drinks Association has been commissioning Advantage Australia for the past decade to conduct the annual survey, which provides members with favourability ratings and qualitative retailer feedback from the off trade, on premise and wholesale channels.

“The purpose of the Most Improved Supplier Award is to recognise a supplier that has made significant improvements in the way it works with retailers,” said John McLoughlin (above), Managing Director APAC at the Advantage Group.

“This award recognises a supplier that has made a step change in their engagement capability. It was won by Asahi in a landslide this year, with a massive increase in its Net Favourable Score to 21 points, seven points more than the next placed supplier. This improvement has been driven by a strong intent and focus from the team to drive engagement with their retailer partners. Congratulations to Asahi!”

2020 Australian Drinks Awards

The most important attribute for suppliers

Ritoli said he believes empathy is the most important attribute for suppliers to have during current restrictions and lockdowns.

“We know how difficult it has been, and will be, for our customers, particularly those in the hospitality world,” he explained. “We’ve tried to understand their most immediate challenges, which for many, as mentioned already, is cash flow and have been working closely with them to ensure they are supported through this demanding period.

“We continue to remain nimble and flexible in our approach to problem solving, identifying opportunities and putting measures in place to act quickly in a considered manner. Above all, we remain focussed on our customers, ensuring they have access to our resources.

“Through the Open Arms program, for example, we’ve been busily commissioning hibernated equipment and providing cash flow solutions to those customers most in need through the help of our sales and credit teams.”

The benefits of having open arms

Ritoli said he was proud of the on-premise initiatives launched by Asahi during lockdown.

“In April, Asahi Premium Beverages launched the Open Arms Program,” he explained.

“Open Arms is a suite of support initiatives designed to help customers reopen, recover and regrow their hospitality businesses backed by a fund of over $1 million.”

“To help with cash flow, we also provided our customers with a suite of payment plan options that allowed venues to start trading and generate positive cash flow without the fear of going on credit hold as they scale-up again.

“We’ve had very positive feedback from our partners, many of whom are doing it tough at the moment. We hope that, in some small way, we can relieve some of that pressure and make life a little less challenging in the current environment.”

Click here to watch the 2020 Australian Drinks Awards, including some of the many initiatives supporting the on-premise during COVID-19