From its innovative whiskey bottling concept in 1870 to its expansion into global spirit sales, Brown-Forman is a company that is always moving forward. While the original company started out with one flagship whiskey, today’s products cover a range of categories in diverse markets.
With production facilities and sales offices that span the globe, the company employs over 4,700 people worldwide and shows no signs of slowing its impressive growth.
What is Brown-Forman?
The Brown-Forman Corporation is an American-owned company that sells wine and spirits in over 160 countries. It earned over 3 billion dollars in revenue in 2016 and grew its income by 7 percent in 2017. At the same time, it’s still a family company at its roots.
Origins of the Company
George Garvin Brown started the company in 1870 with his half-brother, later teaming up with his friend George Forman, an accountant. The company’s first product, Old Forester, was whiskey sold in glass bottles, an original concept during an era when whiskey came in barrels.
Over the years, the company changed hands but remained within the Brown family, now with fourth- and fifth-generation family members serving on the Board of Directors and holding positions within the organization.
With Brown and Forman’s vision, it didn’t take long before the company began to flourish. Despite its creation shortly before the prohibition movement, growth never ceased. When the Prohibition Amendment went into effect, the company merely applied for a license to bottle its whiskey for medicinal use.
Early Market Growth
As the whiskey market picked up steam, the acquisition of Early Times held the company over throughout the inevitable drought of prohibition. Rather than wait around for the repeal of prohibition, Brown-Forman and other industry giants organized the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to educate the public about drinking responsibly.
At the same time, the company entered the stock market with its first public stock issuance. Even in times of market weakness, the higher-ups looked ahead to future growth and expansion. Producing industrial alcohol during World War II kept the company’s doors open.
With Early Times as the number one bourbon in the country, the company didn’t slow down. The next acquisition was a Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee, and then Bols liqueurs. In 1960, Brown’s humble whiskey brand had made its first million dollars in net sales.
In the 90’s, continued forays into the wine market resulted in the creation of a Wine Division within the company. Then the original concept of blended freezer cocktails sold more than a million cases in its first year of production, continuing the legacy of Brown-Forman as a leader in the beverage market.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon emerged from a restored distillery in Kentucky, earning kudos at the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Thoroughbred Racing Championships. Two Canadian whiskey varieties, Collingwood and Canadian Mist, took the company’s expansion efforts farther north.
In 2000, company sales exceeded two billion dollars, and its holdings continue to grow. A partnership with Bacardi in 2002 evened out the marketplace and expansion into European countries starting in 2005 took advantage of robust markets.
Then, in 2015, Slane Irish Whiskey became the next acquisition, with a new distillery purchase and rebranding in Ireland costing around 50 million dollars. In 2016, Coopers Craft entered the market as the brand’s first new bourbon in over twenty years.
Even as modern convenience urges companies to streamline their processes, tradition reigns at many of the Brown family’s facilities. At BenRiach, for example, a distillery in Scotland, natural spring water lends a high mineral content and unique taste to BenRiach whiskey.
GlenDronach, another Scottish distillery, has produced single malt whiskey for over two centuries and relies on quality casks and natural water sources. At a time when mechanization threatens to take over industry production, this family-owned business continues to focus on quality rather than convenience.
Take the Finlandia, line, for example. Finlandia vodka uses glacial spring water of Finland and six-row barley for crisp flavor. Then flavorful extracts of cranberry, Nordic berries, redberry, and other fruits create a fusion of tastes that contrast with the warmth of the vodka.
Today, seven whiskey brands, three varieties of scotch, four tequilas, one vodka, two liqueurs, and two wines make up the beverage giant’s stock.
Careers at Brown-Forman
Brown-Forman Corp ranks at number 67 on Forbes’ Innovative Companies list and continues to grow globally. Although the company remains in control of its founding family, the thousands of employees who work for the company have plenty of opportunity for upward movement.
Why Work for Brown-Forman
The organization runs global leadership development programs, fosters connections between employees, and routinely gives back to the communities that support it. Despite its worldwide reach and massive profits, the company maintains a pulse on employee involvement and makes a habit of requesting feedback for improvements.
The company boasts competitive salaries, annual holiday bonuses, incentives for management, medical benefits, and life insurance. Also, retirement programs, paid vacation and holidays, employee assistance initiatives, and rewards programs support employee efforts.
A Diversity Council aims to support the organization’s diversity strategy, which strives to be inclusive and fair to all employees of varying backgrounds.
With a nod toward diversity, the company supports LGBT groups, multi-cultural agencies, and organizations that provide services for people with developmental disabilities. Employees also participate in volunteer work throughout local communities.
Although its profits lie in selling alcohol to the public, the company maintains its integrity when it comes to promoting the responsible consumption of spirits. One of its employees spearheaded a project that embraces non-drinkers along with those who enjoy drinking alcohol, creating a collaborative spirit among employees even when some have never tasted the company’s products.
Further, a separate company website contains informational articles and research about the risks of consuming alcohol for various groups, including pregnant women and people who are underage. This shows the company’s commitment to ensuring consumer safety, even at the risk of losing business.
Addressing climate change and water scarcity, the company appreciates every effort that employees make to save resources. When an employee who oversees a factory in Mexico discovered a way to save water in their facility, the company embraced the solution and cut energy usage by 14 percent.
In another impressive example, the Jack Daniel’s distillery reuses or recycles a whopping 99 percent of the materials it uses. Further, the distillery uses leftover wood remnants from a nearby factory for 73 percent of its energy, reducing the need for environmentally damaging fossil fuels.
The company hires for all types of positions from internships to corporate roles. From hospitality and sales roles to upper management and marketing positions, and of course factory and distillery jobs, there are endless opportunities in varying capacities.
Opportunities are available not only in the United States but also in Mexico and overseas. Their website is even optimized in multiple languages for job seekers whose first language is not English. Locals who live near a distillery or sales office can join a global company without leaving home.
Brown-Forman careers allow for longevity within the organization, with many employees staying a decade or more in their positions. And according to the results of an internal Employee Engagement & Enablement Survey, 93 percent of employees feel proud to work for the company, and 96 percent believe in their value system.
Participation ranks at 91 percent, an increase from the previous survey, and engagement also grew by 9 percent. By all indications, employees at Brown-Forman are relatively happy and secure in their roles. An Employee Resource Group functions as an innovation hub for employees to develop strong relationships and functionality as teams.
Most employees are full-time workers, with only 6 percent holding part-time or seasonal titles. A little over half of the employees live in the United States, and most of them are between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.
While there are no decisive figures that establish the company’s diversity in its workforce, the existence of a list of employee groups suggests that there is a degree of diversity in most locations. Employee resource groups provide a backdrop for African American, LGBT, Latino, Women, Young Professionals, Veteran, and experienced employees to connect and share experiences.
Brown-Forman is a corporation that remains focused on the future even in unsure economic times. Throughout its history, the company has upheld its values while continuing to make a profit and expand in its industry.
President and Chief Executive Officer Paul C. Varga explains that the company’s long-term perspective is what guarantees its success. By looking forward, both in terms of its employees and its products, the company aims to retain the best talent and provide the most exceptional products possible.
With the notoriety and exceptional market performance of each of the company’s brands, it’s no surprise that Brown-Forman continues to exceed profit projections and attract outstanding employees that aim to make a career out of their work with the company.