There was only one package, a 6.5 oz bottle of Coke, available for Kenneth Brown to sell on his route. It was 1947 and Ken, a World War II veteran, was a route salesman for Coke of Chicago. From this humble beginning came what is known today as Brown Bottling Group, a distributor for Pepsi Cola and Dr Pepper Beverages with employees servicing 45 counties in central and southern Mississippi.
In 1950, taking advantage of the experience he had gained on the streets of Chicago, Ken was hired by the Pepsi Cola Company to be the advertising manager for the Central Division. Building on his experiences as a salesman, Ken developed eye catching and sales building merchandising techniques, unique for the times. Understanding the need for brand recognition, Ken pioneered the use of window displays to gain exposure for his brand Pepsi. Insurance agencies to department stores became Ken’s stage for his display creations, incorporating Pepsi into the windows that overlooked the main streets of the towns and cities throughout the Central Division.
In 1966 Ken showed his entrepreneurial spirit. Using family loans as capital, Ken and two partners purchased the struggling Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Madison WI. Under Ken’s leadership and strong sales ability, the company soon flourished and provided the funds for additional acquisitions. With an eye on the future and looking for greater opportunity, Ken turned his eyes South.
In 1971 Ken and his partners purchased the franchise rights for Dr Pepper, 7 UP, and Pepsi products for 29 counties, covering Jackson, Meridian, and Hattiesburg Mississippi. At the time of the purchase all three brands were under separate ownership and operated independent bottling operations for those brands. With the purchase, Ken and his partners merged the brands together and incorporated the new company as Southern Mississippi Bottling Company. Southern Mississippi Bottling Company operated a bottling and sales plant in Jackson and sales distribution centers in Meridian and Hattiesburg.
In 1980 Ken, confident of the future of Pepsi in the south completed a stock swap with his partners in which he sold his shares in the Madison WI., operations to his partners and then purchased his partners shares in the Mississippi operations. In the beginning times were hard and profits were low, but with Ken and his team’s hard work and determination the company began to grow. New brands and packages were added to the product line, new merchandising programs were created and executed, and national advertising programs were localized and with those efforts came new business and growth. “Do it up Brown” became the rallying cry, the slogan representing Ken and his team’s dedication and commitment to being the Best of the Best. With growth came expansion, and in 1985 the company purchased eight acres in the Hawkins Field Industrial Park and developed a separate facility for its food service division.
In 1980, Bill Brown, Ken’s son, joined the company as Vice President. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Bill had been uniquely prepared to join the company. During his high school and college summers, Bill had worked in all aspects of the business, learning it from the ground up. While others were enjoying the pleasures of a hot Mississippi summer, Bill was working in vending, loading trucks, sales, and production. After eight years of on the job training and improving his knowledge of the company and the industry, Ken Brown promoted Bill to President of the company in 1988. To better position the company for growth, Bill reorganized operations and changed the name of the company from Southern Mississippi Bottling Co. to Brown Bottling Group. He continued the company’s expansion by establishing a corporate office.
Growth continued in 1989 when Brown Bottling Group purchased the franchise rights for McComb and Natchez MS. adding 16 more counties to the company’s service area. From the beginning Brown Bottling Group, as Southern Mississippi Bottling Co., centralized all production in Jackson. Products were produced and then shipped to the other Brown Bottling Group markets. In 1998 Bill implemented a strategy to grow the business through a focus on sales and marketing and divested the company of its production facilities in Jackson.
In 2000 Brown Vending Company was born. A full service department had been operating quietly behind the scenes of Brown Bottling Group. Brown Vending had grown to become a separate entity in the Brown Bottling Group family. Brown Vending is a full service division that distributes equipment and stocks vending machines with such items as drinks, snacks, frozen food, toiletries and more.
Under Bill’s leadership the company continued to grow and has undergone an unprecedented building and expansion plan. In December 2007, the Jackson area BBG Sales facility relocated to a state of the art facility with over 100,000 square feet of office and warehouse space located on 35 acres in Brandon, MS. The warehouse is equipped with photosynthetic lights, interior walls are painted white and packaging is recycled, Brown Bottling is committed to being a good community partner and utilizes green techniques in all of its building projects. In addition to the new Jackson facility, Hattiesburg, McComb, Meridian, Natchez and the corporate office have been completely remodeled or rebuilt. All locations have state of the art technology and are designed to maximize productivity and efficiency.
In 2007, after receiving the Donald M. Kendall Bottler of the Year award Bill built upon the company’s success by introducing the company to the principles of performance excellence. Through the AIM Management Process, (AIM; analyze, improve, & monitor) Bill and his team are driving continuous improvement through a systematic process with a focus on the customer and employee empowerment.
Taking care of the beverage needs of Mississippi’s largest customer base is a big job. It takes the combined efforts of all team members working together to make Brown Bottling Group Mississippi’s preferred refreshment provider for over 1 million consumers. Team Brown members stock it, sell it, deliver it, and display it. It takes the whole team; from the warehouse to the front office, doing their best to ensure future growth. Other than the quality of our products, the most important thing we have are our people, they are directly responsible for our past and future success.
Brown Bottling Group is a franchise distributor for Pepsi Cola and Dr Pepper Beverages representing the top selling products in virtually every category of the beverage industry covering soft drinks, juices, sport drinks, water, coffee and tea. Some outstanding awards won by the company include: 2008 Supplier of the Year by the MS Hospitality and Restaurant Association, 2008 & 2002 Sumitt Award for Supplier of the Year by the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2007 Target Top Performer “National Mature Store Growth” and “Pepsi Share Gain”, 2007 Community Service Award from City of Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce, 2003-2007 Wal-Mart’s Bottler of the Year, 2006 Rankin County Chamber Large Industry of the Year, 2006 Pepsi Cola North America Donald M. Kendall Bottler of the Year, 2006 Pepsi USA Central Region Outstanding Performance and 2006 Slush Puppie Brands Soaring Eagle Award: Total Sales Increase % All Categories. These are just a sample of the many acknowledgments Brown has received over the years.
Brown Bottling Group has an outstanding commitment to their team members and the communities they serve. The company lends its considerable support in time, product and funding to diverse programs throughout the franchise area. From community-wide celebrations like Pepsi Pops, the Port Gibson Heritage Festival, the Atwood Music Festival, the Hattiesburg Arts Festival, the Iron Horse Festival in McComb and the Sunkist Swim Team to our on-going work with our adopt-a-schools.
Brown Bottling Group is truly a total beverage company, our commitment to providing the best product by the best trained employees at a fair price guarantees our success.