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Breakthru Beverage Group

Driving growth with data-driven insights


At a glance

Breakthru Beverage Group, a leading North American beverage distributor, needed to use data and insights to recover from supply-chain disruptions and future-proof its business.


Breakthru Beverage Group partnered with Snowflake, dbt, and Slalom to transform its disparate data silos into a streamlined, central data analytics capability optimized for fostering collaboration and delivering valuable insights. 

Key Services

Strategy icon
Data icon



Key Technologies / Platforms

  • Snowflake Data Cloud
  • dbt Labs Data Pipeline
  • Microsoft Azure

Breaking through siloes to drive growth

As the food and beverage industry continues to recover from pandemic-era disruptions in consumer behavior and global supply chains, there’s a renewed emphasis on enterprise data transformation. Leading organizations are innovating with data initiatives so they can surface and share information more quickly, setting the stage for a more resilient, collaborative, connected, and customer-centric future. 

One such organization is Breakthru Beverage Group, a $8 billion North American beverage distributor that offers restaurant and retail customers a portfolio of more than 6,000 wine, spirit, and beer brands. Operating across Canada and 16 States, Breakthru has prioritized data-driven decision-making and collaboration across its complex, diverse geographic footprint.

“At Breakthru, we know that data is power—and that our ability to glean insights from a broad array of data from multiple sources is paramount to our competitive future,” says Joseph Bruhin, Chief Information Officer at Breakthru. “As our industry continues to evolve and digitize, it is imperative that we can communicate and collaborate with our suppliers and our customer partners based on data and insights. This is one way that we continue to establish ourselves as a leading distributor partner in North America.” 

At Breakthru, we know that data is power—and that our ability to glean insights from a broad array of data from multiple sources is paramount to our competitive future.

Joseph Bruhin
Chief Information Officer, Breakthru

Getting to this point has been a massive undertaking. Formed in 2016 by the merger of established industry giants Charmer Sunbelt and Wirtz Beverage, Breakthru had a complicated data ecosystem, the result of decades of acquisitions and generations of ERP systems, legacy data applications, and critical third-party industry data sources to drive its business strategy and execution. The fragmented and siloed system made collaboration challenging, reporting time-consuming, and diminished trust in data insights.  

To revamp their data assets and lay a robust foundation for future growth, Breakthru embarked on a multi-year data transformation initiative. This initiative aimed to consolidate ERP systems onto SAP, gain deeper customer insights, and set the stage for national expansion. Slalom's role in Project Harmony was pivotal as they developed a centralized data service to convert Breakthru's sprawling data estate into meaningful insights for suppliers, customers, and employees.

“We delivered a platform, but more importantly, we helped them stand up a capability,” says Amanda Lintelman, Slalom data and analytics practice lead in the Washington, D.C. 

Creating a centralized data platform

Breakthru had partnered with Snowflake on an ad hoc basis before the project and found it to be flexible and easy to use, making it a logical choice for the new centralized data platform. 

Slalom designed the platform as a data lakehouse solution with three tiers: One for ingesting data; a middle tier for processing and cleaning it; and a third for business-ready, curated data sets. Because Breakthru had a vast amount of disparate data to migrate, the team used a combination of the Azure Data Factory and dbt to efficiently extract, load, and transform (ELT) the data into Snowflake. 

Together, Snowflake, Microsoft Azure, and dbt provide Breakthru with a robust cloud analytics foundation that can ingest data from diverse sources, process it efficiently, make it available securely across the organization, and transform it reliably for business insights. It provides a trusted, single source of truth for data analysis that can scale as Breakthru grows. 


Empowering in-house talent

Breakthru and its predecessors have always had multiple data teams because of the decentralized nature of the business. IT needed a dedicated team to focus on consolidating its data assets to create new business value through a centralized service. 

At the corporate level, master data management, business intelligence, and analytics teams focus on above-market strategy and stakeholder communities like national accounts, suppliers, and supply chain partners. These teams drive special projects, and corporate initiatives, to ensure the local markets have the data, tools, and services to operate effectively. At the local level, each market has its own analyst team, serving their stakeholders with reporting and insights. 

As Breakthru continues to evolve its legacy processes into an enterprise data strategy it needed to ingest and process external information in a way that enabled analytics in and above market in a consistent way.   

As part of the mandate to empower in-house talent, Slalom collaborated with Breakthru on talent acquisition, providing input used to create job requisitions and training six people through a five-month apprenticeship program. This data operations leadership and execution support was key to building a self-sustaining capability that will continue to add value in the future. 

Slalom trained the new team to use agile SCRUM methodology, a lightweight project management framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining software and data products using iterative, incremental practices. Agile has prescriptive roles and responsibilities that allow teams to self-organize and respond quickly to change—another key requirement for Breakthru. Moreover, Slalom worked in tandem with data engineers and data visualization specialists from Breakthru as one team through platform implementation and delivery. This approach allowed Slalom to upskill the team members and do the knowledge transfer on the go, while ensuring continuous learning and development; this approach also allowed a smooth transition at the end of the project. 

As the new capability evolves and the team expands its catalog of data products in the future, Breakthru expects to stand up a formal governance committee to ensure continued alignment with enterprise business priorities. 

Driving business value with "Lost Sales" dashboard

Beyond the foundational work, Breakthru selected six high-value data analysis use cases for exploration. Supply chain analytics topped the list. 

It was the perfect focus area for Breakthru and the right moment to drive home the collective value of data transformation and sharing data-driven insights. COVID-19 profoundly upended the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) supply chain, and customers from restaurants to grocery stores were often helpless to plan against it. 

“They were challenged to manage the ebbs and flows of the supply chain based on how COVID-19 was impacting it,” recalls Steve Dowling, a solution architect for dbt. “The whole industry was in flux. For 20 years, you could order Patron in the same manner, say, every two weeks. COVID made it sometimes 20 weeks, sometimes three weeks. It took what was once a constant and turned it into a variable.” 

Slalom integrated transactional data from SAP HANA Sidecar and forecast data from Blue Ridge to create a daily “Lost Sales” dashboard in Microsoft Power BI. The report quantifies potential revenue lost because products were out of stock and helps suppliers with product availability planning.  

Slalom demonstrated the dashboard to a packed audience of 80 excited stakeholders, and not long after, the results and feedback rolled in. People started using it immediately—some as many as two or three times a day—to drive meaningful conversations around quantifying lost sales and inventory and allocation issues.  

These are precisely the kind of collaborative, problem-solving conversations Breakthru’s executives want to see. By working with suppliers to share information about delays and production cycles, they are giving their customers tools for better demand planning and ultimately, fewer sales lost to low inventory.  

They are also early indicators that Breakthru’s stakeholders are embracing the new source of information—a key indicator that the new team is generating business value with the data products it creates. Breakthru says it measures business value “through the adoption of, and engagement with the dashboards we are producing—as well as through the business impact and results of that data in stakeholders’ hands.  This is a long-term view of success, which will continue as we mature the capability.” 

Let’s solve together.