When he joined D.G. Yuengling as a marketing exec in 1990, the regional Pennsylvania brewer of Yuengling Lager was struggling, selling about 120,000 barrels. Fifteen years later-and after investing tens of millions to expand brewing capacity-the brewer is on track to sell 1.5 million cases, 13% over 2004 sales.
"Yuengling has gone through probably its best period of time in its 176-year [history]," says Mr. Casinelli, 40, who now holds the title of chief operating officer. He was a sales executive for a beer importer before joining Yuengling.
Yuengling got a lift when craft beers took off in the 1990s. It sponsored events the big brewers didn't notice (at least initially) and overhauled the packaging-when Mr. Casinelli came on he says the labels looked like they were designed "by Kmart." And emphasizing the beer's heritage-it was founded in 1829-as well as its eagle icon.
"They did a great job of expanding their distribution," says beverage consultant Darrell Jursa. "It's something different and interesting."
"Our brand has not been built by some ad agency developing some campaign that knocked everybody's socks off," Mr. Casinelli says.
Thanks to brewery expansions, the beer is available in 10 states along the Eastern seaboard. It's looking at mining existing markets before further expansion. But wholesalers across the country are paying attention.
"We had a trail of people behind us" at a recent beer wholesaler convention, he says.