“I started my career in food manufacturing and engineering, so I’ve been directly responsible for packaging and bottling or canning. I spent six years working for Pillsbury. And back in the day, Pillsbury owned Häagen-Dazs, so I got promoted and moved out to New Jersey, and was a production manager for their ice cream division. That was my first turnaround project.”
That led to 35 years of working with corporate, franchise and start-up food and beverage companies around the country, including Kraft, Taco Bell, and Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits. Shields also became part of the investor group at Red Brick.
“That’s when I became aware of the brand,” he said. “I was their advance man, and putting together their business plan and investor package, and helping to negotiate the deal — which leads me to my relationship with Dave Peterson.
“Dave is now the 100% owner. But Dave and I got to know each other during the transition, and it was great because he educated me about the craft beer industry in general, and Atlanta Brewing in particular.”
Asked about the image and success of Atlanta Brewing, compared to other Atlanta breweries, Shields’ answer was surprisingly candid.
“Honestly, it’s what made it a good target for us back in 2014, when we first started the negotiation,” he said. “And that’s one of the things that really piqued my curiosity. My self-proclaimed moniker is ‘The Vintage Brand Revivalist.’
“So I’ve been a change agent and a turnaround specialist. It kind of started with Häagen-Dazs and continued with Kraft, and later Mrs. Winner’s, where we had to re-create everything. I think it’s pretty much the same here.”
That means some capital investment in the brewery, Shields said, including some new equipment to make the brewhouse more nimble and efficient.
Going forward, he envisions ABC recapturing its image as a pioneering Atlanta, Georgia and Southern craft brewery by getting back to its core brands, with an emphasis on sales and wider distribution. Or as Shields put it, “Representing the ATL as the Soul of the City.”
“We have to be more reflective of the city,” he said. “The city is very diverse. It’s what’s made Atlanta special. And we need to be firmly established as part of that lifestyle brand. We want to be a disrupter in regards to how we now market, and grow the company, and grow the business. That’s the thing that brought Dave and I together.”
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