Distribution company gives small brands a big chance

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 11, 2020

RESERVE — Troy Henry was visiting home and embracing his St. John the Baptist Parish roots one Mardi Gras season when he came across Norvel Lasserre and tasted his meticulously made honey cognac.

Troy and his fiancée, Lori Newsome, saw Lasserre had created something special. They made it their mission to find a distributor for the honey cognac back in Indiana, but it was easier said than done. Many distributors in the industry didn’t want to carry alcohol that didn’t come from a big-name brand.

That was when Lori approached Troy with a pair of keys in hand, telling him, “We have a warehouse now. We’re going to open our own distribution company.”

For the past four and a half years, Straight to the Top Distributors has successfully raised brand awareness of top-self worthy, premium alcoholic products. Lasserre Honey Cognac is one of eight quality products Straight to the Top currently represents. About 15 additional products are in the works.

Troy and Lori were scoping out local warehouse space just before the coronavirus became widespread in Louisiana and throughout the country. Troy is especially passionate about bringing the products to St. John Parish because of his hometown connection.

Lasserre Honey Cognac bottles are pictured at Matherne’s Supermarket in LaPlace.

Born and raised in Reserve, Troy spent his early years on the music scene, performing first in East St. John talent shows and later with Sweet Wine band as an opening act for the Zulu balls. He was living in Slidell to take care of his mother, who had suffered a stroke, at the time Hurricane Katrina hit. While his mother had a place to stay in Texas after the storm, Troy couldn’t move with her, and he was left with nowhere to go.

An opportunity brought Troy to Indiana, where he lived in a hotel room for eight months. He met Lori while applying for a job at a car dealership. He didn’t get the job, but he found the love of his life.

Lori said the goal is to bring premium products to Southeast Louisiana at affordable prices.

“Every product that we have here, we’ll be bringing down there. Anybody who sells alcohol can get them,” Lori said. “We’re really passionate about this business because we want to give all entrepreneurs a chance to be successful. We want to do away with all the gridlock that the major distribution companies have put on the alcohol. We want to present new products in a new way to help the smaller distilleries.”

Troy said Straight to the Top Distributors has represented more products in four years than some companies have in 20 years.

“We are more hands-on. We get to know the people who make the product and establish relationships with them,” Troy said. “People have come to us because they went to a bigger company and didn’t like the way they were represented.”

He added that it’s important to give small brands a chance because few people understand the work it takes to break into the industry. For Norvel Lasserre of LaPlace, creating the only African American-owned liqueur brand sold in Walmart locations across Louisiana required a trip overseas. His unique honey cognac is produced in France and stocked at a Reserve warehouse.

Business partner Siebe Hartmans said the natural honey taste has earned the brand compliments from professional tasters.

3 Kilos is one of the premium brands Straight to the Top Distributors represents.

Another quality product carried by Straight to the Top Distributors is 3 Kilos Vodka, easily recognized by its lavish gold brick packaging. The 3 Kilos brand offers a “Coco Gold” flavor that tastes just like a coconut snowball with alcohol, according to Troy. It’s the only vodka made with pure coconut extract rather than artificial flavors.

Another 3 Kilos flavor includes a smooth “silver” vodka that is gluten free. Other Straight to the Top products include Oppidan smooth bourbon whiskey and Griffo cold brew coffee liqueur, a vodka blend with chocolate and berry on the palate with a long-lasting caramel finish.

Troy hopes all products will soon be available to River Parishes residents.

“St. John Parish is what I’m going to concentrate more on because I know most of the people that own the bars in that area,” Troy said.

For more information on products, visit Straight to the Top Distributions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.