Glazer's Wholesale Distribution has purchased Montana Beverage Co., a Coors and SABMiller distributor in El Paso, Texas, for an undisclosed sum as part of a strategy to expand its rural wine, spirits and beer wholesale network.

Some 8 million Texans live outside Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Austin - a population Glazer's determined was being best served by the malt beverage industry, said president Jerry Cargill. When Glazer's bought its first domestic beer distributorship in Longview, Texas, about four years ago, the company had two goals: improve service to wine and spirits customers in the region and boost the existing business's performance.

Combining other beverages with beer distribution in rural areas "gives us a competitive edge in the beer market, and, at the same time, our spirits and wine service has improved," Cargill said.

The approach has so far paid off. Total revenue from malt beverages has grown from about $10 million three years ago to a projected $300 million in 2004, Cargill said.

"With a few modest purchases that we've made in rural America, we're now among the top 25 beer distributors in the country," Cargill said. "Our goal is to be in the top 10 before long, and, eventually, in the top five."