Blog Entries by Jennifer Cirillo

‘Who Run the World? Girls!’

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage, Women

 

For the title of this month’s column, I’m borrowing a lyric from Beyoncé’s song “Run the World (Girls).” Last month, you might recall me talking about Campari America’s Women and Whiskies program. This month, I’m keeping the female theme going.

In what once was a male-dominated industry, the beverage world has been seeing some significant female players in the market over the past several years. 

At our Beverage Forum in May, Muhtar Kent, chairman of the board and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, spoke to that point and highlighted the company’s Five by Twenty program, designed to empower 5 million women by 2020 within the Coca-Cola system. Kent said that putting women in leadership roles is “critical to our success” and says that there is a robust pipeline of women leaders within the company worldwide. He relayed that about 65 percent of shoppers are women and that there is a mismatch between who is shopping for products and the people behind those products.

One woman in particular comes to mind when discussing the importance of reaching the female consumer and tapping into her purchasing power. I had the pleasure of meeting Bethenny Frankel in New York City at the Skinnygirl Cocktails “Rocks the House” event in May where the Skinnygirl portfolio of RTD cocktails, flavored vodkas and wines were available to sample. Frankel, who created Skinnygirl Margarita and later sold the Skinnygirl cocktail brand to Beam Inc., has changed the RTD spirits business with the low-calorie offering—Skinnygirl is among the fastest growing brands in history, according to industry analysts. 

Frankel told me that it’s consumer demand (particularly female demand) setting the pace of business and new product introductions. Over the past few months, Skinnygirl has introduced a portfolio of flavored vodkas and wines among other RTD cocktails. “Women want variety, they really do,” she said. “If they can’t have it in their men, they want it in their cocktails.”

That pace of innovation isn’t slowing either, she hints. While she couldn’t divulge what might be coming next, she could share this: “Expect the unexpected.” 

The girl power continued in May with the first  Speed Rack, a national cocktail competition sponsored by St-Germain, created by female bartenders for female bartenders with proceeds going toward breast cancer education, prevention and research. After a 10-city tour, the finals were held in New York City where 10 bartenders went head-to-head in a round-robin-style timed competition battling for the best-made cocktail—four randomly selected by the judges who included some spirits industry heavyweights: Julie Reiner,  Audrey Saunders, Food Network’s “Chopped” judge Amanda Freitag and Dale DeGroff. New York City’s Yael Vengroff was crowned Miss Speed Rack USA.

Women also are becoming a driving force in the beer industry. Women Enjoying Beer is hosting its first Women + Beer Advance, slated for Aug. 2-4 in Medford, Ore., offering women an opportunity to learn more about beer and share their enthusiasm while hearing from women in the industry like Lisa Morrison “The Beer Goddess” and a scheduled appearance by Julia Herz of the Brewers Association. 

‘Who run the world? Girls!’  

Women & Whiskey

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: spirits, Women & Whiskies

If you aren’t familiar with an initiative called Women & Whiskies, here’s a little background: Launched in 2010 through Campari America, Women & Whiskies is a platform for females only to get together and chat about whiskey, sample different products and learn about different whiskey producing regions and styles.
Expanding the program into seven markets in the United States this year, Campari America recently invited a group of female editors to experience what Women & Whiskies is all about.

The evening started in the intimate setting of Raines Law Room, a speakeasy-style spot in Manhattan with sex appeal, where a group of six food and beverage media professionals sampled cocktails from the establishment’s head bartender Meaghan Dorman (also recent winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s Macbeth Mixology Contest in March).

On the cocktail menu: Lion’s Tail (2 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/2 ounce all-spice dram, 1.5 ounce Wild Turkey 81 bourbon; shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass), and Imperial Court (2 dashes of mole bitters, 1/2 ounce apricot liqueur, 1 ounce crema de mezcal, 1.5 ounce Yamazaki 12 year; build in rocks glass, add ice, garnish with orange twist).

From there it was off to Rye House across the street for a sampling of whiskies from the Campari America portfolio—Auchentoshan Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland), Bowmore Islay Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland), Hibiki Japanese Blended Whisky (Japan), Wild Turkey 81 (U.S.)—with small bites like Fried Pickles, “Dale’s” Truffle Beer Cheese, Truffle Grilled Cheese and Sloppy Joe Sliders with Kobe beef.

The idea is to get women together in an environment where they not only can learn about whiskey, but also gain confidence to order a whiskey cocktail or a whiskey, period, at a bar.

It’s been in the headlines for some time now that brown spirits are on the rise with more and more consumers taking to whiskey, bourbon and scotch, and as a result, the industry has seen some innovation in the category.

Wild Turkey 81 and Wild Turkey Rye, for example, are two new expressions this year from Campari America. Jim Beam has introduced some flavor extensions of its Red Stag Black Cherry including Honey Tea and Spiced. Jack Daniel’s also has joined the flavor trend with its Tennessee Honey last year.

It’s funny to me how when I order a whiskey or bourbon cocktail at a bar I still get a surprised look from a nearby male, or when dining out, the waiter or waitress assumes the dark spirit cocktail is for the male at the table.

This time around though, it was just a group of women sipping on whiskey.

Love for the Business

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage, distributors

Love what you do. That’s the most common advice you hear when looking for the right job opportunity that could translate into a lasting career. But sometimes finding something you love, and finding something you love to do on a daily basis isn’t always that easy.

Last month, the Beverage World team headed to Las Vegas for the magazine’s annual BevOps/Fleet Summit conference, which was held over two-and-a-half days at the
M Resort.

The conference is a non-stop, activity-filled event that packs in education sessions, a facility tour of a leading beverage distributor or producer, keynote addresses from beverage executives and the always popular ride and drive equipment demo. (You can see full coverage of the event in next month’s issue.)

But aside from all of that, it also provides industry professionals—including ourselves here at BW—the opportunity to put faces to many of the names we often correspond with via e-mail or over the phone. Attendees get to know their peers a little bit better by sharing best practices and learning about challenges others are facing in different parts of the country.

There was a particular group from Crescent Crown Distributing-Arizona that made an impression by expressing their passion and dedication to the beverage business as well as the company they work for, many of them sharing their personal stories about how they got into the business and how they climbed the ladder to become managers or supervisors. They were in attendance to support Rich Marchant, the company’s vice president of operations, who was being awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award—that passion clearly runs through the ranks.

Talk to almost anyone in the beverage business though and you’ll more often than not hear about a similar passion—so many of the distributors and executives I’ve interviewed over my five years with the magazine have said to me, “the beverage business is a good one to be in.”

The team at Crescent Crown were enthusiastic about their jobs and took pride in what they do on a daily basis and the feats that they’ve accomplished, such as taking market share from competing beer brands, gaining accounts in a competitive grocery market and recently being awarded with Heineken’s Red Star Award for driving growth of the HUSA portfolio in their territory.  

It’s that pride that translates to success even in the midst of a challenging environment where the economy is in a slow recovery and consumers are still wary of spending.

I wasn’t begging to question whether there was still love for the business out there, but hearing personal stories from our attendees was a nice reminder that the beverage business is indeed a good business to be in.

Making History Hip

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage, alcohol, spirits, liquor, cocktails

What’s new? New styles, new watering holes, new apps, new electronics, new cars…the list can go on and on. There’s no question that today’s consumer is obsessed with all things new—and when he or she does find that shiny, new thing that no one else has yet discovered they make it known. Do you like this jacket? It’s new. Did you see this app? It’s new. Have you been to (enter bar or restaurant name here)? It’s new. You get the idea.

But lately there’s also been an obsession with what’s old. I’ve never been a history buff myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have an appreciation for the events that have helped shape the modern world.

In the spirits world, there’s been a newfound love for what’s old, where a return to the classic cocktail and iconic brands that date back more than a century are becoming what’s new again.

With speakeasy-type bars in demand and consumers tuning into shows like “Mad Men,” classic cocktails are getting a second look. Mixologists are bringing the sexy back to drinks like Moscow Mule, Negroni, Old Fashioned or Rusty Nail with a spin that brings these cocktails to another level.

What’s helped fuel this trend, in addition to pop culture, is the investment iconic brands are making to teach consumers about their history and the cocktails made with them.

Campari, an aperitif that dates back to 1860, is used to make the Negroni: one part Campari, one part gin and one part sweet vermouth. Last year, a contest in New York City asked bartenders to come up with their own version of the Negroni causing a spike in menu placements for the drink around the city. History lesson: Campari originally got its rich red color extracted from a cochineal beetle native to South America.

Bacardi, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, is widely recognized for the Mojito: 1.5 ounces of Bacardi, 12 fresh spearmint leaves, half a lime, 7 ounces of club soda and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup. This cocktail, which dates back to 1862, was originally called the Draque, invented by Richard Drake, a pirate on board the ship of Spanish explorer Francis Drake.

Today, the Mojito recipe is often altered and made with a variety of fruit flavors and flavored Bacardi rums to get a customized version of the classic. History lesson: Bacardi got its bat symbol because bats were found in the rafters of the original distillery.

Glenfiddich celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. In honor of its anniversary, the brand is promoting cocktails that create a modern take on the historic brand. The Pioneering Spirit: 1.5 parts Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, 2 parts pear juice, one-half part agave nectar, 1 part lemon juice. History lesson: Founder William Grant and his nine children built the first Glenfiddich distillery by hand over the course of a year.

While these cocktails, and the brands that help make them, aren’t necessarily “new,” they are classic—and that’s one thing that never gets old. 

America opens its eyes to a world of flavors.

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Category: General Blogs

One night last month I was watching one of my favorite programs on one of my favorite networks: “Chopped” on the Food Network. It’s a 30-minute show that challenges three contestants to cook an appetizer, main course and dessert with ingredients from a mystery basket within an allotted—short—time period. I also watch the commercials. (Crazy, I know.)

One commercial in particular got me thinking about how far the consumer in the United States has come with regard to exploring new flavors and experimenting with new foods from other countries. It’s something that we at Beverage World write about often—super fruits and exotic flavors and herbs that are finding their way into the beverage aisle in good-for-you drinks promising health benefits and anti-aging properties, among other things.

The commercial was for a Buick Verano and featured dragon fruit and a cameo from Food Network personality Ted Allen (he’s also been used in Welch’s commercials, and is the host of “Chopped”). There’s a couple in the produce section of a supermarket. The man picks up a dragon fruit and asks, “Honey, what’s this?” Allen appears and replies, “That’s the Asian delicacy dragon fruit. You have very good taste.” Naturally, the woman recognizes Allen, replies “thanks” and explains that he is a famous chef. The voiceover comes on and says, “Unexpected pleasures are the best part of life. Why not drive one every day.” The commercial goes on to show the new Buick Verano and so on.

Dragon fruit is a bright pink fruit, classified as a cactus, predominantly found in South East Asia, Central and South America, Mexico and Israel. When cut open, the fruit itself is white, or sometimes a deep pink, with tiny black edible seeds. It tastes like something between a pear and a kiwi.

This is a fruit that has been mentioned in this magazine many times and has made its way into many drinks—alcohol and non-alcohol. SKYY Infusions has a dragon fruit vodka, POM Wonderful has featured a Lite POM Dragonfruit and even Emergen-C, the powdered packages of vitamins that you mix with water, introduced a dragon fruit flavor.

Dragon fruit in a Buick commercial? At first this made no sense to me, but when I started thinking about the flavor trends in the U.S. I realized that trend doesn’t only apply to the drinks business. Consumers with heightened palates want to discover brands, associate themselves with unique, authentic products and most of all engage in something different. Buick is clearly trying to put itself on the alluring level of the dragon fruit.  

Dragon fruit is just one example of an exotic flavor making its way into everyday American life. Scanning the fruit stand at the farmer’s market or the produce aisle at your local supermarket, you are sure to see something that wasn’t available to you just five years ago. Take a close look during your next shopping trip and see what new flavors you can discover.