Blog Entries by Jennifer Cirillo

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.

Grand Central's New "Grab-and-Go" Depot for Beer Lovers

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beer, craft beer

For those of you who are commuters, you know that life on a train, a bus, or in a car can be a challenging lifestyle at times. There’s always a train to catch, a bus stop to be at or traffic to beat. In other words we find ourselves always on the go.

In the beverage world there is much talk about the “on-the-go consumer” and how they are looking for better food and beverage options. It used to be that life in the fast lane meant being in the fast food line when fast food translated to, more often than not, something fried, prepackaged or frozen. Well, that’s not entirely the case anymore. In New York City, for one, fast food can be a customized mixed salad at Just Salad or a quick pick-me- up from the Energy Kitchen or a to-go meal prepared with seasonal ingredients from Pump.

It was during one of my recent trips through Grand Central Terminal—what seemed like my home away from home at one point when I too was a commuter—that I realized just how far the “fast food” market has come.

Beer Table Pantry is a small shop located in the terminal’s Graybar Passage that offers beer and food to go. In addition to 100 craft bottled beers, its custom-built draft beer system allows customers to get draft beer to go—selections change daily and feature regional beers. Some examples from a recent menu included Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Greenport Harbor Anti-Freeze, Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre and Pretty Things Jack D’Or. Beer Table Pantry also fills standard, threaded 64-ounce growlers on a proprietary counter-pressure filling system.

The front end of the store is tiny, but when I passed it, I couldn’t help but peek my head in through the crowd at the door to get a better look at what this new spot in Grand Central had to offer.

Playing into the trend of the refocused beer bar where retail meets bar meets fine cuisine happening across the country, Beer Table Pantry offers something similar for the consumer who doesn’t have the time that day to go for a drink with friends, but just enough spare minutes to grab-and-go—something special—before they miss their ride. Life in the fast lane just got a little bit better.

When it comes to the drinking experience, sometimes it's about the glass.

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beer

Beverage marketers are consistently targeting the female consumer. And why wouldn’t they? We are the ones with the most purchasing power, making the trips to the supermarket.

Whether it’s female-specific drinks like Chick Beer and Go Girl energy drink or an exclusive women-only group like Women & Whiskies, sponsored by Skyy Spirits (now Campari America), there’s much to be said for “girl power.” I’m not saying that pink packages and gimmick products that segregate female consumers from the mainstream market are appealing to me, but I understand the desire to tap into that audience.

I had an interesting conversation with a woman while touring Fuller’s Brewery in London this past November. During the tasting portion of the tour she whispered to me that she likes drinking beer, but wishes she could drink it in a nicer glass. She admitted that she often asks her husband to request a special glass for her when they are at a bar or restaurant because she’s too embarrassed to ask for one herself. My response to her was that different styles of beer do require different glassware and should be served that way. Our tour guide, also a female, got a snippet of our conversation and was happy to provide the woman with the proper—Fuller’s banded—glassware for the beer she tasted. I asked our guide if Fuller’s provides its on-premise accounts with appropriate stemware and if there were education programs in place. She said yes, and showed the group a selection of glasses and which beers should be served in them and why.

I wondered, why wasn’t that done to begin with? I don’t want it to sound like I’m criticizing the tour or our tour guide. It was informative, educational and well rounded. We got to see some of the old copper equipment dating back to the early 19th century through to the modern upgrades that help it produce 215,000 barrels a year. I had the opportunity to taste selections from Fuller’s Brewer’s Reserve, among them an oak aged ale matured in whisky cases for 800 days—not what would typically be considered a “female-friendly” beer, but it was a highlight for me.

But the glass that a cocktail, wine or beer is served in is notably important to consumers, which was made clear by that woman’s remark. So much so, it might even deter her from ordering a beer. Certainly, drinking is about the quality of the liquid, but it’s also about the experience and the mood. There’s something sexy about holding a champagne glass or sipping from a Bordeaux glass, and there is a reason why those beverages are served in those glasses—to highlight the beverage. When she said she wished she could drink out of nicer glass, I thought, “You’re right. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?” Sometimes, it is about the glass.