Blog Entries Tagged as alcohol

Even the U.S. can be an emerging market it in its own way.

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

There’s been a lot of coverage about emerging markets of late, including my PourWord from last month detailing a recent trip to an emerging South East Asian market, Vietnam. We traditionally think of the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as the four biggest emerging markets on which beverage companies have been lavishing attention, followed by the next wave of burgeoning sites in Asia (like the aforementioned Vietnam), Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

What really defines an emerging market is the level of untapped opportunity to grow various product categories. So, in that regard, couldn’t just about every country be an emerging market for something? And, yes, that includes even the U.S.

I never in a million years would have considered the U.S. to be emerging in any way, shape or form, since it’s possible to get a drink from just about every category in the States. But then a recent invitation to a press event in New York City reminded me that there are many segments that have yet to max out their market potential in the U.S. The invitation was from the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) and it was for a showcase of shochu, Japan’s national spirit (see some pics in this month’s Liquid Lens).

Shochu had been on my radar for a while. One of my favorite izakayas in Manhattan is a place called Umi No Ie, which specializes in the spirit; shochu varieties outnumber the sakes nearly tenfold. Also, on a trip to Japan a couple of years ago, I had stumbled into a Tokyo bar that served shochu exclusively. But beyond those examples I rarely gave it much thought in my daily life. And that’s kind of a small tragedy because given the extremely niche-level penetration shochu has in the U.S. market, it’s likely that most legal-drinking-age consumers don’t pay it much mind either.

The New York event reminded me that it’s a pretty accessible and versatile spirit. For a clear spirit, it pairs pretty well with a variety of foods without any enhancement. But for cocktail-crazy consumers, its various flavor expressions—depending on whether it’s distilled from sweet potatoes, barley, rice, sugar or buckwheat—make it fairly flexible for drinks both sweet and savory. Renowned mixologist Junior Merino led a guided tasting at the expo to demonstrate just how mixable it is. What’s more, there’s no shortage of romance associated with its history and product methods to satisfy even the most discerning Scotch and bourbon aficionados. Its origins can be traced back to feudal Japan of 500 years ago and is, to this day, distilled using wooden pot stills. Its single distillation ensures that as much of the flavor complexity of its base ingredient is retained.

The U.S. may be one of the most mature spirits—and overall beverage—markets around, but when it comes to segments like shochu, it’s barely a toddler. And that toddler, if nurtured correctly, could have some very fruitful growing-up years ahead of it.

Is it last call for the independent neighborhood tavern?

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

“Steve believed the corner bar to be the most egalitarian of all American gathering places, and he knew that Americans have always venerated their bars, saloons, taverns, and ‘gin mills,’ one of his favorite expressions. He knew that Americans invest their bars with meaning and turn to them for everything from glamour to succor, and above all for relief from that scourge of modern life—loneliness. He didn’t know that the Puritans, upon landing in the New World, built a bar even before they built a church.” — “The Tender Bar,” J.R. Moehringer

In his 2005 memoir, “The Tender Bar,” J.R. Moehringer recounts how the local tavern in Manhasset, Long Island, where he grew up, served as his home away from home, with all of the people who frequented it nurturing him and helping him grow into the man he is today. “Americans have always venerated their bars,” Moehringer writes.

That is, until recently. Times change, and so does, apparently, where Americans like to stop for a drink. For better or worse, the independent neighborhood tavern is disappearing from the American landscape. According to a recent article in USA Today, “Neighborhood taverns, which for generations were cornerstones of Chicago’s ethnic communities, are being squeezed out by the economy, gentrification, changing tastes and city regulations that make it more difficult to operate in residential areas.” The article goes on to say that in Chicago, the number of tavern licenses has dwindled from 3,300 in 1990 to about 1,200 today.

And the U.S. is not alone. Even in the U.K., where the neighborhood pub has been even more important to the social fabric, a similar trend is playing out. Six British pubs were closing every day, according to one recent survey, a trend attributed to the smoking ban, the huge discounts for alcohol offered by retail chains, and, of course, the effects of the recession on extra spending money.

Here in the U.S., a big part of the reason also has been the proliferation of national chain restaurants, with their flashier, brightly lit bars and big-screen TVs. I’d venture another reason as well—the rise of social media. In “The Tender Bar,” Moehringer describes how the other bar-goers became his extended family. Log onto Facebook today and our lists of friends have become the digital equivalent. That’s not to say we don’t still want to see them in the flesh to hoist a real, not a virtual, pint. But with all that Facebooking, friending, Tweeting and FarmVilleing, how much time does that leave for a trip down to the neighborhood bar?

Is this for better or for worse? I’d argue it’s for the worse. America has become a country where people of different political persuasions or different social strata rarely come into contact with one another. And that is an important ingredient for a healthy democracy to function. To mull this issue or that over a beer with your neighbors at the corner bar used to be as important as the U.S. Senate debating and filtering down the latest piece of legislation. Just think of all the mulling we’ve been missing. 

Last Call for 2012 BevStar Awards Submissions!

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

I just wanted to give you a quick heads-up that the submission deadline for the Third Annual Beverage World BevStar Awards is fast approaching.

The awards recognize innovations across the major beverage categories, introduced to the market--US or abroad--during the past 18 months. You can submit as many products as you'd like, as long as they've been released within that time period. We'll award gold, silver and bronze medals in each of those categories, as well as a Best in Show award and special achievement awards for Marketing Innovation, Social Media Initiatives and Environmental Sustainability.

We're happy to announce a new category this year: mead, cider and sake. We felt that these fermented classics got lost within beer, wine and spirits, especially since sake is actually closer to beer than it is wine even though it's frequently lumped in with wine.

Other categories include carbonated soft drinks, water/enhanced water, functional & energy, beer, wine & spirits and ready-to-drink tea.

The first step is to email your submission to That message should include:

• Product Name

• Parent Company

 High-resolution product image

• A brief description of the product and why you believe it should win a BevStar Award — maximum 75 words please

• The names of any packaging design, ingredient and branding companies that played a key role in the development of the product

If your entry passes the initial screening process, expect an email directing you where to mail a product sample.

Good luck to you all!

Beverage brands are taking it to the streets.

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

I’ve never been on a road trip—a real road trip that is, like one across country or down the East Coast. But I imagine they’re fun, exciting, great learning experiences and make for an even greater story…maybe something to put on my Bucket List.

It’s the story part of the road trip though that’s got me thinking HIT.

Over the past year, I’ve been hearing about brands taking their story on the road and meeting fans along the way. This isn’t necessarily a new way of marketing (in the past, start up beverage brands have traveled in branded vehicles as a way of literally hitting the street and spreading the word on a new drink that’s on the market) but lately it’s been established brands that are going the distance to reconnect with their consumers on a more relatable platform. They’re tying into a hot trend, like food trucks, or a theme like American artisans or by letting fans be the roadmap through tweets and “Likes” on Facebook.

Freixenet, the leading sparkling wine brand in the world with roots that date back to 1861, launched a Tastings & Tapas Tour to reintroduce its cava, a famous sparkling wine from Spain, to consumers while pairing it with a range of tapas—the message, Freixent is for every day and can pair well with a variety of foods from spicy dishes to barbeque to sushi.
The Balvenie, a hand-crafted single malt scotch whiskey, hit the road this year with the Balvenie Rare Craft Roadshow, a nationwide search for the best craftsmen in the country from brewers, to vintners, cheese makers, tailors, apothecaries, bicycle makers and everything in between. Traveling to 20 states and 30 cities in a handcrafted Morgan Car (naturally) Balvenie ambassadors Andrew Weir and Nicholas Pollacchi honored artisans committed to their craft just as Balvenie, a brand produced by a fifth generation family-owned distillery, does. The tour, which was from March to October, was documented in a web series, which will later become a documentary.

Fernet-Branca, a bitter that is used widely among mixologists and dates back to 1845, also traveled the country this year—in a restored VW bus. The tour was powered by tweets where every tweet brings the bus closer to its next location. On its Facebook page The Fernet-Branca Tour tab has a TweetOMeter that measures the Tweet Fuel level. The more tweets @FernetBranca, the more miles the bus can go.

A brand that is said to be coveted by an “inner circle” of mixologists, was looking to broaden that circle with its consumers through interactive events, tastings and special cocktails.

At each stop, these brands got the chance to tell their stories and reignite some excitement among consumers by sharing common passions, whether it was done in person or from the virtual world. Either way, taking a brand on the open road is opening up opportunities.

Hidden in the New Mexico desert is a beeritual oasis.

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: alcohol

After my trip to Brau Beviale in Nuremberg, Germany (watch this space for the video in a few weeks), I decided to spend a few days in one of my all-time favorite countries, Belgium. The greatest allure, of course, is its brewing culture, rooted in centuries-old tradition. Belgians, in large part, have the monks to thank for that tradition and many in the brotherhood are still brewing at Trappist monasteries. 

Soaking in the Belgian beer vibe got me thinking about another recent trip I took and how I've yet to post anything about it. (It was in early July, a month that turned out to be quite dizzyingly surreal for those of us at Beverage World for reasons I needn't expound on in the blogosphere).

On a long holiday weekend in New Mexico, my wife and I decided to check out a Benedictine monastery, on the grounds of which the brothers run a small brewery. The two beers brewed are available commercially (with the help of a contract brewer), mostly in the U.S. Southwest, as, appropriately enough, Monks' Ale and Monks' Wit.

The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is quite literally an oasis in the desert. Finding it involves a journey of Indiana Jonesian proportions. Once we found the exit for the brewery/abbey off of a rural highway--driving through thick plumes of smoke from New Mexico's summer wildfires--the destination was still 13 miles away. Doesn't sound like a lot, but I neglected to mention that it's 13 miles on a dirt road on the side of the mountain…with no guard rail! 

As we crawled along at about nine miles per hour we reassured ourselves that it would be fine as long as it didn't rain. Much of the state was an inferno because of the lack of rain, so what chance was there that we'd happen upon a summer shower? Spoke to soon, of course, as the sky quickly turned gray and the first few liquid specks began to dot the windshield of our rental car. (When I picked up the car at the Albuquerque Airport rental office, the rental agent gave me a kind of "Are you sure?" look when I said I wanted a compact car. I thought he was just trying to upsell me to an SUV. Oh well, live and learn.)

Needless to say, we got there in one piece and it was quite a charming compound. Since it's so remote, fuel has to be pumped on site. The monks even grow their own hops. The community is pretty much the picture of self-sufficiency. We were greeted enthusiastically by Brother Bernard and the lay staff, general manager Berkeley Merchant and brew master Brad Kraus, in the brew house, who let us hover over them as they brewed. 

As an added bonus, just as we were about to leave, a bell rang and the brothers quickly assembled in chapel to commence a 10-minute Gregorian chanting session. Did I mention this was in the middle of New Mexico?

The point of my story is that it's a story. That's what the beverage business is about, stories and journeys. The story behind a product is often as appealing as the brand itself and is often what distinguishes one product from another in a cluttered marketplace. And it's critical to lead consumers on that journey to discover the story, which, ultimately, translates to brand loyalty.