Blog Entries Tagged as beverage

The Liquid Election

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a political junkie, exponentially more so in a presidential election year. I tend to surf non-partisan blogs, primarily because the reader is spared the vitriolic, substance-free posturing that online blowhards on either end of the ideological spectrum are known for, in favor of something that resembles analysis. Granted, that analysis isn’t always related to the weightiest of topics; sometimes it’s just an engaging diversion. Especially when it’s about beverages.

In a recent blog post titled “Beer and the Presidency,”, “The Votemaster” referenced a recent news story about what type of beer President Obama had at a campaign stop in that Swing State of Swing States, Ohio. Obama’s choice of a Miller Lite followed by a Bud Light apparently spoke to the President’s desire to connect with white, working-class voters. The blogger asked, “Aren’t there more important things to discuss? For example, the fact that Bud Light is made by a Belgian company…and that Miller Lite is half Canadian?”

Well, if we’re going to follow that line of logic, that pretty much means drinking a Corona in an effort to connect with Mexican-American voters is pretty much an exercise in futility now that the aforementioned Belgian company is buying Modelo—of which it already owned a sizeable stake. (By the way, the blogger notes that Romney is spared such beer-centric scrutiny, as his religious convictions prevent him from consuming alcohol. However the piece does note that when offered a beer, the former Massachusetts governor “can politely decline and ask for orange juice instead,” which, of course plays well in that other critical Swing State, Florida).

I think the much larger point that’s being missed in both the conventional media and the blogosphere is that what happens in the U.S. has become increasingly more dependent on what’s going on abroad. And the beverage market is like one colossal case study of the interconnected worldwide economy in action.

That Bud Light got in POTUS’s hand through a complex chain of custody that started with boardroom decisions in Europe, Brazil and the U.S. (as AB InBev now has a U.S. base of ops in New York City), continued with the efforts of a distributor in Ohio and culminated with the sale by a local retailer to which every unpaid campaign intern was tasked with procuring beer.

A candidate could even play the hyper-local card and drink a regional craft beer. But even then, the package or serving vessel it’s in could be from a European bottle or glassware maker. It could be hopped with varietals native to the U.K., Germany or the Czech Republic.

And why has the U.S. stock market been a bit of a roller coaster ride for much of the summer? Investors have been closely watching and reacting to every economic nugget coming out of the E.U. The term “global economy” has become something of a cliché, it’s been referenced so much. But that global-ness is likely to have a greater impact on the upcoming election than whatever Obama or Mitt Romney may or may not be drinking on any given day.

The Local Advantage

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

Whoever thinks being an urban dwelling resident of New York City in 2012 means you don’t have access to food straight from the farm, hasn’t visited the Big Apple in a while. Today, NYC is literally overflowing with fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, breads, and even wines, juices and milk products, thanks to the expansion of the green market system throughout the city. GrowNYC, the organization that runs the green markets, says there are currently 54 in the city, with four new ones opening so far in 2012 in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

I’m a huge fan of the green markets, usually stopping by a couple of times each week to pick up a freshly made juice, pretzels made in nearby Philadelphia, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. And as a resident of the city, I can attest that there is a really big difference in the taste of a piece of freshly picked fruit from an upstate New York farm compared with one that’s been traversing a supply chain across the country—or even farther—for months.

But while many products rely on such global supply chains, the beverage business is different. Sure, beverage is increasingly a global business. Just look at the beer industry and you see how consolidated that’s become. But at the same time, it’s increasingly becoming a locally oriented business as well. In that same category, beer, the biggest growth has been among craft brewers. I dare you to find a craft brewer out there who doesn’t pride him or herself on being able to provide fresher beer to the local marketplace than the bigger brewers. It’s become a huge competitive advantage for them, appealing to an emerging generation of consumers who prefer local products. And these consumers do so not only for the improved taste and quality. They also are attracted to the greenness associated with shorter supply chains and oftentimes a reduction in the amount of packing material that has to be used.

In fact, the food and beverage industries are really lucky—they are able to take advantage of this local trend like few other industries can. Craft breweries are opening in cities all around the country at an amazing rate.

And this trend extends well beyond craft brewers. In July, Starbucks broke ground on a $172 million plant in Augusta, Ga. that will produce products currently manufactured abroad, including Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, the coffee base for Frappuccino blended beverages and many of Starbucks ready-to-drink beverages. The soluble plant will be Starbucks fifth manufacturing facility in the U.S., adding to the company’s existing network of four roasting plants in Kent, Wash., York, Pa., Sandy Run, S.C., and Carson Valley, Nev. The 180,000-square- foot plant will be capable of producing up to 4,000 metric tons per year. Peter Gibbons, head of Starbucks’ global supply operations told The Wall St. Journal:  “This will increase speed-to-market while reducing inventory costs and helping us ensure a more predictable supply.” As a company-owned plant, it will also allow for more innovation, Gibbons said.

So it seems that in the future, to borrow a phrase from the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, it seems it won’t only be all politics that is local.

Finding the Perfect Match

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

There are a lot of options out there these days. Take a close look at the shelves in your supermarket, convenience store, club store, even local gas station or food cart—there’s a drink for almost any need-state and for almost any personal preference. With so much to choose from, the question often is asked: How does one particular brand top the charts?

It’s a question I ask of brand owners and company leaders—what’s the key to success that unlocks the purchasing power of a consumer and leads them to choose your brand over another time and time again?

There’s no easy answer. And that’s because when a consumer falls in love with a brand, it’s not because of one reason; it’s because of many.

It has to do with the first time you were introduced to that brand, the taste of it, the look of it and how much it costs. From there, it’s about consistency, availability in the market and how you feel when holding that product in your hand. Today, consumers also are concerned with where the brand comes from, how it’s produced, if it contributes to society at large through promotions or its corporate structure—is the company that markets or produces the brand a good corporate citizen?

Finding a brand that matches you is like finding a partner. Initial attraction, values, timing, common interests all play a role in deciding whether a first date turns into two, into three and so on.

The brands that have been successful—such as Monster Energy, Beverage World’s Liquid Refreshment Beverage Company of the Year—often refer to themselves as lifestyle brands. Consumers choose that beverage over a competitor’s because of its messaging and what that brand represents, whether that’s hard core action sports, an organic way of living, or luxury.

Finding a match is only half the battle though. The hard part becomes keeping that relationship going and maintaining your fan base.

Jumping on the bandwagon with the latest trend isn’t going to cut it. Consumers are looking for authenticity and they want to be heard when they feel that they’ve been betrayed in some way, and expect to see solutions.

Overall, brands that have managed these relationships successfully have maintained their loyal following by otherwise staying true to what consumers know them to be. Cases in point are the recent misteps of two strong brands—Coca-Cola, with the confusion around its promotional white holiday can, and Tropicana with its packaging change that went wrong.

Even though no relationship is perfect, it’s how companies recover from the small battles that makes their bond with consumers that much stronger.  And at a time when the lines of communication are so open with social media outlets, there is no excuse to not be listening to what your consumer has to say.

Love is a tricky thing to conquer—in the beverage world or otherwise. But with a good product, hard work, a consistent product and message and open-ended conversations with your fans, finding a perfect match that can last a lifetime is possible.

BevStar Awards 2012: We Finally Have Our Winners!

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

After a lengthy judging process involving a record number of entries this year and a self-imposed media blackout until the official winners' issue started arriving this week, we are very pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Beverage World BevStar Awards. For those just joining us, the BevStars recognize new product innovation across all of the major beverage categories.

We received a particularly robust shower of entries in the Energy & Functional category—so many that we decided to split it into two separate categories this year. It really reflects the level of innovation in those segments. If you recall from our 2012 State of the Industry report, energy drink volume returned to double-digit growth last year, with an increase of more than 17 percent in 2011, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Without further ado, here's the list of this year's winners. For details on all of these brands, read the July 2012 issue of Beverage World. Congratulations to all!

Ruthless Rye IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Gold: Ruthless Rye IPA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Silver: Deviant Dale's IPA, Oskar Blues Brewing Co.
Bronze: Bronx Pale Ale, The Bronx Brewery

Gold: MyCause Water, Panacea Beverage Co.
Silver: Elevate Enhanced Fiber Water, 912 Corp.
Bronze: Karma Wellness Water, Karma Kulture LLC

Gold: Spindrift, Spindrift Soda co.
Silver: Dr Pepper Ten, Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Bronze: HotLips Cranberry Soda, HotLips Soda Co.

Gold: Monster Rehab, Monster Beverage Co.
Silver: Slap Frozen Energy, Brain-Twist
Bronze: Berry Rain, RevHoney

Gold: Neuro Sun, Neuro Beverage
Silver: Ralph & Charlie's Aloe, Ralph & Charlie's Beverage Co.
Bronze: Modjo Hydrate Elite, Cellutions

Gold: Honest (Not Too) Sweet Tea, Honest Tea
Silver: RealBeanz, RealBeanz LLC
Bronze: Tao of Tea, The Tao of Tea

Gold: Purgatory Vodka, Alaska Distillery
Silver: Apple Pie Moonshine, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery
Bronze: BuzzBallz, BuzzBallz LLC

Gold: FlasqWines, JT Wines
Silver: Blanc de Bleu, Premium Vintage Cellars
Bronze: Xavier Flouret La Pilar Malbec, Cognac One LLC

For those brands that entered but didn't take a gold, silver or bronze in any of the categories, don't fret. Competition was particularly stiff this year and the decisions were all very difficult for all of us on the judging panel. And there's always next year. We'll be announcing a call for entries some time in December.

Toasts & Spills: NYC Edition

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage


few years back, I started a semi-regular feature in this space called Toasts & Spills, kind of a thumbs-up, thumbs-down on certain events, people, innovations, etc. around the beverage world. A couple of New York City-related occurrences over the past several weeks have made me realize it’s high time I wrote another one. 

Since I like to end things on a positive note, we’ll work backwards and start with a Spill.

Just by my mentioning New York, you’ve probably already figured out what the Spill is, unless you’ve been having your mail forwarded to Under a Rock, USA. New York Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces is yet another attempt to oversimplify the nation’s very complex obesity issue by vilifying one particular product rather than promoting a healthy lifestyle through a balanced, educational approach. Polls have shown that consumers—from New York and far beyond—overwhelmingly oppose such a ban, but that doesn’t mean it still shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Bloomie tends to get what he wants. And now, the local government in Cambridge, Mass., has announced a similar proposal. The bad idea has gone viral. 

But, to be fair, there are some good ideas coming out of New York. Case in point, this month’s Toast: The Good Beer Seal, which recognizes the city’s independently owned and operated bars with a commitment to craft beer. I had the good fortune to attend the induction ceremony for the most recent class of Good Beer Seal bars, held last month at popular beer bar and founding Good Beer Seal member Jimmy’s No. 43, in the city’s East Village. What makes the designation so sought after among local watering holes is not only must craft and specialty imports account for 80 percent of their offerings, but they also must provide education to staff and clientele on the beers they serve and be active in the community through responsible stewardship and charitable actions. 

A Good Beer Seal is a sort of spiritual cousin to the U.K.’s Cask Marque, which appears on the doors of pubs that serve quality cask ale. The eight inductees last month were Idle Hands, Dive Bar and Earl’s Beer & Cheese, all in Manhattan; Sycamore, 61 Local and Pine Box Rock Shop, all of Brooklyn and Adobe Blues and Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn, on Staten Island. That brings the total number of Good Beer Seal bars to 40, in all five boroughs of New York. 

The ceremony began the official countdown to the city’s Good Beer Month—this month, actually—spotlighting Good Beer Seal bars and local brewers through special promotions, bar crawls and charitable benefits. 

And here comes the cognitive dissonance part of the column: Jimmy Carbone, Jimmy’s No. 43 owner and host of Beer Sessions Radio on the Heritage Radio Network, read a special proclamation from none other than Mayor Bloomberg in honor of Good Beer Month. 

At least one segment of the beverage market is safe. Just no one tell the mayor that an imperial pint is a 20-ounce pour.