September 11-15, 2017

Blog Entries Tagged as beverage

Toasts & Spills: NYC Edition

By:   |  

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.  

Now Playing at a Theater Near You

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage


It’s July, one of my favorite times of the year. Summertime not only means longer days, summer vacations and a more laid back pace to life overall, but for movie fans, like myself, it’s a pretty special time of the year. There’s just something wonderful about escaping the summer heat into the air-conditioned coolness of the movie theater. 

And for beverage companies, summer movies have meant more innovative tie-ins. As the blockbusters have gotten bigger, so too have the promotions beverage companies are building around them, especially given the rise of social media. One recent example is Mountain Dew’s tie-in with the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Mountain Dew went live in mid-June with an online hub at providing fans a deeper look at the Dark Knight franchise and exclusive content before the film’s opening on July 20.

If it’s not a promotional tie-in like Mountain Dew’s and Batman, then it’s all about product placement. With the summer movies in full swing, I started thinking about where beverage brands have popped up in the past.

One of the most successful product placements ever didn’t actually have to do with a beverage, so I’m cheating right off the bat. But you really can’t mention product placement in movies without recalling how E.T. took to those Reese’s Pieces. I was just a teenager, but I still recall the headlines about how sales of the candies skyrocketed and how M&M executives were kicking themselves for passing on the opportunity.

As for beverages, one of my favorite product placements doesn’t really feature a product at all, but a logo. It’s the scene in “Superman II” when Superman tosses the villain Zod right into an enormous Coca-Cola billboard. The billboard bursts into flames and sparks, beautifully illuminating the iconic “Enjoy Coca-Cola” logo like fireworks on the 4th of July. Using the backdrop of the ubiquitous and familiar Coke logo for this scene ingeniously blended reality with the fiction of a comic book movie—and added a great touch of humor at the same time. Brilliant product placement!

A close second, again, doesn’t actually feature a shot of the beverage product itself, but a memorable desire for one instead. It’s the late Dennis Hopper expressing his—rather enthusiastic, shall we say—preference for “Pabst Blue Ribbon!” over Heineken in Blue Velvet.

Space doesn’t permit me to list more examples here, so if I missed your favorite beverage product placement on the big screen, visit my blog at This column is also posted there and you can list your own favorites. Enjoy the summer, and the movies!  

‘Who Run the World? Girls!’

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage


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!’  

Teaching the World to Sing

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

The beverage business certainly gets its share of criticism these days. But recently I’ve been thinking about how much good it does in the world. Good that goes completely unnoticed by the mass media.

I’ve touched on this issue before in this column, most recently in the one titled, “So Much Bad News!,” which ran in April’s Beverage World, and on our website. In that column I discussed how the media loves to harp on all the bad things about the beverage business because a lot of it can be pretty sensational. And also, I offered, because our industry is taken for granted. People have come to just expect their bottle of soda or water or beer or wine will be there for them whenever they want it.

However, in the past few days I’ve been really appreciating how this industry’s importance stretches beyond just bringing much-needed beverages to consumers. I’ve begun to see it as a truly uplifting force for not only the consumer, but for those who work in it all over the world.

This fact has always kind of been in the back of my mind as an editor covering this industry. For example, when I received an e-mail several months ago from a reader in Nepal, it made me appreciate the far reach not only of our magazine, but of the beverage business itself. I like to consider myself a pretty worldly person. But I must admit that my knowledge of Nepal didn’t consist of much more than Mount Everest. It just never occurred to me that somewhere in that country there must be a soft drink bottler, and a Coca-Cola one to boot. But why shouldn’t there be? It makes all the sense in the world that there is.

What I am getting at is that the far reach of the beverage business, thanks to the incredible success of its major players like Coca-Cola, has touched every part of the globe. And brought with it all the knowledge and business acumen it has accumulated over the years.

A good example is the recent news that a Palestinian bottler of Coke, the Ramallah-based National Beverage Company Coca-Cola/Cappy, has won an award from the Coke system for sustainable development in Africa and Eurasia. An article from the Ma’an News Agency quoted the company’s general manager Imad Al-Hindi: “For more than 14 years, the company has been producing a variety of high quality local and international beverages including juices, carbonated drinks, and mineral waters. The Palestinian market is full of obstacles and hardships, which the company turned into motives to serve the Palestinian society.”

The article goes on to say that the company also sponsors projects to support youth and children, sports, health, environment and education in Palestine. Despite all the strife in that region of the world, these Coke employees in Palestine go about their jobs on a daily basis producing soft drinks—and they do so in a sustainable way, no less. It’s truly a testament to their own work ethic and to the pride being part of the great global Coke system must give them. And also to the ability of the beverage business to serve as a global platform that lifts up everyone who touches it. It can be an island of normalcy in a world that, as we all know, can be extremely chaotic and challenging at times.

Who Comes Up With This Stuff?

By:   |  

Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

Sometimes I wonder if some marketers are subconsciously trying to sabotage the very business they’re in and bring back Prohibition.

Okay, I admit, that’s a bit extreme, but with some of the shenanigans from a handful of brand marketers of late, you’d think they were hand-delivering ammunition for neo-prohibitionists wrapped in a convenient little package with a bow on top.

One such example occurred when a popular high-end vodka brand got a lot of flak for an ad it posted on its Facebook page that many said all but glorified rape. The uproar forced the company to pull the offending piece.

Anyone who’s attended any number of industry trade shows will know that such degradation is nothing new. In the conference components of such events, industry trade associations will implore the members of the alcohol marketing industry to not cheapen themselves and their brands with lowest-common-denominator nudie ads. But then, once the trade show floor opens, the booths that seem to be drawing the crowds are the ones with models wearing four-sizes-too-small bikini bottoms and nothing above the waist but body paint.

Many ad and marketing firms pride themselves on bringing in young, hip associates who’ve got the pulse of the coveted 21- to 29-year-old demo. But part of the problem is that, for many of these young, hungry ad execs, very little time passed between the frat house and the agency. And those with a little maturity and real-world experience seem to be put out to pasture when the little crystal embedded in the palms of their hand begins to blink as they near 30. (I’m dating myself using a “Logan’s Run” reference. There’s supposedly a remake coming starring Ryan Gosling, so the generation I’m mocking might one day be in on the joke.)

It’s also pretty troubling that people today seem to be the least knowledgeable about history (and a lot of other subjects, for that matter) than during any prior era. It’s almost as if some of them get their historical frame of reference from watching “Mad Men.” (“I want to go into advertising so I can party and conquer like Don Draper!”)

Which brings us back to Prohibition. It’s safe to say that there’s no one employed in the industry today who reached adulthood during Prohibition (Repeal predated my birth by nearly 40 years.) That’s why it’s critical for everyone entering the beverage market to bone up on their history.

The debauched free-for-all that some beverage marketers promote—and, let me be clear, it is but a small minority within a very responsible and upstanding industry—dangerously parallels the (hyperbolic and often downright false) image the Anti-Saloon League was trying to pin on the alcohol market, which ultimately led to the Volstead Act.

Since Repeal, the U.S. has had what is arguably the most orderly and effective system of alcohol marketing and distribution in the world. So let’s not ruin it by playing into the hands of fringe lobbyist groups that would like nothing more than to turn back the clock to 1920.