Blog Entries by Andrew Kaplan

There’s an App for That

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Category: General Blogs

I was having breakfast with some friends and the conversation drifted to how the emerging so-called “sharing economy” is changing our lives. We started discussing apps like Uber, which can locate a driver when you need a ride, which I had heard about.  My friends also filled me in on some I never even heard of, like TaskRabbit, which apparently enables you to get help with any kind of chore you have around the house. 
 
Being in my 40’s, I guess I am right on the cusp between those who are open to all these new sharing-economy options and those who would reject them outright. Let’s face it, I’ve lived most of my life hailing yellow cabs, staying at Holiday Inns or Hiltons, and yes, doing my own laundry. To suddenly have a wave of internet-enabled service providers come along offering entirely new ways of doing these things is a little disorienting. 
 
Anyway, back to my breakfast conversation and how it ties into beverages. One of my friends began insisting that home brewing was tied into the sharing economy as well. The idea seemed to fall on deaf ears in the crowd, including my own. On first thinking, I just couldn’t see how people brewing their own beer could possibly become a sharing economy service. 
 
But the idea has stuck with me ever since. Not so much about its particular viability, but about what the sharing economy might mean to the beverage industry in the future. After all, the Internet has been around for a while now and yet it appears that just in the past few years the sharing economy is really getting off the ground. Who’s to say what other industries—including, yes, beverage—might soon be impacted by it?
 
So far, the closest the beverage business seems to have come to this new economy is when it comes to crowdsourcing. Companies like MobCraft use input from users to decide the next beer they’ll brew. It’s still quite different from having thousands of home brewers making their own beer and then using an app to sell or even trade with each other. But is it too far-fetched to think that in the not-too-distant future that actually might happen? Sure, there would probably be some major quality issues, but it would be a lot of fun, no?
 
And then what would come next? Could household kitchens the world over suddenly be selling and/or trading fresh-squeezed juices? What about home-brewed coffee? 
 
If you want evidence of how technology can revolutionize a beverage category, then just consider how SodaStream managed to upend the soda business—for a time, anyway. And that was kind of old-school technology, if you think about it. Plug it into the internet and who knows what the future holds?  
 

Is Packaging Being Overlooked?

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: packaging

This column’s headline may sound a bit odd. After all, if any part of a beverage is hard to overlook, it’s got to be the package. But it’s not consumers who are overlooking packaging, apparently, it’s marketers, who aren’t making it a priority, and are really hurting their brands as a result. 

These are the findings of a new study on the impact of beverage packaging by the global marketing technology company Affinnova. 

At Beverage World, we have been thinking a lot about packaging lately, so this seemed like the perfect time to discuss the results of this study. Between this issue and the November issue, we present three major sections on packaging, In this issue you will find The Future of Packaging beginning on page 51. You’ll also find our in-depth preview of the Pack Expo show beginning on page 66. I’m also very excited about the winners of our 2014 Global Packaging Design Awards, which will be announced in the November issue. I’ve already seen the winners and I can assure you they are quite impressive indeed. 

But let’s get back to the Affinnova study. Titled “Packaging Design Trend Watch—The Beverage Aisle,” it used Affinnova’s Design Audit technology to analyze the packaging in the water enhancer, energy drink, flavored sparkling water, flavored enhanced water and sparkling fruit juice categories. Designs were measured on their ability to grab and hold consumer attention, strengthen consumer brand perceptions and help convert consumers to purchase.

 The study discovered that in the energy drink category, relatively newer brands—NOS and AMP—have struggled to gain share against Red Bull and Monster, despite the distribution and advertising muscle of their parent companies, Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Affinnova’s study suggests that inferior package designs by NOS and AMP are primarily to blame: they fail to attract consumers’ attention or drive purchase at shelf. However, in the sparkling water category, recent entrant Sparkling ICE used effective package design to overcome limited distribution and advertising support, beating out long-established category leaders such as Perrier. 

In short, package design is a powerful driver of a product’s success or failure. Says Waleed Al-Atraqchi, President and CEO of Affinnova, “Package design is the least expensive and most essential part of the marketing mix, helping to drive trial, repeat purchase and brand equity—yet it only gets a fraction of the attention that advertising or promotion receive. Brands that put energy into creating strong package designs gain a tremendous competitive advantage.” 

Among the study’s other findings: Exceptional package design helped Minute Maid overcome a late start in the liquid enhancer category; products like Starbucks Refreshers have gained ground by using package design to attract consumers who seek softer, less macho brand qualities, and Glaceau Vitaminwater trailed Pepsi’s Sobe Lifewater when it came to grabbing consumers’ attention and driving brand equity through package design.

The study was conducted in April 2014 and involved 5,000 U.S. consumers—and there’s a lot more information from it, which can all be accessed at affinnova.com/beverageaisle. 

 

Now Open: The 2014 Global Packaging Design Awards

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Category: General Blogs

We are now accepting entries for the 2014 Global Packaging Design Awards. The awards recognize the best in beverage packaging design from around the world. They are open to any packages introduced since Sept. 1, 2013. Deadline for entries is August 15th. Winners will be notified by Oct. 1st and will also be featured in the November 2014 edition of Beverage World. Contact packagingawards@beverageworld.com for details on how to enter.

New Products Tap Into America’s Spirits Market

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: spirits, liquor, cocktails, pisco, Wine & Spirits Whole

I found it interesting while walking the aisles of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) show last month in Las Vegas just how many different types of beverages—even after all these years-—the average American consumer still has little or no knowledge of. There were numerous importers and distillers from other countries at this year’s show, here to publicize their national drinks to the American market. I covered this to some extent in my write-up about the show, which you can find beginning on page 10 of the May issue of Beverage World. But the space there didn’t really allow me to do justice to the passion these companies have behind their products. Two cases in point are Portón, which sells half of all Peruvian pisco exports to the U.S., and CNS Enterprises, the oldest and largest importer of China’s baijiu to the United States.
 
During the show I had the pleasure of spending time with one of the world’s foremost experts on pisco, Johnny Schuler. Having Schuler guide you through a personal tasting and exploration of the delights of this unique spirt is a special experience to say the least. It’s rare to meet someone more enamored of a particular beverage. He detailed for me how Portón is made at the 330-year-old distillery in Hacienda La Caravedo in Ica, Peru. That’s right, 330 years old, making it the oldest working distillery in the Americas, according to Schuler. “We consider Pisco to be the fifth white spirit,” he explained to me. “Gin, vodka, rum and tequila are the four big sisters. And we have the new one on the market called pisco. People have to understand that pisco is a category of its own. It’s not like tequila which is made from cactus. It’s not like vodka, made from grain. Pisco’s made from fruit, the grape. So it’s the only white spirit made from a fruit. And Peru has about 380 distilleries that make hundreds or even thousands of different varieties of piscos. So it’s a wonderful, huge, beautiful world, much like the world of cognac in France.”
 
And yet, ask many Americans about pisco today and they might give you a blank stare. This is especially curious because pisco at one point was enormously popular in some parts of the United States. In fact, if you were to jump in your time machine and travel back to mid-1800s San Francisco, you’d find Pisco Punches being served all over the city. Furthermore, it just so happens that the most popular cocktail in Peru today, the Pisco Sour, was actually created by an American in Peru in 1918—a Mormon, in fact—named Victor Morris. 
 
As for baijiu, the folks with CNS  enthusiastically explained to me how much this spirit is an integral part of Chinese culture (and also that of many other Asian countries). The custom is for guests in China to be greeted with a tiny measure—about half an ounce (it is over 100 proof)—of the spirit when they arrive and everyone begins drinking it before they sit down. (I believe I actually witnessed this custom amongst a group of Chinese at a Chinese restaurant in New York City right after WSWA, purely by coincidence. The baijiu kept the diners quite energized, and on their feet very often during the meal!) 
 
Baijiu is actually the top-selling spirit in the world; almost twice as much of it is consumed around the world as vodka. Now it’s heading here, too.