Blog Entries Tagged as beverage

Bringing Home the Beverage-Making Experience

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

 

Several months ago, during a visit to the home of one of my brothers here in New York City, he and his wife proudly introduced me to their newest gadget: a SodaStream.

I’m sure most of you reading this are probably familiar with SodaStream, the home soda making device. It has been around for many years—mainly in Europe—and recently made some big inroads into the U.S. market. The company generated a lot of attention when it went public on the Nasdaq in 2010. Betweeen 2007 and 2011, according to a recent article in Forbes, its U.S. sales jumped from $4.4 million to $85 million. 

The device comes in something like seven versions, with the price ranging from $80 and $200.

When I first heard about Soda Stream, my initial reaction could best be described as interested on a personal level, and at the same time, putting on my Beverage World editor hat, a bit wary. What would this mean for the beverage companies I write about all the time? If consumers are able to bottle their own soft drinks at home, well, then, where does that leave the bottlers? Yes, SodaStream only has about 0.7 percent of the CSD market, according to the Forbes article. But there are plenty of examples in history of simple inventions that upended entire industries.

So, what happened during a more recent visit to my brother’s home in October was a bit surprising to me. There, in the corner of their kitchen counter continued to sit the SodaStream. Only this time, when the subject came up in conversation, gone was the unbridled enthusiasm they had regaled my ears with months before. Instead, clearly expressing shopper’s remorse, they both explained to me they had fallen out of love with their soda-making device. My curiosity piqued, I asked my sister-in-law, what happened?

“It just doesn’t make enough,” she told me.

Understanding what she was getting at, I asked: “You mean it’s too much of a hassle for what it does?” That was precisely it, she said.

There’s a reason, I guess, why there’s an entire industry devoted to bottling soft drinks in large factories. And that’s because for most consumers they prefer their soda to remain a pleasurable experience, not work. What my brother and his wife were telling me is that once the novelty of making their own soda at home wore off, the experience—from replacing the CO2 cartridge, to buying the syrup refills, to making the soda itself and then chugging it down quickly before having to do it all over again—became just another at-home chore. And we have enough of those.

This is not to say that there isn’t a lasting place for some machines that bring home the beverage experience. Heck, Mr. Coffee is proof enough of that. And Starbucks just recently introduced the Verismo, a machine that aims to bring the Starbucks store experience to the home by allowing consumers to brew their own lattes and espressos. 

But time may prove that some drinks are well enough left up to the experts.  

Beverage Branding Fit for a Dragon

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

 

I came across a program while in the U.K. called “Dragons’ Den,” which is similar to the U.S.’s “Shark Tank” that airs on ABC. The dragons, like the sharks, are big time moneymakers in their respective industries and are looking for their next big investment. On this episode of “Dragons’ Den,” two men, Padrig and Dewi, present their toffee-flavored vodka, Toffoc, to the panel and ask for a £75,000 investment to help expand their brand. 

Though Padrig and Dewi had the backing of Michelin-starred celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, they revealed to the dragons that while the Anglesey-based company made a profit in its first year, the following two were not profitable. Dragon Hilary Devey, an English television star responds, “Well, something is wrong there isn’t it.”

Another dragon, Peter Jones, founder of the U.K.’s first Enterprise Academy, asks why Rhodes’ name isn’t on the bottle and how much he’s invested in the brand. His advice: “Get your celebrity endorser to do more work for you.”

The duo came up with the idea to create a toffee-flavored vodka about eight years ago while skiing in the French Alps. The spirit, apparently, is a popular drink choice among skiers there. This particular brand is available in Wales and retails for about £15 for a 70cl bottle, according to its website. The vodka, along with apparel and other swag items, also is available for purchase online. It is triple-distilled U.K. grain vodka that is infused with toffee that results in a clear, golden-hued liquid.

The dragons got to sample the vodka and most seemed impressed with the flavor and quality, remarking that the smell and taste were good. However, none of the five dragons were interested in investing in the brand. In the drinks industry we’ve seen scenarios like this before. A new product that is struggling to get the word out, partners with a celebrity or a pop culture entity, and then what? Does celebrity affiliation automatically equal success? 

That depends on the celebrity and the brand. I recall going to a Sopranos wine tasting at the Trump World Tower in New York City a few years ago. It was for a range of Italian wines that were branded with “The Sopranos” TV series that aired on HBO. While there was a lot of hype surrounding the brand at the time produced by The Sopranos Wine Co./Vesuvio Import Co. the buzz seemed to fizzle out with the show. 

On the other hand, take brands like Ciroc with P Diddy or Jim Beam’s Red Stag and its affiliation with Kid Rock. Those are two good examples of celebrity done right. That’s because these celebrities do more than just attach their name to a new brand, they embody that brand, they live it and they represent what that brand stands for. In turn, consumers that relate to a particular lifestyle—luxury or rock ’n’ roll in this case—directly relate to that brand.

While Padrig and Dewi seemed reluctant to get Rhodes more involved in their brand, saying that it was “their toffee” and not Rhodes, Jones was on target with his advice. A successful celebrity endorsement needs more than just a face or a name printed on a sell sheet; it requires an authenticity that consumers won’t compromise on—and neither will the dragons.  

The Festive Season

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

 

Since the Great American Beer Festival is going on right about now (and I am happily among the 50,000 strong at the annual Super Bowl of beer in Denver), I’ve been thinking a great deal about the festival experience. And I’m not the only one: If you tuned in last month to our webcast, “Craft Beer’s Climb: Tapping Into Profit,” you will have heard panelists Irene Firmat (Full Sail Brewing Co.) and Dale Katechis (Oskar Blues Brewing Co.) share their own festival memories, both good and bad. 

The consensus seems to be that when brands are determining which festivals to be a part of, steer clear of the ones organized by opportunistic promoters looking for nothing more than to cash in on one of the hottest trends in the beverage business. Stick with the ones that have a proven track record or, if the fest is new to the scene, are run by organizations, individuals or groups that are reputable within the craft beer world (or wine, spirits, etc., if it’s a festival for one of those sectors).

You also can get a good sense of the quality of a festival just by looking at the quality of the attendees. Are they, by and large, aficionados/curious consumers looking to sample new offerings and enhance their beer education in the process or are they fratboy binge drinkers looking to consume as much volume as is humanly possible in the space of a four-hour tasting session? If the answer is yes to the former and no to the latter than it’s a pretty safe bet to align your brands with such an event. 

The events that offer the best experiences for beer drinkers tend to be the ones that sell out quickly and are talked up incessantly across social media. 

Then there are those that, in many ways, transcend even the best of them. It’s one thing to participate in a festival and connect face-to-face with your brand’s biggest fans. It’s an entirely different scenario when your brand IS the festival. That’s what struck me about this year’s edition of Brewery Ommegang’s annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown, presented this past August on the vast, 140-acre grounds of the Upstate New York farmhouse brewery. It was the first time I had been since 2007 (having been in 2005 and 2006 as well) and the event was bigger than ever. Tickets always sell out in minutes based on reputation alone, and this year was no exception. Craft beer lovers make the trek into the countryside, turning the brewery property into a sprawling tent city for the weekend as they camp on site following the afternoon tasting session. Imagine that the brand profile you’ve created is such that—for a weekend at least—you don’t have to reach out to where consumers are; they come to you. And it’s also a testament to the dynamic of the segment you’re in that you invite 50 or 60 other brewers—what most would call “competition”—to sample their wares alongside your own. There’s a good chance that many of those visiting products might be superior to your own, but that matters little because A.) as the cliché goes (and as I’ve heard repeatedly from craft brewing evangelists) a rising tide lifts all boats and B.) everyone there knows it’s your house and your party. 

Now that’s what I call branding.    

Cocktail Culture

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

We talk, and write, a lot about what wines pair well with which foods, and which beers pair better than those wines with those foods. But what about cocktails? Typically, it’s, “let’s grab a drink before dinner,” or “let’s grab a drink after dinner.” The during is usually cocktail-free. 

I attended two events last month that have reopened my eyes to the cocktail culture that continues to thrive in this country and how spirits too can pair equally as well as wine or beer with food. 

Skyy Vodka recently named chef Marcus Samuelsson as its first culinary ambassador. Samuelsson is a James Beard Award winner and also is Food Network’s Chopped All-Stars champion this year. He is the owner and chef of Red Rooster in Harlem where I got to experience first-hand what his partnership with the vodka brand will entail. From September to December, Samuelsson will focus on how to create high-quality cocktails at home that he has developed using his culinary skills through a program called Captivating Cocktails. At the Red Rooster we sampled some cocktails from the program: Basil Gimlet paired with skagen toast, an Apple Spiced Martini paired with a turkey meatball slider on a biscuit with cranberry chutney, and an Earl of Harlem cocktail made with Earl Grey Tea, coriander syrup, lemon juice and orange rind paired with chicken and waffles with spiked Skyy syrup. Other cocktails passed throughout the evening included The Savoy (made with red and white grapes, lemon juice and agave syrup) and a White Sangria.

While I’ve sampled my fair share of culinary crafted cocktails, I was surprised to find the cocktails to be light, refreshing and balanced with the food choices that weren’t your typical dinner items.

Further downtown, it was a Sunday brunch and Patrón Silver cocktails at Maya, a Richard Sandoval restaurant, specializing in modern Mexican cuisine. The newly redesigned restaurant now includes Tequileria Maya, a bar and lounge with more than 100 agave-based spirits and 30 house-infused tequilas. Cocktails that day included a traditional margarita, a pineapple sage margarita, spiked agua frescas, tequila punch and a Maria Verde made with tamatillo, chiles, cilantro, jalapeno and lime all paired with small Mexican plates like chef’s special chicken enchiladas, tacos and tortas like smoked brisket tacos and cazuelas (baked eggs served in cast iron skillets) like eggs albanil—scrambled eggs, chicharron, black beans, salsa verde and crema fresca. 

Tequila for brunch isn’t the normal go-to cocktail, but as the tequila culture continues to grow, consumers are learning that tequila can be enjoyed in many cocktails and even sipped like a fine cognac. In fact, Sandoval has partnered with Herradura to craft his own limited-edition double barrel reposado tequila. Following the traditional barrel aging process, this reposado was then rested in new toasted oak barrels and aged for an additional 30 days. Only 240 bottles are available. The tequila has aroma notes of fruit and vanilla and caramel-like flavors derived from the cooked agave and aging in oak barrels. It has a sweet finish with a light alcohol taste. Salud!  

Banning the Ban

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beverage

 

span style="letter-spacing: -0.3px">There was a soon-to-be mother of two, a middle school teacher and a journalist sitting around a kitchen table in a Manhattan apartment. Sound like the start to a bad joke? It could be, but the matter we were discussing was nothing to laugh about. (I’m the journalist and the other two women at the table are my childhood friends.) As many New Yorkers have been voicing concerns, or praise, over the proposed big soda ban, the topic got the three of us debating the issue. 

Interestingly, as my friends said they thought the idea of putting a ban on soda sales was unfair, they agreed that something has to be done about the amount of sugar or fatty foods people are consuming. While something does have to change with regard to the obesity epidemic that has happened in this country, preventing people from purchasing specific products isn’t that something.

The scenario of someone buying two 16-ounce beverages gets brought up, as does the ability for a consumer to just refill his or her cup at many fast food chains in the city for no additional cost. “The Mother’s” husband chimes in saying that it’s about portion control. If someone puts a large plate of food in front of him, he’ll eat it all, but if a smaller plate of food is presented and he takes a step away from the table after eating, he’s satisfied. Point taken. But do we need a law to regulate portion control?

The discussion then turned to schools, as “The Mother” is now looking at schools in Manhattan for her daughter, and the restrictions on selling sugary drinks and fatty foods in those schools. While that may or may not be a good thing, I reminded them that when we were growing up, we had access to soft drinks in vending machines and sugared teas and French fries and pizza and chocolate chip cookies, among other things, in our school cafeteria. None of us are obese or overweight and neither were our classmates. What goes into a Coke or Pepsi or Snapple hasn’t changed (other than adding low-sugar, low-calorie options), so what has?

“The Teacher,” who teaches middle school at a public school in Brooklyn told us that her school has no vending machines, no health class and no after school sports due to lack of funding in many cases. 

Funding is where our discussion came to a halt. Why isn’t money being spent on educational programs in schools on health and wellness? Why aren’t there programs for families to help educate them on portion control? Instead of being reactive and putting a ban on a single group of items, why not be proactive and get back to the fundamentals of what being healthy means?

Today we read about universities and government offices banning the sale of bottled water as a cost-cutting initiative as well as an effort to be environmentally friendly or responsible. PET is 100 percent recyclable and if we drink bottled water, we should be responsible for recycling it. Again, the effort here should be to invest in recycling programs and education, not putting a ban on an inexpensive alternative to any beverage with sugar.

There is no easy fix. This month i>Beverage World takes a closer look at big soda ban in NY as our cover story feature; see page 40.