Beverages in the DNA

I have been an unabashed fan of the beverage industry for 16 years and counting. Over the course of my career I have been a publisher of magazines in many diverse industries, including cosmetics and toiletries, marketing, photography and consumer electronics. I can say that none of these markets hold a candle to our industry. The excitement and passion trumps anything I have been involved in.

This was recently reinforced over this past summer. My 18 year-old son, David, was in need of a summer job before heading off to college. At the Fancy Food Show in New York, I saw my friends at Honest Tea, and, in passing, mentioned that David wanted to do some type of work before he went off to school. I guess friendships count for something, because they said they’re always looking for summer interns to help in Manhattan, and that they would be glad to have David join their team.

The following Monday, David was indoctrinated into our world. They assigned him to Mike Pilione, that whirling dervish who I had spent a thoroughly exhausting day in the field many years back (I wrote a column about that day). The 6:30 trips to Big Geyser, and, even worse, the 4:45 starts to head out to Eastern L.I. and Westchester, became part of David’s life. He was exhausted, but exhilarated. The interaction with retailers, large and small, was an education in relationships, assessing needs and finding solutions. It provided him with a primer for the skill sets he’ll need in whatever he pursues.

His time with the marketing team was, simply put, fun. They did their guerilla campaigns and sampling throughout the city, in retail stores and on the streets. They blitzed concert venues. He loved the camaraderie, the energy level, and the shared experience with the team. He took pride and ownership of the brand. He enjoyed relating to the consumer, checking their pulse, understanding their thinking. He began to think like a beverage guy.

Over dinner, we discussed taste, positioning, pricing, what brands made sense, and which did not. We talked shelf sets and competition. The beverage industry has a way of doing that to you.

I get calls from friends no longer in the industry, longing to return. They’ve tried many other markets, but beverages are still in their DNA. David is just starting out in the industry, but he already gets it.

I write this column because while the industry is going through some tough times, it is still the place to be. Consider yourselves lucky to work in a business that you love.