Going Mobile

With the proliferation of food blogs, food-related television shows and plenty of natural nibbles on offer at Expo East, it was hard to keep beverage-related discussions away from all things edible. However, rather than thumb their nose at all things that could be masticated, some beverage companies at the convention were happy to explain how they are hoping to capitalize on food-related trends – while even providing new ways for beverage entrepreneurs to market their products. From Austin, to Boston and a few locations in between, food trucks are popping up. Most mobile restaurants use Twitter to announce their daily locations, and consumers then have the opportunity to chase down the truck and order its specialty food. Of course, hungry office workers or chilled-out hipsters will need something with which they can wash down their latest trendy sandwich. In that vein, Matt Seiler of Maine Root explained how his company found an opening in this market and worked on getting their product on the Red Hook Lobster food truck. “The mindset of the food truck [community] is extreme independence, a local focus,“ he said. Many trucks also focus on “grandma’s recipes, peculiar foods. They don’t want Coke or Pepsi – [instead] freaky things will get right in there.” He added, “we fit right in.” Seiler explained the food truck with which the company works has a machine installed on the outside. Sodas are sold with this vendor in bag-in-box format and he says Red Hook in particular “loved the idea” as it allowed workers to pass cups out to customers, freeing up food preparation time inside the vehicle. Additionally, Maine Root have been exploring their stationary foodservice options by adding many of their flavors including the Black Cherry, Ginger Ale and Lemon-Lime sodas to bag-in-box formats. However, not all beverage companies are ready to take their product to the streets in such a manner, and would rather a more refined setting in which to convert foodies to their product. Ayala’s Herbal Water is trying to market themselves as “the perfect on-premise beverage,” according to company director of operations, Nicole Erdosy. The strategy is supported mainly by their recent promotion that invited fans of the product to suggest food pairings for the different water flavors. To complement this refined image, Ayala’s Herbal Water also aims to enter more high-end restaurants and be served tableside to eventually fill the “void between Pellegrino and wine,” Erdosy said. Of course, marrying beverages with alcohol is nothing new – just ask the CEO of Red Bull. Yet Sipp is hoping to take a page out of Ayala’s book and encourage consumers and restaurant and bar owners to use the beverages as cocktail mixers. Company president Beth Wilson-Parentice explained that while the line of delicately flavored beverages was originally intended to be for mixology purposes, they can also be sold as stand-alone products.  Expo East marked the official launch of Sipp’s line that includes the blended Ginger Blossom, Honey Pear and Mojo Berry, and Wilson-Parentice is eager to explore food-related possibilities – a sensibility perhaps illustrated by the cocktail recipe cards on offer to booth visitors. Yet Wilson-Parentice might also be open to taking her product to the streets. “Any unique venue works for us,” she said, when asked about the possibility of partnering with a food truck. If bringing together non-alcoholic beverages with either, or  both, the fine dining and the urban food truck can be the way forward, at least a couple of companies may be looking in the right direction. And if a beverage reality show were to hit U.S. screens, we might just have a movement on our hands.