Fall is far and away my favorite time of year. There is nothing as scintillating and refreshing as the spectacular colors, the crisp air, wearing sweaters again, and finally getting away from the stifling summer. Mind you, while I might hate summer and its oppressive heat on a personal level, I know its importance and impact professionally on the beverage industry, so it gets a small pass. Still, the convergence of the start of the baseball playoffs, football kicking into high gear on both college and professional levels, and basketball and hockey can bring a smile to my face.
Fall is also the time of year that I receive more calls from retailers, distributors, and potential investors than the rest of the year combined. Over the years, wearing my sales hat, I have preached of the importance of the sell-in planning cycle. Just read any letter I put out to present and potential advertisers to verify that. While the planning process now goes on over all 12 months of the year, with adjustments and revisits along the way to portfolios, sets and truck bays, the heaviest amount of reconsideration still happens from Mid-September through the end of the year. It is crucial to be included and to receive authorizations. You know where you stand in planning your businesses and what you need to do to accomplish your goals.
Hence, the phone calls.
Everyone wants to know about the next great thing. No one wants to miss out on the latest and greatest. They seek my advice on what categories will be emerging and which brands they should look out for and invest in. It is not a simple task. Just go onto our BevNET site every day and see the hundreds of brands trying to break through the clutter. How do you determine what to take on? Retailers have only so much space, and sadly stick too much to their conservative shelf sets. Previously, they would have a new product strategy built into their plans. Judging from my observations in store, I don’t see much of that anymore.
Over the years there have been obvious recommendations as to what will emerge as the next winners. The water category and energy drinks stood out above the rest. Craft beers, enhanced waters, and functional drinks have garnered attention, success, and space. There has also been a strong resurgence of the boutique CSDs.
Lately, however, there don’t seem to be any categories raising hopes and excitement, especially on a large scale. I’m a big believer in the potential of products in the areas of relaxation, recovery, and protein. I believe that single function products are brands I can support. If a brand that promises nail, skin and hair generation works, that would be great. There are dozens of similar brands with innovative claims that we post on our site all the time. But no one can break out without a chance.
In lieu of any proven and guaranteed categories and brands coming out there, take a chance on some of these brands that tickle your fancy and give your customers something to think about and sample. Become more of a risk taker in a marketplace that is risk adverse. Beverages are in a lull, waiting for the next great thing. If it arrives soon, terrific. But until then, take a chance on some exciting new entries.