Taking to the Streets (Again)

I drink a lot of beverages, to state the obvious. I’ve spent 21 years now sampling thousands of brands. It is what I do. All of our team at BevNET is in the business of imbibing. We’ve reviewed hundreds of drinks, and have had hundreds more sent in for our opinions. And yes, we know, it’s not a bad gig if you can get it.

In my office I have a refrigerator that has at least 15 different brands in it at all times, and two floor cases that contain many, many more. I’m heavy-duty into variety. I got to thinking, am I the exception to the rule of enjoying so many options, or are consumers – who actually have to lay down some cash – as receptive to trying new additions their core beverage choices?

So I headed back to my laboratory of consumer perceptions, Times Square. As on previous occasions, I camped out in the center of the world, as we New York-centric people think it is, to ask questions. I stopped and stalked dozens of people walking with drinks in hand, to see the depth and variety of what they were consuming. The options were extensive.

Most of the people told me that they only had a small core of drinks that they had on a consistent basis. They said that, at most, they had six beverages that they drank with any consistency.  While they liked to experiment with the new brands, they didn’t add them to their array with enough frequency.

Consumers of a certain category, like teas, juices, or flavored waters, stayed within their comfort zones. If they imbibed for functionality, that would be one of their go-to options. If they ventured out, it wasn’t often enough to merit adding any drink to their must have list. Everyone liked to try new drinks, but after the initial infatuation, they continued to stay with their tried and true. To a person, they loved the look and colors of all the brands on the store shelves, and that often it led to trial, but repeat purchasing was still elusive. Efficacy claims enticed sampling also, and most perused the labels to determine if a brand was worth it. That’s a good sign. Everyone thought sampling at retail was a great way to try a product, and they’d be receptive to purchase if they liked the taste.

While all the new choices were exciting, they said there’s only so much liquid they can consume during the course of the day. They actually wished they could drink more of these selections, but it wasn’t feasible.

It’s a tough world out there for beverage marketers, but the opportunity is still great. We need to expand the consumer mindset to add brands to their mix. There are thousands of terrific brands in search of an audience. I hope we can all drink to your success.