Day One of BevNET Live Challenged Startups To Find Point of Differentiation

Following the entrepreneurs, Donna Spagnola, the president of Central Beverage Co. out of Chicago, told the audience about an emerging affinity group of midwestern distribution companies. While still in its earliest iterations, the group includes wholesale DSD operations like Buckeye and Full Circle in Ohio and Canada Dry Bottling Co. of Lansing, and IDI in Michigan, as well as Folsom and Palmentere in Missouri, RBI and Gateway in Iowa, Bernick’s in Minnesota, Folsom in Illinois and Terborg and Pure in Indiana.

Between them all, they carry more than 90 brands, Spagnola said, running through them all on-screen before arriving at the one they all have in common — Marley Beverage Company. The Midwest Distributor Group employs about 900 people and annually sells about 20 million cases of non-alcoholic beverages and snacks through DSD operations.

Spagnola also offered ideas about how suppliers can take on the huge city of Chicago, which she called a “black hole” for some beverage companies. Central is in the midst of considering a contractual requirement that suppliers keep a marketing person in-market — or hiring their own to support the brand and having suppliers pick up the tab.

“We all make more money when we are more efficient,” Spagnola said.

Tracking where capital originates on a near daily basis, SPINS has provided market analysis on trends for health and wellness consumers since 1995. Bobbi Leahy, SPINS director of sales,  presented some current trends in the juice and functional beverage category to help the conference’s attendees gauge the progress of their respective categories.

Products using chia seed or oil, for example, have grown 1,030 percent over a 52-week period ending on Sept. 29. In comparison, Yerba Mate has grown 46 percent. She identified other trending beverage categories such as coconut water hybrids, fermented drinks, fruit and vegetable blends, antioxidant and exotic fruit blends, probiotic drinks, non-dairy alternative beverages, energy shots, raw drinks and high protein sports beverages.

Leahy said consumers are drawn to beverages with natural, functional, innovative and complex ingredient profiles. With market research from groups like SPINS, brands can find ways to adapt and succeed. On a smaller and more private scale, investors also have their own tendencies.