Video: Building Brands, Building Categories – A Collaborative Effort

At BevNET Live Summer 2012, three experts who have had first-hand roles in establishing entrepreneurial beverage products discussed the roles and responsibilities of brand-building among suppliers, distributors, and retailers.

The panel featured three seasoned industry veterans each of whom have worked on the development of a new brand and category from the ground up: Mark Rampolla, the founder and CEO of ZICO coconut water; Gerry Martin, the vice president of marketing at Polar Beverages, and Andy Steele, the founder of Anonymous Consulting, a retail strategy consulting firm.

The discussion covered a range of topics regarding the development of new brands and categories including an analysis of expectations for individual roles and key areas for collaboration. Rampolla, who launched ZICO in 2004, got things started by talking about the importance of vision in launching his brand, particularly at a time when coconut water had minuscule exposure among American consumers.

“It was four years before someone called it “the coconut water category” – it was definitely not early on,” said Rampolla. “We bore the brunt of helping everyone understand what this was. And I viewed it as my job to have a vision for what this could become and to have something that was compelling to a distributor, compelling to a retailer, and, ultimately, compelling to a consumer.”

And while Martin explained that while distributors need to be selfish to a degree, he said that it was critical to “look at the big picture” and work toward a mutually beneficial relationship with new suppliers, similar to the one Polar and ZICO have had since 2009.

“As a distributor, my job is to make sure that I’m getting a fair shake contractually and long-term, but also to make sure that [manufacturers] are not wasting their money,” said Martin. “If that means using my relationship [with a retailer] to reduce slotting costs… then that’s a benefit I can bring them.”

Watch this excerpt of the panel discussion – which also includes Steele’s advice on the best way for new suppliers to approach retailers – in this video. And check out the full version and several other videos of talks and panels from BevNET Live at, BevNET’s on-demand video learning site.