“The Beverage Whisperer” Assesses Emerging Categories

Ken Sadowsky

Ken Sadowsky

Earlier this week, we had a chance to sit down with Ken Sadowsky, a longtime advisor and investor in New Age and functional beverage companies, who is affectionately known as “The Beverage Whisperer.”

In the following interview, we asked Sadowsky, who holds roles as the senior beverages advisor in the U.S. for Verlinvest, a Belgian-based private equity group, and the executive director of Northeast Independent Distributors Association, an organization representing 29 beverage wholesalers in nine states, for his take on the development and growth potential for a number of developed, emerging and nascent beverage categories:

Enhanced Water

“Enhanced water is going to get redefined and evolve over time. But I still think there’s people who want just plain water. And then there’s people that want things that are going to substitute three of their eight 8 oz. servings [of water] a day. And they’re going to do it with enhanced water, whether it’s enhanced flavor or enhanced with efficacy. That will continue to grow.”

Cold-Pressed Juice

“Interesting category. I like it a lot. I don’t know, because of the price point, how big it can be. If it crosses over into real meal replacement, then it could get a lot bigger. And I think it would get a lot bigger at the expense of protein drinks like Muscle Milk [with consumers] using it as their secondary or tertiary occasion for use.”

Kombucha

“I’m just not a big fan of the category, so I’m only watching it as an outside observer. I just think it’s niche. It’s not mainstream, today or tomorrow.”

Cold-Brew Coffee

“That’s another one that I don’t understand, but I do like it. I like some of the entrepreneurs, I like their energy. I like some of the executions. What I’ve noticed is that at least two [brands] have gone to single-strength versus concentrate; I think that’s a way — maybe it’s training wheels — to bring people to that concentrate place again. Or maybe it’s the way the category will develop into… mainstream.”

Coconut Water

“It’s surprised me at how big it got and how quickly it got there. But I do think that it still has headroom to grow because if people can drink energy drinks for effectiveness, people can drink coconut water for natural, better hydration.”

Tea

“Tea is healthy, so I see the tea category continuously growing through further segmentation and more offerings.  And I like the brands that have the heritage of, ‘we come in tea bags, for one occasion for use, for take home, we have ready-to-drink.’”

Cap-Activated Drinks

“I think they really have to have a reason for being, and the best reason for being that I’ve seen is not water-soluble vitamins. It’s probiotics, or something else that really needs to be kept in captivity before someone’s about to consume it.”

Energy

“Carbonated soft drinks are moving to functional carbonated soft drinks. And Americans are going to drink carbonated soft drinks one way or another. I like that category.”

Oat-Based Beverages

“I still think liquid oats as a meal replacement is healthier, rich in fiber and, if done properly, will still be coming.”

Additionally, Sadowsky shares advice on how to identify sustainable industry trends and details the role of advisors for entrepreneurial beverage brands in a new series on BevNET FBU, BevNET’s on-demand video learning site for the food and beverage industry (subscription required).