Beverage School: Learn the Ropes of the Industry
Beverage School is a special half-day “Beverages 101″ session for early-stage entrepreneurs and industry newcomers. It is held the day prior to the full conference and is free for all BevNET Live Winter 2018 attendees. If you're a young beverage brand, these are the benefits of attending Beverage School:
Get Up to Speed
Take a look at the basics of operating and growing a company in the beverage market. Beverage School is an intensive, half-day program designed for beverage startups and industry newcomers.
Identify Keys for Growth
Gain access to expert insights, successful entrepreneur case studies, and a healthy dose of networking. Expect presentations on product development, sales and marketing, supply chain management, distribution and more.
Initiate Critical Conversations
Get a head start on the conversation during a special round table Q&A session. Connect with speakers and additional experts, the ones who know what works and how to make it happen.
Past Beverage School Speakers
Founder & President, Healthy Brand Builders
For more than 43 years, James has served the private-sector as a brand and marketing development professional. He directs the building and design of national infrastructures for food and beverage industry clients. Tonkin has successfully created and implemented business and financial strategies for domestic and international players focusing from production to branding, marketing through sales implementation and distribution, to include exit strategy. Tonkin has focused branding initiatives in soft drink, bottled water, functional foods and beverages, and non- carbonated “new age” beverage verticals. His extensive hands-on expertise has stretched across many sectors including domestic cheeses to natural potato chips; bottled waters for people and pets; and nutraceutical-functional-cosmeceutical enhanced beverages. Jim serves as a popular keynote speaker covering new beverage trends, successful branding insight and with his blunt and sometimes irreverent humor, pushes the envelope! He has many repeat performances and is truly a respected and admired entrepreneur in his own right!
Executive Vice President, L.A. Libations
Born in Paris, France, David Meniane moved to Los Angeles at the age of 18. After obtaining a BS in Accounting and Master’s in Tax Law from the University of Southern California in 2005, he spent two years advising real estate developers and mid-size business owners as a CPA for Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt, one of California’s leading CPA firms. In 2007, David switched over to the private side of accounting when he was hired as controller for Aflalo & Harkham Investments, a commercial real estate company with $350 million in assets. In less than 2 years, he became Chief Financial Officer and Asset Manager for 27 companies, overseeing the sale of $200 million worth of properties. As an entrepreneur, David, alongside his wife Deborah, founded Victoria’s Kitchen in 2012. Creating this specialty beverage company, he quickly learned various facets of the beverage industry including brand building, commercialization, strategy, distribution, supply chain and operating in a high-risk fast paced environment. After appearing on Season 6 of Shark Tank, the company became profitable in its 4th year and was eventually acquired in 2017. Since 2016, David has been acting as Executive Vice President at L.A. Libations, the official incubating partner for The Coca-Cola Company. Under the guidance and support of its founder, Danny Stepper, he put his experience to use by leading the efforts in restructuring Obi Probiotic Soda helping multiply its revenue six fold in one year. David also leads all commercialization efforts for new brand partners and in-house projects with a true focus on discipline and execution. David now touches all aspects of beverage incubation from business development, research & development, commercialization, distribution, price architecture, supply chain, operations, sales, fundraising to overall strategy. Having lead two beverage turnarounds, and his own company for 6 years, he also takes his analytical approach to help struggling brands in growing categories with transforming or rebuilding infrastructure, product and market execution. David currently maintains an active CPA license in the state of California and lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 11 years and their beautiful 1-year old daughter, Bella.
VP of Field Operations, L.A. Libations
Born in Los Angeles, California, Robert Macias was raised in the San Fernando Valley. Robert attended San Fernando Valley College. Soon afterwards, Robert started working at Pickwick Records where he held positions of warehouse supervisor, to sales representative. Robert was instrumental in persuading the Pickwick buyers from a mainstream purchasing pattern to the new the exploding new wave and punk rock scene. Robert was recognized for his bold and visionary views. In 1984, Robert started working for Coca-Cola. Hired as a merchandiser, Robert was quickly moved to sales and held positions throughout the Los Angeles basin. Robert was promoted to District Sales Manager in 1990. In 1996 Robert was appointed to Sales Manager at Los Angeles Sales Center with the objective to build the same culture that he achieved while a District Manager in Sylmar. Robert reengineered the entire sales system and changed the face of sales center. Robert introduced the "Men in Black" reset team. The "Men in Black" were identified as the best of the best merchandisers, but lacked either the desired formal education, training and leadership. With the help of District Managers, Robert developed a weekly training program revolved around communication, business math, volume trends and the ability to rise above. The Men in Black worked closely with the Sales Team, and were assigned key areas in Los Angeles. The objective was to dominate the trade with selected best selling brands, and introducing new beverages. In 1999 Robert was promoted to Branch Manager, Downey Production Center, Downey, California. From 1999 to 2005, Robert managed the Downey, City of Industry, Ventura/Bishop, Sylmar/Lancaster and the Los Angeles Sales Center. It was in Los Angeles, as the Sales Center Manager, where Robert developed many visionary platforms. Robert was the only Sales Center Manager appointed to the company's Atlanta Based Diversity and Inclusion Council. Robert was instrumental in creating Blue Demon energy drink and through area focused taste tests, recommended to the brand team, switching the Coke Zero package from a white package to a black package. Robert also recommended the target audience by reviewing data, and using "no sugar" as the tagline. The sampling platform was Classic Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero. In 2016 Robert joined LA Libations as Brand Manager for Arriba Horchata. Robert introduced Arriba to Vallarta Markets, all three SKU's and in over 33 outlets. Since January, 2017 Robert now manages the LAL Field Team as the VP of Field Operations. Robert quickly introduced Repsly, which tracks guidance and results. Robert teaches his team productivity data, and to treat each business with the same tactics Robert learned from his experiences and methods he learned in his 32 years at Coca-Cola. They have successfully developed key areas in the Southern California area. Robert and his team have lead and participated in numerous meetings sharing "the secret sauce", and in trade visits showing others how to win the marketplace. Robert is an active cyclist, kayak fisherman and music fan, Robert lives in Santa Clarita with his wife of 23 years and their son Neil and beautiful daughter Susha. Robert's has two older sons, Rawley who owns Rouleur Brewery in Carlsbad, and Drew who is a Key Account Manager for Stone Brewing, Southern California.
Founder, Verge Strategy Inc.
Vivian Rhoads is the Founder of Verge Strategy Inc., a growth-focused marketing consulting firm based in trend-setting Los Angeles. Since starting Verge Strategy in 2014, she has helped companies, large and small, identify opportunities for brand growth, develop effective marketing plans, and launch successful new products. Clients include Nestlé, The Clorox Company, Starbucks, KraftHeinz, MolsonCoors, Chicken of the Sea, Thive Olive Oil, and others. Prior to Verge, Vivian led marketing innovation and venturing at Naked Emerging Brands, where she was responsible for all of PepsiCo's venturing initiatives in the emerging healthy beverages segment. Over her 15-year career, she also held global leadership marketing roles at Wrigley/Mars, PepsiCo (Frito-Lay and Naked Juice) and Procter and Gamble, with hands-on experience working with brands like Extra, Orbit, 5 gum, Eclipse, Skittles, Starburst, Cheetos, Doritos, Fritos, Gamesa, Naked Juice, Kevita, IZZE Natural Soda, Downy and Tide. Vivian has worked across multiple geographies, including in-country placements in the US, Brazil, Spain, UK, Germany and Puerto Rico. Vivian received an MBA from McCombs School of Business at University of Texas in Austin, and a BS from the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She lives in West Los Angeles with her husband and their two young children. When not supporting clients or running after her kids, she enjoys meditation and brewing kombucha and beer at home.
Managing Partner, Whipstitch Capital
Michael Burgmaier is a Co-Founder and Managing Director with Whipstitch Capital, an investment bank that provides private placement and buy-side / sell-side mergers & acquisitions advisory services for leading consumer products companies in the healthy, organic, natural and/or functional food, beverage, supplements, personal care and related retail companies. He has helped complete over 50 transactions for clients such as KeVita, Uncle Matt’s Organics, Essentia Water, Spindrift, The Switch, Redd Bar, Peeled Snacks, Blake’s All Natural Foods and Otter Creek Brewing Company. Mike has been active in the M&A and private equity/VC consumer space since early 2004; previously he was a Consultant with Bain & Co. In 2008, Burgmaier was named as a "40 Under 40" leader in the Natural Products Industry by Natural Foods Merchandiser. Mike has an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, an MPP from Duke University and a BA in Economics from Boston College.
Chief Strategy Officer, MetaBrand
Debbie Wildrick – Chief Strategy Officer, MetaBrand is a sales, marketing, and operations executive and channel strategy specialist in the consumer packaged goods industry with 30+ years’ experience. She has had leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies including 7-Eleven, Inc. and Tropicana North America (Pepsico). In addition, her experience includes a strong background in building start-up brands including her own consulting business, the CEO of BAZI®, Inc. a public company, FRS Healthy Energy and Sundance Juice Sparklers, a brand which she helped grow to 100 million dollars in the early 1990s. She has also worked with leading companies in the industry to include both retailers, distributors, and manufacturers. They include The McLane Company, Wal-mart, Whole Foods, Target, GNC, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Safeway, Coca-Cola, Nestle Waters and many others. Wildrick has served as an Executive Committee Chair of the Network of Executive Women for ten years. She is also a regular panelist, speaker and columnist. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas and the Cornell Food Executive Program.
Partner, Amin Talati
Ivan Wasserman is a Partner at the law firm of Amin Talati Upadhye and is one of the nation’s premier attorneys focusing on the marketing of health and wellness products, including foods, beverages, dietary supplements, OTC drugs and cosmetics. With more than 20 years of experience, he and his team combine legal skill, business acumen and energetic creativity to help companies of all sizes tackle their most challenging issues, from developing labeling and marketing campaigns in a highly regulated environment, to defending government investigations, competitor challenges (NAD/ERSP) and consumer class actions. Ivan is a frequent and engaging speaker at industry workshops and events. He has been included in “Best Lawyers in America” from 2007 – 2018, was recently named the 2018 Advertising Lawyer of the Year for Chicago, and was the recipient of the 2017 Lexology Client Choice award for exemplary client service. Ivan is a graduate of Vassar College and the George Washington University National Law Center.
Board Member, KeVita, Chameleon Cold Brew
Brad works closely with leading growth-stage food and beverage companies as a board member and strategic advisor. His work leverages 25 years of company-building experience as entrepreneur, CEO, board member and investor, cutting across all strategic and operational dimensions of successful company-building in the food and beverage space. He currently serves on the Board of Fishpeople, Health Warrior, Simple Mills, Zola, Rhythm Superfoods, Biena, Red’s All Natural, and Rib Rack. He previously served on the Board of Krave Jerky, Kevita and Chameleon Cold Brew from these companies early stages through their respective exits as category defining brands to Hershey’s, Pepsi and Nestle. Mr. Barnhorn’s food and beverage journey began as Founder/CEO of the Fantasia Fresh Juice Company which he built into the leading super premium fresh juice/smoothie company in the Midwestern United States from 1998-2000 culminating in a merger with Naked Juice to form the leading national brand in the category which was subsequently acquired by Pepsi. He holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, loves golden retrievers and lives in northern California when he’s not following U2 on tour around the world.
Founder, McGinn eCommConsulting
McGinn eCommConsulting provides expertise in eCommerce strategy for CPG companies ranging from launch stage to $3 billion in sales. With over 11 years of experience with Amazon.com and other strategic eCommerce partners, Betsy works with clients on launch and business optimization strategy, product and pack develop, problem resolution and ongoing management of their eCommerce business. With eight years of eCommerce leadership at Seventh Generation, Betsy provides a unique perspective through the brand lens to guide clients in this complex channel. Additional multi- channel experience in both the US and Canada enhances the development of eCommerce strategy that balances the interests of all sales channels in order to manage channel conflict.
Founder, Natural Products Consulting Group
As a consultant since 1998, Bob Burke provides assistance in bringing natural, organic and specialty products to market across most classes of trade. This includes work in strategic planning, growth strategies, writing sales, marketing and business plans, budgeting, pricing, building distribution, broker selection and management, organizational development, strategic options, branding and trade spending management. He is also the co-author and co-publisher of the Natural Products Field Manual, Fourth Edition and The Sales Manager's Handbook. Prior to consulting, Bob was with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for 11 years as Vice President, Sales & Corporate Development and Vice President, Marketing & Sales. He has held marketing positions with Colombo, Inc. and Sperry Top-Sider. He received an MBA from Babson College.
CEO, Rao's Specialty Foods
Eric Skae, the CEO of Rao’s Specialty Foods, is a natural leader with a passion for propelling organizations to success, a trait which has been the hallmark of his career. Before joining Rao’s Specialty Foods, Eric was the founder and Managing Partner of The Bricktown Group, a change management consulting firm providing Strategy, Finance, Sales & Marketing, and Operations consulting support to clients in the food, beverage and nutraceutical fields. Eric has a strong track record of success in meeting price, production, and quality targets while maintaining market share. With a deep understanding of financial modeling and extensive experience in Mergers and Acquisitions, Eric’s entrepreneurial mindset and hands-on approach enables him to quickly pinpoint and address financial and market vulnerabilities and opportunities. He continues to identify and capitalize on funding options that satisfy the specific needs of any project, product, or operational issue.
Managing Editor, BevNET
Kelly Mudge Criswell
VP Creative & Client Services, Gammon Ragonesi Associates
Kelly Criswell is a visionary and creative leader, shepherding Gammon Ragonesi Associates as the VP Creative and Client Services based in the Los Angeles office. With a fierce love of beverage branding and a 16+ year career in CPG brand development and packaging design, Kelly will relentlessly push brands to the next level for success on shelf. Over her career she has worked with such notable brands as Dunkin’ Donuts, Nestlé, Premier Nutrition, Diageo, and Red Bull. Her latest modus operandi is harnessing her extensive experience in CPG to help entrepreneurs and start-ups launch their brands. Her current passion project is Kabaki Kenyan Purple Tea- she has teamed up with the founder Martin and helped him position, brand, package, and develop go-to-market strategy for a 2018 launch. When she’s not obsessively taking photos in grocery stores (say hi if you see her!) she’s painting or hiking with her two kids.
Founder & CEO, BEAR BRANDS, LLC
When: 11:30 AM - 5:00 PM on Sunday, December 2nd
Where: Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, room TBD
Registration: Registration is free, but all Beverage School attendees must be registered for the BevNET Live conference. Seating is limited to 60 attendees.
Topics: Product design, introduction to sales channels, legal keys for beverage startups, the importance of branding, funding, and best business practices.
Format: 3.5 hours of presentations, followed by round table discussions with speakers and additional experts.