I just returned from another dynamic Expo East show.
The bad part is that we were there during two beautiful pre-fall days in Baltimore, and we sadly had to spend them inside. The good part is that the show was all sunshine and flowers for the thousands in attendance. Over 100 beverage companies populated the halls, all with a story to tell and excitement to share.
I’ll address my observations, but first I just want to touch upon something that is part of our new world food order that baffles me.
I have been, and continue to be, perplexed with the plethora of “Gluten-Free” products that comprise the lion’s share of exhibitors. While I may be sorely under-educated, I struggle to understand why why there are so many products of this ilk when a microscopic percentage of our populace is afflicted with Celiac Disease. Shouldn’t there be an appropriate amount of brands to serve the people that actually need a gluten free diet? To me, the preponderance of these products is an overkill of huge proportions.
We have always had diet fads and “hot” categories, but this takes the cake. Eating healthy should be the goal, but connecting it to an actual deficiency is silly. Create a regimen that eliminates wheat, but using Celiac Disease as the motivation makes no sense. There are enough innovative ways to market new brands, but this isn’t one of them.
Enough said, on to the beverages.
As I covered the halls, sampled the drinks and spoke to the companies, I was heartened by the number of brands that have hit the refresh button to keep themselves current. There were so many formulation tweaks, new SKUs and packages I thought my head might spin. So many marketers have made tremendous efforts to keep their brands relevant. The marketplace will obviously be the final judge, but to my eyes, many of the new looks, labels, graphics and proprietary packages seemed to be right on target. Cleaning up a mature brand gives it new energy and keeps it going forward. I was duly impressed by how many marketers took the time and effort to create a buzz. For the most part, the brands I sampled were improvements from their earlier incarnations, as they should be. Combined with the multitude of new sku’s introduced, creativity was the standard. I applaud these efforts.
As we head into the heart of the 2015 sell-in period, there is a lot to offer. Marketers have done their homework; hopefully, they will be rewarded for their efforts. They’ve already got my attention.