I have an unabashed love of all things beverage. For 24 years now I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of the joy that this industry has to give. I consider myself lucky to be sought as counsel and sounding board, to have been brought on as an informal critic for launches, re-positions and postmortems for hundreds of brands. I have been privy to business plans, graphic executions and ad programs. I’ve sampled more than my share of formulations, and am always as brutally honest as I can be. As I’ve written in these columns, it’s all about the taste.
More often than not, I’m immersed in the day-to-day and don’t have an opportunity to step back and put in perspective the life cycle of the industry. Last week, though, in three meetings, I got a chance.
The first meeting was a joy. A young, excited man came to me to present a concept, a few sketches and the rough framework of a brand he wanted to launch. The unbridled enthusiasm, and naïveté, were reminders that the entrepreneurial spirit still lives. I tried to temper him with doses of reality. Distribution, logistics, co-packers, funding, and the obstacles in his path. He would have no part of it. He had a dream, and he was going to achieve it, no “ifs”, no “ands”, no “buts”. If energy, positivity and good karma are the final arbiters, he just might reach his goal. I will be pulling for him, and I’m thankful he took me away from the skepticism and negativity for a little while. I’ve steeled myself over the years because of harsh reality, but listening to him re-kindled why I love this industry so much.
My second meeting was with a long- time friend and serial beverage sales person. I’ve known him through many incarnations and companies over the years. I think he’s terrific, but he has too many dots on his resume. He came because he’s on the prowl for a new position, and figured I’d be a good resource in his search, which is somewhat correct. I’ve connected many people to companies over the years, and helped situate them into new positions. I enjoy helping friends. The visit helped me focus on the nomadic life so many people in the industry have, and how unusual it is for someone to remain at one company for their career. Stability is not a term often used in relation to the industry. I wish it were the case, and feel for the many players who don’t have it. There are so many good people out there just trying to make a living. I hope they can continue to do so.
My third visit was with a friend from beverages past. He left the industry many years ago. He felt his opportunities were diminishing and jumped. He’s achieved much success there, but still looks back to his beverage days as the most enjoyable of his career. He wished he could be back in the mix.
I think what the meetings reminded me of is the fact that once you’ve had beverages in your blood, it’s hard to separate from it. Last week I met with different cycles of the beverage life, the start, the trying to hang on, and the regret of leaving. It’s a microcosm of life. I wish them all well.