I knew when I arrived at the office that it would be waiting for me: the dreaded email from my colleague and esteemed editor, the illustrious Jeff Klineman. It happens right before the close of every issue, his urgent, final request for my column. Now, I’ve been writing columns about the beverage industry for 23 years, but it still is something that doesn’t come easy. That’s why I ignore him until the last minute.
It gets hard to be original. I’ve covered price, packaging, promotion, professionalism, punctuality, performance, pro formas and powders. That’s only the “P”s. I have covered the rest of the alphabet too.
So, to avoid jumping in, and to keep Jeff annoyed, I’ll do what I do every day. I take my 3-mile walk around lunchtime. There is where I will find my inspiration. It’s a spectacular 78 degree day, flowers are in bloom, and there are beverages galore in the hands of the thousands. So here are some random ideas that rattle around my brain:
People love selection. There must be 80 brands I’m seeing in the hands of al fresco diners. That’s great. Personally, I get dozens of brands sent to me, for sampling, opinion, and because I shamelessly ask for them. There are too many to drink, as I’m one man in the New York office, and only have limited capacity. I offer the products to the dozens of suitemates taking space in my office center. I only ask their opinion, in return. The replies were usually so positive and I’m always asked where they can get these drinks. Sadly, they can’t. Too many of these great products still can’t get on the shelves, as distributors and retailers don’t seem to want to take a chance. While there have been greater offerings in stores, there still aren’t enough for my taste. Take a chance when some little, eager entrepreneur comes calling.
I’m happy to see that the pricing of HPP is finally coming down. They are fantastic brands that have limited their success by limiting the consumer who can afford them. Take volume over high margins, so you can grow. Continue to take costs out of the system. I still feel that $3.99 is the consumer’s threshold for frequent purchase.
There have been so many new water variations entering the arena. They are an impressive lot, and continue to proliferate. Bring them on. Healthy, hydrating and priced right, it’s a winning formula.
Milk is coming back in force. The simplicity and efficacy of the category is a win-win for retailer and consumer alike.
Sample, sample, sample, need I say more? While it’s expensive, nothing delivers better for your brand. It’s the best way, and maybe only way, to gain momentum, buzz and press for the small brands trying to make it.
Stay regional, at first. Don’t’ try to expand too fast or you’ll end up on my shelf of infamy. Visitors always ask to be placed on my shelf, but it’s comprised of mostly failed brands. Don’t join in my display.
Now it’s time for my 4-mile walk home. This week is over. So is the column. So you can stop panicking, Jeff.