BevNET Live Winter’16 Review

What Happened at BevNET Live Winter 2016


From investors to innovators and beyond, an array of the beverage industry’s best and brightest came together to at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in Los Angeles, California on Dec. 5-6 for the winter edition of BevNET Live 2016.
Opening the first day’s program, Doug Evans, founder of Juicero, discussed category disruption, encouraging entrepreneurs to look for inspiration outside of their own industry. As an example, he cited how microcomputers sparked the idea for Juicero, which includes technology that allows users to control the machine from their smartphones.

Getting from the counter to the supermarket, Kevin Davis, Chairman and CEO of Bristol Farms, emphasized the importance of having a product with a clear purpose or that answers a specific need before going to market.

Industry veteran Lance Collins, who helped launch Core Hydration, among other brands, encouraged entrepreneurs to take a holistic approach in building their companies. Of his approach, he said “I’m not just making a product. I’m making a brand.”

Gerry David, CEO of Celsius, and Vanessa Walker, the company’s EVP of Sales and Marketing, discussed their successful efforts in getting the brand back on track by focusing on SKU reduction and a new upscale identity.

The opening day’s morning session concluded with acknowledgements and BevNET’s Best of 2016 awards; Bai took home brand of the year honors.

Day Two kicked off with a “State of the Market” address from Kathryn Peters, executive vice president of business development at SPINS, and Brian Reed, principal at IRI. The pair highlighted the strength of the better-for-you trend across all beverage categories in the current marketplace, noting that natural beverages are driving 40 percent of dollar growth in the industry.

Next, KarpReilly analyst Drew Skolnik and vice president Ryan Greene chronicled their experiences in making investments in beverage brands such as KeVita, Spindrift, LifeAID and Zola.

Other financial matters involved a pair of smaller private equity firms: Melissa Baker, president and CEO of Fenwick Brands, spoke about her experience in identifying high-potential brands, usually in the $1-5 million revenue range, for investment. Later, Arif Fazal, founder and managing director of Blueberry Ventures, which typically makes first-stage investments valued at about $500,000, underlined the importance of prioritizing slow and steady progress over rapid results.

3As the co-founder of WTRMLN WTR, Jody Levy has seen the company experience tremendous growth since launching in 2013. Drawing on the lessons of her experience, she discussed the importance of establishing a clear voice and a dedicated mission when starting a brand.

Dairy and dairy-substitute products were the topics of Ripple co-founders’ Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger’s presentation, during which they asked pointed questions about the validity of health claims related to almond milk.

Following a presentation by LifeAID’s Orion Melehan that tracked his steps in leading a revamp of the struggling brand, Courtney Reum, co-founder of VEEV Spirits, closed out the BevNET Live Winter 2016 program with a discussion of how the non-alcoholic beverage industry could apply some of the growth strategies that have proved successful in the liquor and spirits category.


Putting an innovative and approachable spin on an established niche health drink, Dallas, Tex.-based Mother Beverage won the 12th edition of BevNET Live’s New Beverage Showdown in Santa Monica, Calif. on the strength of its organic fruit and herb-infused apple cider vinegars.

The two-day competition gave 15 emerging brands a chance to share their product and business plan with the BevNET Live audience and a panel of expert judges, with the winner receiving $10,000 in cash and prizes. Participants were spread across a wide range of categories, including coffee, functional beverages, sports drinks and bitters.

After all 15 brands presented to the judges on day one, IMMORDL, Venice Cold Brew, Shaka Tea Sunniva Super Coffee, Mother Beverage and 1821 Bitters were selected to progress to the final round via a combination of audience voting and judges’ ruling.

2In the final, BevNET founder and CEO John Craven was joined on the judges panel by Ken Sadowsky, a Senior Beverage Advisor at Verlinvest, Kim Paige, vice president of marketing and innovation at Coca-Cola VEB, Nicole Fry, Managing Partner at First Beverage Group and Greg Fleishman, co-founder of Purely Righteous Brands.

Mother ultimately prevailed from the competitive field, earning praise from the judges for its low-sugar content and intriguing flavor combinations.

Speaking with BevNET after their win, Mother co-founders Stephen and Allison Ellsworth echoed the judging panel’s comments regarding the importance of having clean, clear labeling and said they planned to use the prize winnings to make improvements to their production facility and improve efficiency.