Don’t Forget The Taste

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Our BevNET team, in one fell swoop, organized and hosted three conferences, back to back to back. It was a labor of love or insanity, depending on your perspective. We put on our exciting new endeavor, Project NOSH, followed by BevNET Live and finally our Brewbound initiative – you can check out our coverage in this magazine and online. Each drew record attendance, and pretty universal praise for content, networking and venue. We must be doing something right.

BevNET Live, once again, proved to be the MVP event on the beverage calendar, bar none. We had over 550 very satisfied attendees, with a strong agenda, standout speakers and plenty of time for getting together with old friends or making new ones.

One of the most anticipated aspects of the conference is our New Beverage Showdown. Dozens of brands vie for the coveted title. We whittle down many aspirants to make a manageable 16 presenters to hit our stage and present. Over the years, I’ve been skeptical of the items that many of the brands offered up. I always look for the viability in the marketplace, the uniqueness, and most importantly, the taste. It’s great to have these esoteric and exotic brands, but I’m still a mainstream guy in regards to consumer acceptability. The past few contests, I haven’t been impressed with the taste propositions. While the uniqueness, positioning, and graphics are stellar, unless it passes the palate test, I can’t get excited. That has been the case far too often recently. This year’s offerings were a quantum leap better than the past events, but many still lacked the “wow factor” of taste.

The industry has been driven too far in the direction of creating functional, efficacious brands. All are infused with ingredients and concoctions that scream, “I’m different!” to merit your attention. But they won’t, unless you can make them taste great. So many of the brands presented have too high a price point to make them viable. I don’t know how many times I spoke with brand creators who feel that their products will sell, with frequency, at $3.99 and above. They won’t.

Aside from the presenters of the Showdown, many marketers, lugging their brands in cooler bags, asked for my opinion. Two were functional brands touting their benefits, and each were unrealistic in their claims: After mentioning my sore back and knees from a lifetime of sport, they guaranteed that their elixir will relieve me of my discomfort. I tried both of them and found I couldn’t drink one full bottle or shot, let alone enough to really make a difference. They, too, were retailing for more than that $3.99 line of demarcation that I feel is barely acceptable. Even if they could work, I wouldn’t give them a chance, as the regimen that they insist is necessary for success is too damn expensive.

I know I’ve said this many times, but taste should be the main, and usually, only reason for beverage consumption. Now, if one – or many – of you could combine the best of both worlds, then I’ll be your customer for life.