As the summer and all its glory finally kicks in after a lackluster and rainy spring, the activity of beverages goes into high gear as well. First, we hosted another fantastic BevNET Live, with 650-plus satisfied attendees. The energy was palpable, the program stellar. We never tire of the praise we receive from guests, nor will we tire of ways to improve it all. Our role is to serve the beverage marketplace.
One of my favorite aspects of the conference is sampling the latest entries brought to the event. We had about 150 brands in the coolers. There were products of every category, every price point and every sort of package. That should make for an exciting time. Yet, here is where I can honestly express my disappointment. To those of you poor souls who have followed my columns over the years, the one constant theme has been that taste is everything. There are many aspects to successful beverage marketing but taste trumps them all. As a rule, I found many of these exotic, functional and natural brands wanting in that particular area.
I have a philosophy that if I can’t finish a bottle, can, shot, or any other offering, then the drink will not make it. While I understand that at the conference, it’s impossible to finish what I start, as I have to sample so many, I can judge after a few sips whether what I’m drinking is something I would buy. I come from the old school idea that the purpose of a beverage is primarily enjoyment and if efficacy is added to the mix, so much the better. That may be out of step with some niches, but I think scalability is tied to this formula.
I had many friends at the event – whose opinions I respect – trying brands at the same time that I was. Most of them shared the same thought that I had, that this was not a terrific crop of beverages from a taste standpoint. While we liked many of the concepts, the functional ingredients, the packaging and the strategy and marketing behind the products, it didn’t feel like the tastes were satisfying. I add the caveat that there have been years in which the sampling at the conference was terrific. Maybe it’s just an aberration. Maybe my taste buds are hardening. But I’m concerned.
Consumers are a fickle lot, with a myriad of choices. Beverage marketing is not a simple endeavor. Everything must go right and then you must be lucky. Make sure that taste is supreme – that’s a place you have control.