Day One of BevNET Live Challenged Startups To Find Point of Differentiation

Startups and growing brands heard it repeatedly—investors with full pockets are waiting for your next marketable innovation.

This was a steady mantra at BevNET Live in Santa Monica on Dec. 3 and 4, a conference that gathered representatives of the beverage industry from across the world to engage in panels, presentations, expositions and a sampling bar. The dichotomy of startups and veterans was palpable, but no matter a brand’s experience, the theme remained: good ideas with proper management can make their dent.

The conference began with the opening round of the New Beverage Showdown, a contest geared at finding the industry’s best brand with less than $1 million in funding, $2 million in revenue and 12 months on the market. 20 brands, including eventual winner Spacho, presented their beverage ideas and business models to a panel of judges that rated concept, taste, packaging, function, market readiness and what can only be described as “it” factor.

Mark Wahlberg

The next portion of the conference certainly didn’t lack the “it” factor. Mark Wahlberg, actor, producer and former rapper, joined BevNET editor Jeffrey Klineman for an onstage interview that touched on AquaHydrate, a performance water brand of which Wahlberg holds shares, his balancing of Hollywood and business, and even a little talk of Celtics vs. Lakers.

Wahlberg admitted that he’s currently a student of the beverage industry, but he doesn’t consider himself merely an endorser of AquaHydrate. He said that during his training for the 2010 film The Fighter, he took his workouts to another level with immediate results from the performance water. He said that he awoke easier and hadn’t changed anything in his routine except for what he was drinking.

“A name can get you to try it the first time,” Wahlberg said. “But it’s the quality of the product that brings people back.”

That kind of true connection with the product eased him into committing time to an atypical endeavor.

“It’s definitely out of my comfort zone,” he said.