There was the dramatic announcement, the roaring audience and the jumbo check. Despite no confetti or fanfare, New Beverage Showdown 4 at BevNET Live in Santa Monica, CA, featured many traits of a rousing game show.
Spacho, the gazpacho-inspired vegetable juice by Romano Palenzona and Adrian Criscaut, persuaded the judges panel and took the contest crown after topping runner-up CoGo, a coconut milk smoothie, and 18 other startup brands of varying ingredients and business models. With the victory, BevNET will grant Spacho a $5,000 prize and another $5,000 in advertising credit.
When they weren’t soaking themselves in the event’s vast reservoir of information, startups at BevNET Live took the stage and shared their innovations and plans with some of the industry’s elite at the New Beverage Showdown– BevNET’s biannual contest for rising beverage entrepreneurs with fewer than $1 million in funding, $2 million in revenue and 12 months on the market.
On Monday morning, the conference’s first day, all 20 participants spent three minutes pitching their brands to the panel of judges: Michael Burgmaier, managing director with Silverwood Partners, Matthew Mitchell, director of strategic initiatives with the Venturing & Emerging Brands Group at Coca-Cola Co., Nick Giannuzzi, founder of the Giannuzzi Group, Julie Suntrup, senior VP of Business Development with Switch, and MetaBrand founder Eric Schnell. The judges evaluated the brands on concept, taste, packaging, function, market readiness and what can only be termed “it” factor.
The six finalists that made it to day two included the aforementioned Spacho and CoGo, +Plus Red Elixir, an agave sweetened energy drink, FitPro, a milk-based protein drink free of gluten and lactose, Zingiwell, an antioxidant drink loaded with turmeric, and Aquation, which calls itself a purified spring water that benefits teeth with xylitol, a plant-based sweetener. However the second day’s judges panel, which included Bill Weiland, founder or Presence Marketing, Chandra Holt, former senior buyer at Target, Terry Fitch, senior vice president and general manager for Coca-Cola Co.’s west region, Kara Goldin, CEO and founder of HINT Water, and Ken Sadowsky, a senior beverages advisor for Verlinvest, chose Spacho as the most likely to compel a buyer.
“We actually did like certain attributes of all six brands,” Weiland said as the panel began its big reveal.
Spacho, dubbed by its founders as “the next generation veggie juice” and a solid meal replacement, is made of tomato, cucumber, peppers, salt, cumin, extra virgin olive oil, sherry wine vinegar, garlic and onion. High in potassium, fiber and lycopene, the recipe is inspired by Andalusian gazpacho and has a similar taste to the popular soup.
“Spacho is the epitome of the mediterranean diet,” Palenzona said.
Most of the judges were discouraged with Spacho’s high sodium content (680 mg, 28 percent DV), however the brand plans on trading its current use of sodium chloride for a sea salt they claim has 57 percent less sodium.
“I think that all of the executions were really good,” Sadwosky said. “All of them were missing just one or two components.”
“Who really knows how big these categories can really be?” Fitch said.