After two days of animated and inspirational presentations, judges and audience members voted to grant Tio Gazpacho, a ready-to-drink, high-pressure processed version of the famous Spanish soup, two titles: Audience Favorite and winner of New Beverage Showdown 8, which took place at the recently held BevNET Live Winter 2014 conference.
Austin Allan, founder of Tio Gazpacho, was awarded $10,000 in cash and prizes for winning the Showdown, which was sponsored by Venturing and Emerging Brands, a division of The Coca-Cola Co. The win also, hopefully, helped allay the fears of Allan’s parents, who, he noted, had been terrified by his decision to start making the stuff.
Although Tio Gazpacho is currently only being distributed in Florida, there were already signs before the competition was over that it was a brand on the move, as Allan’s contact info became a hot property even before the judging was over.
Still, the double win wasn’t easy: after a tough and meticulously critiqued semi-finals round during BevNET’s New Beverage Showdown on Monday, six finalists were chosen to represent the country’s best and most on-trend beverages. They included Genius Juice, a cold-pressed, coconut milk-based smoothie; Molly’s Milk Truck, a premium coffee and chai made from almond milk; Tio Gazpacho; Black Medicine, a pressure-brewed ready-to-drink iced coffee; Cocobeet, an organic, cold-pressed juice, smoothie, and detox libation made from organic superfruits and vegetables; and Jade Monk, a high-pressure processed, on-the-go matcha drink.
In contrast to the Monday elimination round’s shorter, elevator-style pitches, on Tuesday, each brand was given five minutes to make final presentations to the audience and judges. Posing as a rebel with a cause, Hoda Mahmoodzadegan, founder of Molly’s Milk Truck, said she was pushing a wholesome concept of one-of-a-kind coffees and chai with the bold branding message of being “f-ing delicious.” Her idea, she said, came after quitting a job she hated. Other brands, like Cocobeet and Jade Monk, continued to emphasize an emphasis on health, saying their brands originated due to a family illness and the need to change what they put into their bodies.
Audience members did get to vote for the audience favorite, and while the prize was not $10,000 (the winner did get a free ticket to attend a future BevNET Live conference), it still gave brand founders, in this case, Allan, boasting rights to have won the hearts and taste buds of over 500 food and drink beverage professionals attending.
On the judging panel were Rebecca Messina, Vice President of Global Marketing and Capabilities of Venturing and Emerging Brands; Neil Kimberley, Vice President of Strategy and Brand Development at Essentia Water; Ken Sadowsky, Senior Beverage Advisor at Verlinvest; John Craven, CEO and founder of BevNET; and Patrick Posey, Vice President of Sales at Bristol Farms.
Judges did not hold back in their critique questioning each brand’s pricing, taste, labeling, and branding message. Nevertheless, judges expressed that they do see a future for all these brands in the market and really hope that contestants take the critique as advice to further their brands — particularly if, as both Allan and Mahmoodzadegan had, they had quit their jobs to enter their business.
As Sadowsky noted, “never underestimate the power of hate as a motivator.”