The opening day of BevNET Live 2016 featured a wide array of speakers and presentations that underscored the importance of creating unique, compelling beverage brands that fulfill specific needs, and then working closely with the right retailers to nurture and develop them further.
As Chairman and CEO of Bristol Farms, Kevin Davis brought a unique perspective to the discussion of the role of retailers in building emerging brands. Bristol Farms is a southern California-based grocery chain with 13 locations – and more stores in development – that has an entrepreneurial philosophy. It focuses on finding brands for which they can be the first retailer to bring it to market, often passing on products which have an established foothold in other stores.
“Our store needs to be compelling,” Davis said, comparing the desired customer experience to “Disneyland for adults.”
A compelling store, one in which the retailer creates value that consumers then seek out, thus requires compelling brands, as Davis emphasized how important it is for products to have a clear purpose or fulfill a specific need as the go to market. As an example, he mentioned how on a recent visit to a Kroger, he was struck by how well-known cereal brand Special K dominated a large portion of shelf space with a vast array of SKUs — an array that, in his opinion, served to dilute the brand rather than create differentiation. “We don’t need a proliferation,” Davis explained. “We just need the right product.”
Emphasizing the need for entrepreneurs with ambition and creativity, Doug Evans, founder of Juicero, discussed category disruption during the day’s opening presentation. Inspired to change his diet and lifestyle after watching his family suffer crippling health issues, Evans sought a creative and sustainable method for producing fresh cold pressed juice from organic produce at home. He encouraged entrepreneurs to look for inspiration outside of their own industry, explaining how microcomputers sparked the idea for Juicero, which includes technology that allows users to control the machine from their smartphones. The result is a machine that effectively replicates the premium juice bar experience at home on just ten inches of counter space.
Speaking about platform strategy, Lance Collins advocated for young brands to think big when getting into the business. Collins, an industry veteran who helped launch Fuze and Body Armor along with his current focus, Core Beverages, said about starting out: “I’m not just making a product. I’m making a brand.” By taking that broader approach and planning out potential line extensions well in advance, he explained how retailers would know exactly what to expect when those new products are eventually released, the way Core Hydration water helped stimulate interest in the fruit-infused Core Organics line and the forthcoming Core Energy.
In their discussion, Gerry David, CEO of Celsius, and Vanessa Walker, the company’s EVP of Sales and Marketing, shared lessons from their experience in putting the struggling fitness drink brand back on track. David described his first a 90 days as a period spent assessing the company’s strengths and weaknesses and analyzing its infrastructure. The analysis helped illuminate the path forward, resulting in the hiring of a new management team and the development of a new business plan that emphasized less SKUs, a new upscale brand identity and a deeper investment in digital media marketing, including a partnership with the streaming music app Pandora. In seeking the answers to questions about what the brand’s ideals and ultimate goals were, Walker said, she explained why Celsius had ultimately repositioned itself: from a fat-burning dietary supplement to a fitness drink with greater differentiation amongst a crowded field of competitors.
Lewis Goldstein, vice president of brand marketing for dairy brand Organic Valley, showed how a creative marketing strategy spiked with humor can boost even the most conservative of companies. As a marketing cooperative that promotes regional farm diversity and economic stability through organic products, Organic Valley was steeped in a serious and traditional outlook that took little risk and was behind the current market trends. To bring them up to date, Goldstein created a marketing campaign with a friendly, satirical bite, first parodying gym-loving “bros” to promote a protein-enhanced milk, then health conscious women and coffee snobs for subsequent video ads for breakfast shake and creamer lines. Goldstein encouraged brands to find ways to create relevance for core consumers by achieving balance between the brand’s mission and current trends.
The morning-long session concluded with acknowledgements — Bai took home brand of the year honors from BevNET’s Best Of 2016 awards, while 10 new products were also recognized, with awards, among others. Also, six brands were ushered on to the next phase of the New Beverage Showdown — heading for their own attempt to define specific needs and spaces that they, too, can fill for consumers.
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