BevNET Live’s New Beverage Showdown 12 turned out to be something of a family affair Monday, as couples and sibling partnerships formed the entrepreneurial teams behind three of the chosen finalists – Sunniva Super Coffee, Mother Beverage and 1821 Bitters.
In total, six new beverage companies secured a slot in the New Beverage Showdown 12 final round, with IMMORDL, Venice Cold Brew and Shaka Tea rounding out the pack. They all will compete Tuesday in Santa Monica, California for the chance to win $10,000 in cash and prizes at BevNET Live. The finalists were selected from a group of 15 competitors by a group of four judges and an audience vote. Given two minutes to make their pitch, it was the drinks with strong branding and good flavor that rose to the top of a pool that traversed beverage categories – from teas to cold brew coffees to cocktail mixers.
This year’s semifinal judges included BevNET founder and CEO John Craven, Los Angeles Distributing Company co-founder Richard Medina, Coca-Cola’s SVP & general manager for craft beverages Richard Faa and Brand Sense Partners’ senior director of modern marketing Rachel Andersson.
It may have been a coincidence that three of the finalists were co-created by family members, but some of the competitors worked that into their pitch.
Sunniva Super Coffee, run by millennial brothers Jake, Jim and Jordan DeCicco, won the audience vote after they shared the story of how their high-protein, low-sugar coffee was invented by Jordan in his college dorm room to get a healthier wake-up drink. He shared it with his basketball teammates — and according to Jake and Jim in their Showdown pitch, it soon “was fueling the whole team, the whole campus and Whole Foods.”
The DeCiccos will have tough competition Tuesday as they face off against two other RTD coffee brands – Venice Cold Brew and IMMORDL. Judges were mixed on Sunniva – Faa said he liked the origin story, but wasn’t taken with the taste. Craven suggested the brand name suggested something sweet, but the bottle looked like it belonged in a gym.
The other coffee entrepreneurs also came with strong packaging and branding to present.
“This is the group that we really want to be a part of,” said Scott Holmes, CEO of nitro-infused “super coffee” IMMORDL. “We’ve only been in existence for a year so we are very much a startup.”
Husband and wife team Stephen and Allison Ellsworth, of Texas, made a different kind of appeal with Mother Beverage – a line of health-conscious apple cider vinegar drinks. The couple are targeting boutique shops and, like the DiCiccos, pitched it with a made-it-at-home origin story. Allison said she started drinking apple cider vinegar as a means to detox and soon saw marketing opportunities.
Andersson called it a “product for people in the know” and suggested the branding could focus more on health benefits. Faa praised the drink as “something with a lot of appeal and potential.”
Spouses Missy and Kristin Koefod made a last-minute impact, pitching second-to-last out of the competition but presenting fresh packaging and strong distribution with 1821 Bitters, their line of craft cocktail mixers. Kristin said the inspiration for the brand — also supported by a brick-and-mortar store in Atlanta — came from a frustration with the lack of exotic flavor options she’d found for drinks when she entertained house guests.
“I was inspired by my family. I have a lot of chefs in my family and I wanted really unusual flavors that were inspired by different ethnicities of food,” Kristin said of the line, which includes Persian, Japanese and Mexican inspired varieties.
Shaka Tea, a line of Hawaiian RTD drinks with authentic island ingredients, and L.A.-based Venice Cold Brew – which won praise from judges for its logo design – will also compete Tuesday.
Brands that competed but didn’t make the cut include Karuna, NiU Superfoods, EVIVA, TruVibe Organics, CARELA Beverages & Tea, NatureWise, Shadetree Beverage Co., Role Tea and CRUXe.