Day one of BevNET Live Summer 2017 proved to be sweet for the six brands moving on to compete in tomorrow’s New Beverage Showdown 13 finals.
Representatives from Ugly Drinks, Lion Tea, Rise Brewing Co., Smart Pressed Juice, Mooala, Cannabinoid Creations, FYLO, Limitless Coffee & Tea, Ounce Water, Remedy Organics, Inspired Brews, and Still Thyme Soda all faced off in the competition’s semifinal round, held at Metropolitan West in New York City on Tuesday morning.
Of those brands, Rise Brewing Co., Ounce Water, Remedy Organics, Mooala and Ugly Drinks all secured their spots in Wednesday’s final round. Smart Pressed Juice also advanced and was the winner of the audience vote. Those finalists are now one step closer to winning a grand prize of $10,000 in cash and prizes, in addition to brand exposure and buzz.
Each of the 12 brands had two minutes to pitch to a panel of judges and show that their brand has what it takes in taste and tactics to be a successful business. The semifinal round judging panel included Matthew Mitchell, VP of Investments and Ventures at Venturing & Emerging Brands, Matt Jimenez, Sr. Category Manager of Grocery at Whole Foods Market, Zoe Feldman, Managing Director at Cleveland Avenue, and Mike Schneider, CMO at BevNET.
From banana-based non-dairy milks and nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee to uniquely positioned flat and sparkling waters, it was the drinks with strong branding and tasty flavors that caught the judging panel’s attention. Jimenez told BevNET that the finalists “were very obvious” to him.
“In general what we saw is that the brands that have a little more maturity behind the concept and the idea — and when I say maturity obviously not market maturity, but more well-baked ideas — those stood out,” he said. “The brands that came with much more fully defined ideas and self defined ideas of what they wanted to be in the marketplaces are the ones that made it.”
The pitches began with New York-based Rise Brewing’s Jarrett McGovern talking about how he thinks his nitrogen-infused coffee company can break through a crowded category. And he wasn’t the only brand looking to enter a crowded space. Hugh Thomas, of Ugly Water, Matt Matros, of Limitless Coffee and Tea, Meghan Rossi, of Ounce Water, Annie Niou Vonheim, of Smart Pressed, and Jessa Stevens, of Inspired Brew, all presented on how they think their brands can cut through clutter on shelves by playing to trending consumer buying habits and lifestyle positioning.
Functionality was also a theme as differentiators for numerous brands. Remedy Organics’ Cindy Kasindorf, FYLO’s Colin Maguire, Cannabinoid Creations’s Scott Leshman, Lion Tea’s Ray DeRosa and Still Thyme Soda’s Dejung Gewissler focused on how their ingredients ranging from botanicals to cannabidiol translated to health benefits for consumers.
Judges like Schneider applauded this year’s competitors for “being bold and courageous,” but noted that “each of these brands could use a little crispness.”
Wednesday’s winner gain a seat at the winner’s table with brands like Health-Ade, MALK, Tio Gazpacho, Coco Cafe and Grady’s Cold-Brew. You can catch all the action streaming live on BevNET.com with the first round beginning at 10:40 a.m. The second round of the finals begins at 1 p.m. EST.
“I’m most excited to see who’s going to win,” Jimenez said. “It’s a pretty diverse group of folks that got through, and they are all very differentiated from each other in category in terms of what they can provide for the market.”
Stay tuned to BevNET.com for more coverage from BevNET Live Summer 2017.