The pandemic triggered an increased demand for functional and immune-boosting products over the past year – something that founders and judges paid attention to as they vied for the top prize in BevNET’s New Beverage Showdown 21 Semifinals.
The competition saw 12 beverage startups giving two-minute pitches, with six of those entrepreneurs moving on to the final round, which will air Thursday, June 17. The online pitch slam precedes BevNET and NOSH Virtually Live, which will be held on June 22 and 23.
The final round of competitors includes functional rehydration sports drink Barcode, plant-based punch Chiki Chiki Boom Boom, ready-to-drink non-alcoholic ‘alt-cocktail’ NOPE Beverages, agua fresca fruit drink Agua Bonita, dairy-free milk alternative Avocadomilk, and, in the sixth spot, the audience’s pick: functional tea Happy Being.
These beverage brands were selected from a group that also included hibiscus water Ruby, Blind Tiger spirit-free cocktail, functional sports drink Electra, prebiotic sparkling water Gist, adaptogen-infused recovery drink Unlit, and protein coffee Projo.
The judges for the semi finals round included BevNET CMO Mike Schneider, VP of CPG Marketing & Innovation at L.A. Libations Bonnie Shah, VP of Emerging Brands Within New Revenue Streams at The Coca-Cola Company Matt Hughes and Green Spoon Co-Founder & CEO Kari Pedriana.
The official sponsor of this year’s New Beverage Showdown 21 is Coca-Cola’s Venturing and Emerging Brands Unit (VEB).
A common theme was easily discernible in the mix: founders are confident in better-for-you beverages with functional benefits, from innovations within the non-alcoholic, social beverage space to plant-based low-sugar sports drink alternatives. Judges commended every competitor in the round for targeting a specific consumer need through an emerging but scalable product.
“I love the notion of the blurring of categories we are seeing around the sports occasion,” said Hughes. “What 50 years ago was just Gatorade – which basically defined what sports drinks are – there’s now groupings of brands around this idea of a hydration approach to a sports occasion with functionality. It’s really interesting to see what is happening in general across that landscape of what people are looking for in terms of the occasion.”
The New Beverage Showdown 21 champion will be announced at 5:30 PM ET on June 17, following Thursday’s final round. The final round of the competition will feature extended, five-minute pitches which can be viewed on BevNET.com. An additional group of industry gatekeepers will also host a live Q&A session with the finalists.
The winner of the competition will receive a $10,000 ad package and join the ranks of previous New Beverage Showdown champions such as Kite, Moment, Corsa, HopTea, CANN, RISE Brewing Co., and Health-Ade Kombucha.