In Chicago, the best city on Earth, we are hosting the National Restaurant Show this week. The NRA show, as it is so weirdly called, is the yearly showcase of all that is new, cool, and awesome in food, food service, and for about 5 years now, adult beverage. Brands and suppliers come to Chi town to talk brand, messaging, and consumer engagement.
After speaking yesterday at the show and walking the floor, there are a few things that are obvious to me as a beverage consultant.
- There are no new drinkers being created. Suppliers are creating brand extensions of successful brands, but what they are really doing is stealing a drinker from either their own brand or someone else’s.
- While distributors are in attendance with booths, they have made it clear that for the near term, they will not build your brand. They will sell it, and perhaps market it, but they will not build it.
- Since we have decided that suppliers will not create new brands because that route is expensive and unproven, and distributers will not build your brand, then the NRA show can be a showcase for brand acquisition.
- The consumer has choice fatigue or decision paralysis. So Joe Consumer, our favorite beta tester, has one liver, one mouth, and one pallet. How can Joe Consumer possibly enjoy every libation that is out there? From last count there were 50 brands being introduced weekly from the CPG front. That is a lot of adult bev.
That is the proverbial forest. The trees tell a different story. The trees communicate that you love bourbon so make one. The trees communicate that because our nations leading retailers have a thousand vodkas on the shelf, there is room for one more.
Our business is a very difficult one, and the three tier monopoly is designed to keep the small player small. I am not a discouraging person, in fact, quit the opposite; some would say that I am stupidly optimistic.
Having 1,000 Facebook fans for, “Steve’s Cherry Vodka” or “Ch. Blah-Blah Sauvignon Blanc” is great. Having 1,000 off premise customers is better.
Know the mountain is high but climbable. Know that the path is hard but scalable. Have you ever gone into a retailer off premise store on Christmas Eve and said to yourself, “jeez this owner must be minting money!” Did you go back into that same store on January 3? Not so much minting going on that day.
Go start your brand, your winery, your distillery, and brewery. Just look at the forest as well as the outlying brush. Having a keen sense of what lies ahead will better prepare your for success.
Tomorrow I go back to the show, with my clients, roughly 6 in stable, that are between 3,000-5,000 cases sold, and together we will walk into the forest.