Flying again, as this is what we do, but the mission this week was an important one. Judging brands in an awards event. I am coming back to Chicago from the 1st ever PR%F (proof) Awards in Las Vegas. I was a judge and there were at least 300 or so brands entered into the competition. All the brands were blind tasted and randomly placed. Secrecy and purity of rating was all but guaranteed. The room was packed with roughly 20 judges and the process went on for 48 hours. That is the down and dirty on the event, now for the gut check.
There are hundreds, thousands if not tens of thousands of quality brands out there. We looked at 300+ just this week. There are wines, beers and spirits that deserve a place on back bars and racking globally yet many do not see the florescent light of day. We tasted across all categories and from many talented suppliers yet 90% will not cross the 1000 case mark in depletions annually. How is it that the business we love most is also the hardest to make an impact in? How is it that in our business, quality does not always rise to the top but rather marketing dollars push average to the top and lack of marketing dollars force great down.
The BevStrat team is so fortunate. We get makers from all over Earth to provide samples to us for representation and to help market in all our active states. Behind every bottle is a story of “why”. Behind all the labels are detailed examples of quality, professionalism, and a never-ending desire to put a great product out there into the market. We are struck by the craftsmanship that people put into their supplier “art” and grateful that we can judge it. The shitty part is that many won’t see it to 1000 cases in market. This is not a reflection of the brand specifically but rather the stacked deck of the three tier that works really well to promote the big guys while inevitably keeping the little guy in check.
Here are some takeaways from the sampling of brands:
- Gin is hot, hot, hot
- Anything Mezcal is also on trend and will be for some time
- Flavored vodka is waning and is more about brand extension than innovation
- If you are making a vodka, make a kick ass one that no one can touch in terms of pricing, packaging, marketing and quality
- Whiskey that is “chemically” aged was universally panned
- Focus on label as much as liquid
- Bottle height matters and should match price point and shelf position
- $20-30 price point on shelf is a key placeholder
Judging both renewed my faith in our collective creative but also reminded me how incredibly hard it is to launch a brand. Now, of course, we help and sell/ market and support what you are doing, but brands are entering the market at a greater pace than brands are leaving the market. These award events and many like them are a great way to get a leg up on competing brands and help with the visual pull off the shelf.
No one likes to be judged. Especially brand owners but the consumer pull that we so often speak about, is based on scores, reviews and ratings, long before there is a liquid to lips encounter. Congrats to all the participants in the Pr%f awards and keep fighting the good fight. Your brand will make its way to the consumer if you are an active and positive supplier.
Three Tier Talk
by Brian Rosen, www.BevStrat.com
Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.
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