Held in Washington, D.C., the US Beverage Industry Expo (USBevX) is a conference produced by Wine Industry Network (WIN), but it’s not just about wine. This year’s two-day USBevX brought together hundreds of producers and industry executives from leading beverage companies across the United States, and the big discussion was the emerging “new normal” in the beverage alcohol industry, something that the craft brewing industry definitely understands (and can probably take credit for).
This new normal is driven largely by millennial consumer behavior that is creating disruptive change in the wine, spirits, craft beer and cider categories. Nielsen presented research that validates the notion of a new normal, including the launch of never-seen-before on-premise data from their newly formed Nielsen CGA Brand Index. Acknowledging consumer tendencies to “cross-drink” has driven an explosion of new brands, new flavors and innovative new business models, thought-leaders from across beverage segments took on the challenge of identifying how the new normal is affecting the industry and consumers now and in the near future.
The resounding takeaway from the conference was how brands show their true character as they go to market, which will be key to winning in the new normal. From emerging products to larger corporate brands, quality, transparency and authenticity will drive success with consumers. Innovation in product offerings seems to be driven by unorthodox precedents set by small craft producers, despite the idea that the word “craft” itself may lose allure over time due to legal wranglings over its definition as it applies to beverage alcohol. Meanwhile, packaging continues to evolve in the direction of “premiumization,” while new cues will signify what “premiumization” means in the era of scaling back on package weight and environmental impact across all categories.
“The 2016 American drinker has more options than anyone in the history of the world,” stated attendee and speaker Greg Hall, former brewmaster at Goose Island Brewery and founder of Virtue Cider. “We all must create outstanding products, memorable brands and true value if we are to have the honor of filling their glasses.”
Noted television personality and wine author Leslie Sbrocco kicked off the conference with the keynote address and said, “I was honored to be among the world-class lineup of speakers at the inaugural USBevX conference. From industry executives to national media, retail buyers to sought-after producers, the three-day seminar programming was worth the price of admission alone.”
Concurrent with the conference, a cross-industry trade show featured more than 130 of the industry’s leading suppliers showcasing products and services from production equipment to tanks, bottles, labels, hops, vineyard equipment, tasting room supplies and more.
“We’re incredibly proud in the quality of our exhibitors and our conference, and in the reaction of our attendees. As with any trade event, the primary objectives are that attendees feel it was worth their time, they would recommend attending to a friend and they plan to return. On all fronts, we hit it out of the park, and we’re looking forward to even greater success next year,” said George Christie, president and CEO of the US Beverage Industry Expo and Wine Industry Network.
Participants, including winemakers, distillers, craft brewers and cider makers participated in sessions led by some of the beverage industry’s foremost influencers from companies such as Whole Foods Market, Legal Sea Foods, Constellation, The Demeter Group, Live Oak Bank, Pavone Marketing Group, CF Napa, Beverage Media and the Wine Industry Network media group along with many others.
Dates for the 2017 U.S. Beverage Industry Expo will be Feb. 22-24, 2017.