The beverage business blog from Andy Morton
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Muhtar Kent and the US$21.6m price of leadership
01 Mar 2013 17:22
It was a good 2012 for Muhtar Kent, who was paid US$21.6m for his position at the helm of The Coca-Cola Co, according to AP today (1 March).
It was $400,000 more than he got the year before, AP said, mainly because of the increase in basic salary Coca-Cola furnished him with. Perhaps the company knows just how tough it must be to run a soft drinks company these days, with pressures over obesity issues increasing and sugar prices ruining margins.
For that sort of pay packet, though, I'm sure there's a few people out there who'd be willing to give it a go.
Fridges stay cool with fresh innovation
28 Feb 2013 16:06
There has been a spate of late in the world of fridge innovation.
Last week, ahead of its full-year results, SodaStream unveiled a US$3,899 Samsung refrigerator that dispenses the company's patented fizzy water from its front door. And on Wednesday (27 February) Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) released an interactive retail cooler that can tell customers what deals are in play, and features digital panels that act like a giant smartphone.
There's some wobbly footage of the CCA fridge in the Youtube clip below, which gives some idea of its capabilities. This one holds Beam Inc's Devils Cut & cola RTD, which is only available in Australia.
Broccoli haters enjoy fruits of smoothie-makers' labour
27 Feb 2013 12:57
But last week, independent smoothie maker Savse launched its vegetable-and-fruit concoctions in the UK while yesterday (26 February) US healthy-eating franchise Tropical Smoothie Cafe unveiled its own line of vegetable smoothies with a fruity twist.
I sense a trend.
Savse told me that the fruit sweetens the more bitter vegetable edge and swears that most people who buy its broccoli smoothie can't taste the broccoli. The company is marketing it at parents looking to smuggle veggies into their children's diets, but it's also supposedly a hit with athletes looking for some tasty nutrition.
So, will others dare follow the smoothie lead? Campbells already has its on-trade V8 line while, in China, convenience stores carry a good selection of locally-made, and heavily-sweetened, fruit-and-vegetable RTD juices. As obesity issues increasingly influence consumer choice, how long will it be before we see more broccoli and berry fusions?
Yes, we can, says Boston Beer Co
20 Feb 2013 16:41
Boston Beer Co founder Jim Koch has long been no fan of the can, believing glass superior to aluminium in the delivery of beer to mouth.
Seems like he's changed his mind.
Yesterday, we reported that Boston Lager will soon be available in the “Sam Can”, Boston Beer Co's first aluminium offering, named after its Samuel Adams brand. "In the past, I had my doubts," Koch said. "But cans have changed."
The Sam Can has a wider lip, which apparently helps deal with one of Koch's main bugbears - that air can't circulate in the palate as well with cans as with bottles. Of course, it'll also solve that other problem for Koch – that only selling lager in glass bottles severely limits your customer base. With its new-fangled can, Boston Beer Co takes another step into the mainstream.
Divine intervention from the Maker for Beam Inc
12 Feb 2013 16:06
It was yesterday's big news – an almost unprecedented decision that shook an old and venerated institution to its core and shocked legions of faithful followers.
No, not the Pope resigning, but Beam Inc lowering the abv of Maker's Mark by 3%.
The Vatican's HR issues may have diluted the global coverage of “Kentuckygate”, as I think it ought to be called, but there was still plenty of invective on Twitter from Bourbon drinkers who want Beam's management to follow Pope Benedict XVI down to the employment office.
“I'm still processing Maker's Mark treachery on a lizard-brain, instinctual level,” drinks magazine Modern Drunkard tweeted, while cooler heads at The Atlantic magazine branded it "a risky move".
just-drinks editor Olly Wehring believes watering-down Maker's Mark is not quite the iconoclastic swipe against all that is holy some would have us believe, and was done at the alter of expediency rather than Mammon. You can read his thoughts here.
There might be another angle to this, though. Maker's Mark is by far more popular in the US than anywhere else. But, could Beam be about to launch a brand push to the rest of the world, where people care less about Maker's Mark's traditional alcohol profile? After all, 42% brings it closer in line with other international spirits and more likely to turn a profit in Bangalore and Bangkok.
And, surely that is something every Beam exec prays for.
Star "creatives" get their feet under the boardroom table
08 Feb 2013 16:17
Anheuser-Busch Inbev announced today that Justin Timberlake is joining its Bud Light Platinum team to help the brand with “creative insights”.
We at just-drinks don't know whether the former boy-band star turned serious actor/musician is tasked with bringing the sexy back to Bud Light (that's the obligatory Timberlake song reference out of the way, in case you didn't notice), but it does highlight a corporate shift in the way famous faces are being used to market wares. No longer is it enough to appear on the product and in the TV ad, today's stars require a corner office and a key to the executive bathroom.
Yesterday, celebrity designer Marc Jacobs signed up with Diet Coke and for some time now Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg has been plugging away on behalf of Aqua Hydrate water (he's even part-owner).
The idea is they can bring their unique knowledge of the cultural landscape to the table, presumably blasting a down-with-the-kids shock of fresh ideas through the dusty corridors of corporate HQ.
Oh, and they also appear in the TV ad.
Illicit stills and a dose of patriotism
06 Feb 2013 12:33
Moonshine operations are on the rise in Oklahoma, but one newspaper is firmly behind the illegal liquor merchants.
“Distilling moonshine for personal use is a God-given, American right,” the Oklahoma Daily thundered until it was red, white and blue in the face. Apparently, those meddling “wig-wearing” politicians refuse to drop the moonshine tax, much to the Daily's annoyance. As it says, “Would we tax a backyard vegetable garden or chicken coop making eggs?”
Last year, an analyst told me that Russia's low-value vodka makers are finding consumers either trading up to premium spirits or falling down into the illegal, non-taxed sector. With US beverage companies seemingly more fixated on premiumisation than ever, perhaps Oklahoma's moonshiners will find their customer base increasing correspondingly.
Then those wig-wearers might have something to worry about.
Bottled water weighs in as bans start to trickle
21 Jan 2013 17:00
Earlier this month, a town in Massachusetts banned the sale of bottled water in containers smaller than one litre, while last week news broke that the University of Vermont has outlawed all on-campus water bottle sales.
The bans are for environmental reasons, and in places like UVM - fiercely proud of its natural habit - not especially surprising. But could this trend spread?
The US-based International Bottled Water Association has already hit back, saying the bans “are not in the public interest”, especially with the country facing a rise in the number of overweight people.
Interesting to note that while one sector of the beverage industry is being attacked with the obesity issue, another uses it as a defence.
Molson Coors as good as its word with cider launch
17 Jan 2013 16:41
There's no guarantee Molson Coors' new cider offering in the UK, Carling British Cider, will make a dent in an increasingly crowded sector.
But what Monday's launch did show was that Coors was serious when it said in November that it will push ahead with innovations to plug a hole in its premium portfolio.
No doubt Coors will hope Carling British Cider will follow in the footsteps of Carling Zest - a summer and winter innovation that has found traction - and not go down the road of the now-discontinued “lady beer” Animée.
In the world of innovations, not all are created equal.
Scotch for the Scots?
10 Jan 2013 16:04
A BBC Scotland investigation, aired last night, got all hot and bothered over the apparent lack of benefit whisky companies were according the country, particularly now business elites from Anhui to Angola are pushing profits ever higher.
An economics professor even suggested slapping a water tax on every bottle - it is, after all, only Scottish water that can be used to make real Scotch. (The Scotch Whisky Association yesterday heaped scorn on any so-called "tartan tax".)
But the programme's main beef – that not enough whisky companies are based in Scotland – may partly be offset by two stories out of the badlands of Fife this week. One, that a new whisky maker has received planning permission for a 4m-litre distillery, is on a far larger scale than the other, which saw funding secured for a 150,000-litre 'boutique' plant. But both are Scottish-owned and based and, though catering for widely disparate markets, are being aided by the Scottish Government.
In a comment piece last week, I mentioned the Food Processing Marketing and Cooperation grant that is set to play a key role in the setting up of smaller-scale, locally-owned distilleries, similar to the hundreds around the US that have added colour and diversity to the North American whiskey market.
The grant is targeted and focused on assistance for small-business development - surely a much better idea for Scotch, and Scotland, than a blanket tax hike.
You can view the BBC Scotland programme, Scotched Earth, here (only available in the UK).