The beverage business blog from Andy Morton
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Reputation re-building as Mr 'New Coke' heads to Castle
10 May 2013 14:38
There's an old joke that riffs on an unfortunate elderly farmer who can't live down an amorous encounter with a fluffy farm animal. Never mind that it happened once, and a long time ago at that, he's destined to be forever known around his local village by a nickname I can't repeat here.
I remembered the joke today when I read about a former CMO of the Coca-Cola Co who is joining the board of directors at Castle Brands, a spirits and wines brand developer based out of New York. Sergio Zyman is a multiple author, writer of such memorable slogans as “Coke Is It” and a man who reportedly sold a majority stake in his marketing firm for US$63.8m.
However, because he was behind the fiasco that was 'New Coke', he won't be remembered for any of that. Instead any story on Zyman (including ours) will forever refer to him first and foremost as “the guy who gave us New Coke”.
Some things you can never live down.
Russia's rich fuelling a brewing revolution
15 Mar 2013 12:34
Just-drinks is at BeerX (15 March), the annual get-together of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).
It's in Sheffield, but maybe SIBA should consider a branch meeting in St Petersburg. According to a sales manager for Keg Technik, a German keg filling manufacture, the real brewing action is in Russia, where rich businessmen are investing spare cash in their own vanity breweries.
“They're sprouting up like mushrooms,” said Christopher, whose company is tapping into the growing demand for equipment from these wealthy hobbyists, who are apparently making good profits.
You heard it here first folks.
Stevia - a bitter pill for sugar?
14 Mar 2013 15:01
There's an interesting article on sugar prices in this week's New York magazine that will no doubt raise the ire of soft drinks executives.
It claims that despite massive government subsidies - and a recent big harvest - the US sugar industry is keeping prices artificially high.
But while the writer calls for an Occupy Sugar protest, the US drinks companies paying through the nose for sugar may have another answer. More stevia-based beverages are coming down the pipe each week, from PepsiCo's Trop50 range to The Coca-Cola Co's revamped Sprite, and the natural extract, which is 30 times sweeter than sugar, could insulate firms from the sugar industry.
As I wrote this year, stevia growers are already benefiting from an increase in interest in the plant.
Of course, who's to say that a few years down the line we won't need protecting from the all-powerful stevia lobby, who's huge profits have won it the ear of Washington and the patronage of the president?
Remember, you heard it here first - Occupy Stevia!
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.