Winning in the beverage space isn’t easy. To find the secret ingredients for growth, we set out to BevNET Live and talked to execs who are manufacturing success at the store level. See a video you like? Simply click on the link in the corner to see the full interview with that brand!
See Mile's full interview!
Hey everybody, I’m hanging out here at BevNET Live with Melanie, founder of Poppilou. So my first question for you is: how did you get your start in this industry?
So I got my start in this industry basically because I had a pregnancy craving for citrus. And I decided because I couldn’t find the right kind of lemonade on the market that I would make my own, so that’s why I created Poppilou Lemonade.
Wow, that’s awesome. So next question for you is: what do you think has been the secret to your success so far?
I think the secret to success -- well, not that I’ve necessarily been successful yet, but hopefully I’m on my way -- is being really passionate about it and wanting to see it through. People have told me that you’ll have your best week and your worst week in the same week. And I can tell you from personal experience that that is true! On Monday I might have the best news and on Tuesday it may be the worst. So the secret to success hopefully is going to be to survive the week.
Very practical advice! Speaking of advice, what piece of advice would you give to someone in the same position as you right now?
One piece of advice would be: don’t quit your day job. So if you can do this on the side that would be even better because it can be so high risk. But I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek because the reality is you have to put your all in, or else it probably won’t ever go anywhere. So you know, if I had the luxury of doing something else at the same time and earling a nice big paycheck while doing this that would be wonderful, but the reality is you have to go all in.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite product that you don’t make?
I’m going to give a little plug to friends of mine at Hello Water. It’s a great brand, and they’re probably my favorite non-Poppilou brand in the refreshments space. But there’s nothing better than Poppilou!
So I’m here, hanging out at BevNET Live with Josh, Founder and CEO of Force Brands. Josh, my first question for you is: how did you get your start in the industry?
Well I used to have a brand, a rum company, before I got into the natural beverage space and natural food space. But, being an operator and feeling the pressure of building our business, it became really clear that we needed to find amazing people to grow our business. And there was no national platform out there for emerging beverage brands to find really talented professionals in sales, marketing, finance or ops to grow their business. So I started it because I’ve always been a connector and there was no resource. Now we get to work with hundreds of thousands of beverage companies and food companies and help them build their team.
That sounds awesome. You’re definitely bringing a lot of experience to this industry, so my question is: what would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
My secret? The people that I surround myself with. They are very good listeners that are interested in hearing the stories of the founders and the people that are looking for career opportunities, and we make those connections.
Awesome stuff. Final question of the day is: what is your favorite product on the market right now that you don’t make?
I work with lots of brands and I’m not gonna pick a favorite. I’m gonna say that, categorically, what I’m really excited about would probably be watermelon water.
Hey everybody, I’m hanging out here at BevNET Live with Stuart, founder of Dr. D’s Delicious Sparkling Probiotic. So Stuart, would you like to tell us how you got your start in the industry?
Well I started making this at home. I’m a licensed acupuncturist, chinese herbal medicine doctor. And I started making this for my family, friends, for my kids. My wife kept telling me, “Oh man, this stuff tastes so amazing - we should turn this into a business.” We did! We got together with our neighbor - I live in a cohousing community. My neighbor has his background in fermentation as well, he also knows all of the computer end of the business, so it’s really great - synergy. My wife does the marketing, I design the facilities, and here we are.
So it sounds like you guys have definitely ramped things up since your beginning - so I’d love to hear: what would you say has been your success so far?
Secret to our success is perseverance, good teamwork, and understanding that this is a marathon and not a sprint.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite product you don’t make? Doesn’t necessarily have to be a beverage product but, any product at all...
Favorite product that I don’t make. Wow. I like so many things. I would probably have to go with my Vӧlkl skis. Because they are just - the mantra - I can do any part of the mountain with that and it’s very impressive how they put all their stuff together.
Hey everybody, I’m hanging out here with Brian from Rivibbe. What do you think of the show so far?
I’m loving it. BevNET has been a very good event - a lot of really good exposure. And it is really cool because I came from nowhere, and I’m the baby brand that got to present in the Top 12 this year.
Well that’s awesome, huge congratulations to you! My first question: how did you actually get your start in this industry?
For my business partner - this is a third generation family recipe of his. And, my wife is a type one diabetic. We just knew that the market was looking for a healthy sports drink that they could use to replace some of the stuff out there. People in the industry know that the big brands have a healthier alternative to their sports drinks, but it’s not really taking with consumers. So we felt that this would be something we could address by creating a crossover between a tea and a sports drink.
Yeah absolutely, there’s definitely a huge demand for health products so it’s cool to see brands like yours coming up and filling that need. So third question: what has been the secret to your success so far?
So far the secret to success, and I don’t think anyone who has done business before thinks it’s a secret, but it’s really just understanding you can’t do it all yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to reach out to your contacts, and don’t be afraid to take advice from people who have been doing it.
Speaking of advice, that’s a segue into my next question: what piece of advice would you give to someone who’s in a similar position to you right now?
We’re just just starting out. We are pre-revenue, we founded the company in May, we got our minimum viable product in August and we got our first shipment in October. So my advice is: it’s going to take more money and more time than you expect, but still give it a try because you’ll figure it out as it comes up.
Bonus Question: What is your final question that you don’t make?
Favorite product that I don’t make. I’m a sucker for water. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t drink anything else just generally, but if I’m gonna go for anything else that’s not water: I was really impressed with KRā sports drink that’s here today presenting. They’re in the same space as us except they’re a straight sports drink play, not a tea crossover, so I’d give a shoutout to those guys. Good job KRā!
Hey guys, I’m hanging out here with Max, CEO of Bear Squeeze. So Max, how did you get your start in this industry?
I originally started with a brand called Just Chill, a relaxation drink, about seven years ago. Since then, I’ve evolved a service-based company called BaseMakers, and now I’m doing Bear Squeeze.
You clearly have a lot of experience in this industry, so my next question would be: what would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
People. Relationships. If there’s one thing I could tell anyone who’s coming into this industry it would be to meet as many people as possible. It helps you get more investors, more retailer relationships, and ultimately I’d say that’s been the secret to my success so far.
If there’s one piece of advice you could give to someone who’s in a similar position to where you are right now, what would you say to them?
Work your ass off and meet as many people as you can!
Bonus question: What’s your favorite product on the market right now that you don’t make?
I like Vital Proteins. They have great collagen protein, which I use a lot.
Hey Everybody, I’m here with Dirk, CEO of Cannaki Beverage Company. And I think he has a sample that he wants to share with me before we start our questions.
Before I even tell you what it is, I always love to get some input. Tell me what you think.
Well this is fun!
We are a CBD flavored water. Canna is for Cannabidiol and ki is for mother earth. First, this is mojito, I don’t know if you like mojito. So tell me what you think about that.
This is the most fun I’ve had all day! That was unexpected, delicious, refreshing, crisp, not too sweet - this is awesome. I might have to buy a bottle of that after we finish.
There’s no sugar, no calories, and it’s the highest level of CBD in the country at 10 MG. And it’s all nanotechnology. We have our own farms, we do all of our own processing, we do all of our inspection, we do our own nanotechnology - directly to the consumer. And it’s a really healthy drink; really good for you. We’re excited here sharing it with everybody, and it’s taken off around the world. You can find us all throughout Europe and Mexico, and launching now in the United States.
Wow. Very cool. So Dirk, my first question is: how did you get your start in this industry?
We’ve been in the cannabis space for some time as a lab and making other products. We have some friends around the world that begged us to get us into the beverage industry because they’re from the beverage industry. So we spent over a year developing our product, but that’s years of experience they’ve been getting in before that. Our biggest thing was securing our IP around the world; once that was done we were ready to launch.
But the goal core was to develop a really beneficial product. Not something with a lot of misclaims out there what’s in their products. We want to be a solid product to really help people, and that was the core. We got in this business because we lost too many family members to breast cancer. And, like so many people in the cannabis space, that’s how we got into it. From that it’s been a great journey helping a lot of people and it’s evolved into Cannaki. Obviously we don’t make any medical claims. We talk about a lot of different things but we won’t go there we just ask people to try it and see how you feel. Give it to your pets; we make pet water as well. You’re gonna see miracles and it happens very fast.
Very informative. You clearly bring a lot of experience and this sounds like a product that’s near and dear to your heart. My question is: what would you say is the secret to your success so far?
Passion. 100% passion. And it was a commitment to help people. You know, when you lose people to breast cancer - I have a wife and a daughter, it could be them or the next person. That was our path as far as what we can we do for our family let alone other people. And that path is what led us to where we are today. And passion is what drives it. There’s a lot of legalities that have been changing over the years and we have been at the forefront with everybody else. And watching it change and watching it grow.
You gotta stay the course, you know, everybody is gonna tear you away saying you can’t do something - but the world wants the product and all the wonderful states that have legalized it. What’s nice about our product? You can ship it around the world and you can sell it in any retail store in the United States because there’s zero THC, so that’s very good.
Bonus Question: Awesome. Well definitely a delicious product if nothing else. And, final question of the day is: what is your favorite product that you don’t make? It doesn’t necessarily have to be beverage.
Well if you look at me I love food in general. It’s very accurate. That’s a tough one for me because, look at me, I love groceries. That’s an honest answer.
I’m here at BevNET Live hanging out with Jason and Julie, the founders of Nimble Nectar. So my first question for you guys is how did you get your start in this industry?
Jason: The start is me loving to make cocktails at the end of a long work day for my amazing wife. That was a relief of stress, a way to use my creative energy, and a way to relax after a long day. That was a great thing we enjoyed with each other and with friends. And that lead us to say “You know what? More people should be part of this!” We love to invent new cocktails, mix them, name them, share them, and it’s become a part of our lives. So we left our careers, started this company, and never looked back.
That’s really awesome. It’s awesome to see the evolution from something that was more of a hobby to something that’s become a lucrative business. So I have to ask, what would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
Julie: I think part of it is loving what you do. And for us, it’s giving something back to other people and saying, “take back your evening with someone special to you.” [Our product] is also super easy for me. I wasn’t the one mixing - my husband would take all the ingredients and have them fresh and make this wonderful cocktail. I just wanted something simple where I could pour two things together and have something you can serve to your friends or someone you love and make it easy for people to entertain and enjoy their evenings together.
What piece of advice would you give to somebody who’s in a similar position to where you are right now?
Jason: Oh my gosh, it would be stick with it - because it’s hard! It starts with this passion for putting a smile on somebody’s face and seeing it light up, and you have to remember that. You have to put yourself in positions where you’re face to face with your customers, with people who are enjoying it. Read through your Instagram posts and the things that people tell you back, because you have to stick with it on this long journey of proving yourself to people who are busy and who have other things going on. So if you can stick with it through this long road and you have a great product that puts smiles on people’s faces, then you’ve got nothing to lose. Just hang in there!
Bonus question: What’s your favorite product that you don’t make?
Julie: I’ll go with champagne. It mixes with everything, it makes for socially acceptable day drinking, and it’s classy.
Jason: I’ll go with the whole spirits category, throw in there bourbon, Jack, tequila, all the above.
Alright guys, so I’m here hanging out at BevNET Live with Aaron, founder of LIFEAID. So, Aaron: would you like to tell us how you got your start?
Absolutely. About six years ago, two young, quazi ignorant beverage entrepreneurs decided to push our chips all-in to create a better-for-you brand that was very functional like the energy drinks were. Very cool, sexy, and hip like the energy drinks but unlike the energy drinks were actually very clean and healthy. And that’s where LIFEAID was born.
Good stuff. So my next question is: what would you say is behind the secret to your success so far?
I think we took a very non-traditional route to market. This industry is very expensive, as all of your viewers know, and bootstrapping this business is what we did for many years. We really focused on going very deep in target markets like Crossfit with our FITAID brand; golf with our GOLFERAID brand, so on and so forth.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite product that you don’t make?
I’m gonna have to go over to my buddy Peter at RxBar and also Perfect Bar here in SoCal. Those are my two favorites.
Hey guys! I’m here at BevNET Live hanging out with Jim from Sunniva Coffee, CEO and Oldest Brother. Jim, would you like to tell us how you got your start in the industry?
Sure! I’m the oldest of 3 boys, and we were all college athletes. My youngest brother, Jordan, had 5 AM basketball practices, and the kid was falling asleep in class. He was tired. He didn’t want the Starbucks Frappuccinos or the sugary energy drinks that his school store offered, so he started brewing organic Colombian coffee with protein and coconut oi. It gave him the energy he needed to get through his day: from early morning practice to late nights in the library. It worked so well for him and his teammates that he started selling it to his classmates. Before long it was doing so well that he called his two older brothers and said, “Guys, let’s start a coffee company!”
That’s awesome! A little family business there - love that. My next question is: what has been the secret to success so far?
I think passion and hard work. The fact that there are three of us is very important. We each balance each other out. I think I’m the practical one while the other two are the dreamers, but we each bring that competitive edge to the table as student-athletes. And, our go-to-market has been unique. Obviously coffee is hot, and beverages is a very crowded space, but we’re focused on college campuses and in c-stores where healthy options and innovation don’t usually exist.
I think that’s a great segue to my next question, which is: what piece of advice would you give to someone who’s in a similar position to you right now?
You’ve gotta love it, you’ve gotta be all in. Jordan gave up a full basketball scholarship, I left my job where I was a financial analyst on Wall Street, and we went all in. We called our mom and told her what we did and she started crying, but it’s a full time thing. People hear that we sell coffee now and they think it’s a hobby or it’s a habit or something like that, but it’s two full time jobs. So you’ve gotta love it, you’ve gotta be committed because things will go wrong, and if your heart’s not in it, it would be very easy to give up.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite product that you don’t make?
It has to be GT’s Gingerade Kombucha. Love it. Low sugar, great taste, and gives me the probiotics I need. My brothers and I each drink one a day.
Hi everybody, I’m here with Trent from Gotham Brands here at BevNET Live. So Trent, just got a couple quick questions for you. My first one is: how did you get your start in this industry?
So I’ve been selling in the industry, typically New York, for a long period of time. Started in the beer industry, then Nestle, and a lot of startups after that. I’ve been doing it for long time - its a lot of fun.
So, next question. What would you say has been the secret to your success thus far?
I think it’s really touching the stores and making sure the execution is there. It's one thing to put something on a plan but it's another thing to execute it. I think we - my team, myself - we’ve been very good at executing. Obviously the things you do make it easier to do that. Certainly execution though. If you’ve got a plan and you don’t do anything with it it’s a waste of time.
Absolutely, well that’s very insightful. I think other brands would love to hear that piece of advice.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite product on the market right now that you don’t make? It doesn’t have to be a beverage.
La Croix; we’ve had it since the beginning, and we’ve worked with them for a long time. We drink it, we work with them, and it’s just a great thing for us.
I’m here at BevNET Live with Felicia, founder and CEO of Crafted Cocktails. Would you like to tell us how you got your start in this industry?
It’s actually self-serving. I love cocktail mixers, and I saw something that was missing out on the shelves. You couldn’t go get an all natural cocktail mixer that had no artificial ingredients or preservatives -- everything was fake and artificial. I felt like consumers needed that. They care about the alcohol they’re drinking, and it’s really important if you care about the spirit that you’re drinking you also care about the content that you’re adding to that spirit. We created this brand for the consumer who likes to make their cocktails from home. This way we take the time and energy out of everything for making their own cocktail.
It sounds like you really crafted a product that had the consumer in mind, which is awesome. My next question for you is: what would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
I think tenacity, and also education. The market itself right now within mixers - 5 years ago it was all fake sugar, artificial ingredients, etc. -- took educating buyers and telling them consumers are really demanding this. There was a lot of shift in the natural space in the rest of the grocery store, and there wasn’t anything in the mixers. Finally buyers were really receptive to it. We use 100% agave as our baseline sweetener, ingredients a bartender or mixologist would use. We bring high quality ingredients to the consumer so they feel like they’re getting a lot of really nice value out of the product.
Well that sounds delicious! Now I want a cocktail. Unfortunately I can’t have one yet.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite product that you don’t make?
I’m a Tito’s fan, Tito’s Vodka. I’m a fan of how he makes the vodka and the quality of the ingredients, and it adds value to our product as well. I’m a real huge fan of Tito’s - his business model, how he started, and how it grew over the years with word of mouth, which is how we’ve grown too.
Hey everybody, I’m hanging out here at BevNET Live with Chris from Ahead of the Pace. So we got a couple of questions for you today, Chris. The first one is: how did you get your start in this industry?
Very strange. I started off putting on women's’ fitness competitions. The type of competitions you might see on ESPN with figure, and they were doing all sorts of routines, and that turned into putting on events, and that was really my background: putting on events. Then we started getting calls for, “Hey we need some fitness people.” And it just kinda morphed, we became a chameleon.
Lot of different paths you’ve taken it seems like - jack of all trades. So this is a good segway to my next question which is: what would you say has been the secret to your success thus far?
I think for any business - want to be great. I want anyone who works for me - they don’t have to want to be me, but they should try to emulate my passion to be perfect. If you strive to be perfect, if you strive to be great, even if you come up short you’ll still be pretty good. You’re hired for a reason. And I say that a lot to my staff: “They’re hiring us for a reason - let’s make something happen.” On the back of my business cards there’s a quote from one of my clients. In a board meeting a guy just stood up and said, “Pace. All these guys do is get things done.”
That’s an awesome quote. So third question is: what piece of advice would you give someone who’s just getting started out in the industry?
Well it depends on what kind of business they want to be in. I’m gonna give this same advice that I got. I worked in an advertising agency in 1990 - yes, I’m old. And I didn’t understand this advice at that time, and I wish I did in the moment. He said, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
Bonus question: So I know you don’t work for a brand and you don’t produce a product, but out of curiosity, what is one of the most impressive brands on the market right now to you?
Well, I go to a lot of shows. So I go to ExpoEast, ExpoWest, the fancy food shows. And there’s always a lot of “me too” products out there. One of the things they spoke about it in this conference is end products - the waste of products. If you look around, plant-based protein is big, coffee is big, and cold brew is big. I look a little outside that. The last two years, Bai brands, which is part of DPSG (we do a lot of work for DPSG, and we have for 19 years) they’re innovative because they’re using the end product of all this coffee, well that’s coffee fruit. Everyone is using the bean, the outside part of the coffee fruit, the flesh. There’s another product that just came out that hasn’t hit it yet, but it’s Cacao Juice.
Oh, we know Cacao Juice - Repurposed Pod!
Love, love, love, them. And probably it’s not for everyone because sugar sugar sugar sugar sugar. However, it’s a great product. And I think that it actually has a future. And it’s products like that that I’d love to get behind.
Hey everybody i’m here at BevNET Live hanging out with Melissa from Rise Brewing. Melissa, what do you think of the show so far?
The show’s amazing. It’s just a really good group of people. The beverage industry is a really kind community.
Yeah absolutely, I feel the same way. It’s my first show, so it’s really exciting for me. So my first question for you is: how did you get your start in the industry?
Rise was founded about two years ago, and we just wanted to make really, really delicious-tasting coffee with healthy ingredients. So we make a nitro cold brew coffee. It’s made with fair trade, organic, Peruvian beans, cold brewed in spring water, and then condition infused with nitrogen. What the nitrogen does is it gives it a really creamy mouthfeel, gives it a longer shelf life, and I would say the flavor aspect is really impactful. It pushes out the oxygen - which is what makes coffee sour - and just lets the natural, chocolatey flavor of the bean come through. And that’s how we were founded.
We have a lemonade flavor as well and a blood orange flavor, and what I love about those is they also bring the tea-drinker and the energy drink-drinker into the market. That way when someone comes to me and they tell me they don’t drink coffee, of course my first instinct is still “Take a sip!” because ours is a little smoother, a little creamier than your average coffee, and we do convert a lot of non-coffee drinkers. And those flavors do allow us to serve the folks that do prefer tea or energy drinks.
Well that’s pretty awesome, to be able to cast such a wide net with a single product. And you actually have one of your products here.
I do, I only have our lemonade to show you. Unfortunately, all of the blacks were stolen from me by rabid caffeine-needing folks. This is our new slim can. We’re launching this in the Pacific Northwest on January 1. In the East Coast market we’ve had a slightly larger can. What we heard from people is that they wanted something a little more portable, and we think that this is the right amount of liquid so we’re excited.
Yeah I mean that's a great size for a show like this where people are on-the-go.
It’s also going to allow us to launch an ecommerce business, so all of you who have been harassing me, or - not harassing - kindly asking all over the country, we now have something that we can ship nationwide. That, to me, is the thing I’m most excited about.
That’s a good segue to my next question: what would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
First of all, I think success is a strong word. I think we’re trying to make a really, really delicious product. I think we really try to put the customer first. I think the most important thing you can do is make something that takes delicious and is good for you. So by remaining maniacally focused on taste and on healthy ingredients, I think that’s what is bringing us forward.
Excellent, so bringing me to my next question: what piece of advice would you give to someone that’s in the same position as you right now?
I mean, just a lot of hard work. Be friendly. Meet people. I think we just try to ask as many questions as we can and we just throw spaghetti at the wall. I think what’s interesting is some of the most innovative beverage companies are started by people who are outside of the industry. And I think just by being creative it brings you places. And then working really, really hard also brings you places. So work with good people, work hard and work kindly.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite product that’s currently on the market that you don’t make.
We have a partnership with Away Luggage, and we have a little cafe in their flagship in New York. It’s like a tech forward luggage - founded by Warren B. Parker, former Warren B. Parker execs, and it’s just an amazing piece of luggage that’s really well priced. Again, it’s people who are focused on “What does the customer need? What’s a really really good product that’s a quality piece that they’re gonna be able to take home with them?” Anyway, I think that they’ve done amazing work.
I’m hanging out here at BevNET live with Alex, from Simplee Aloe. First up, how’d you get your start in this industry?
It’s a long story that started four years ago. I used to work in finance but wanted to do something different so I chose the hardest industry, which is drinks! We literally travelled the world looking for the best source of aloe. I came back to the UK to where we’re based, in London, and started mixing a drink at home. Then we got a listing and quit our jobs after that.
Awesome, well clearly it’s working for you seeing as you’re still here and hanging out at BevNET! Next question is: what would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
Perseverance. Don’t take no for an answer and just keep going. You’re going to hit hurdles, but just keep going going going.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who’s in a similar position to you right now?
… don’t do it! No, keep planning ahead. Obviously starting a new beverage brand is number one about luck, but secondly you have to plan ahead in terms of financing in terms of your sales and everything. One of the things about being an entrepreneur is that sometimes you hustle too much and you keep going and going, but I think it gets to a point where you have to stop doing that and really plan and say, “Okay this is our financing plan, these are our sales plans, our projections, etc.” And going from your first year in business to your third year, those are the kinds of things you learn to pick up over the years.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite product that you don’t make?
Kombucha. I love kombucha but it’s not in the UK enough yet!
So hey guys I’m hanging out here with Brigitte, CEO of Brigitte’s Naturally. So Brigitte, what do you think of the show so far?
It’s awesome. This is my first one, I love it. I’m meeting a ton of great people.
Well same for me! Also my first show, also meeting a lot of cool people. So my next question is: how did you get your start in this industry?
I had a passion for green smoothies and I was making them at home and blending them, delivering them in mason jars to people as a detox. And it affected my health so much that I wanted to get more people interested in getting healthy with green smoothies and it kinda just evolved from there.
Well you’re talking to the right person! I, myself, love green smoothies. So my next question is: what has been the secret to your success so far?
Perseverance, passion, never giving up, and always being nimble and quick for changes. I’ve just evolved over the last few years. Changing the name, finding better partnerships, getting a co-packer, just kind of always looking ahead and figure out how do I grow organically and learning from the consumer. Really listen to them.
That’s really great stuff and I think that's a great segue to my next question which is: what is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s in a similar position as you right now?
You probably need more money than you think. Really focus on the partnerships that you get with retail because they are going to be your champions - and to try not to grow too fast. To just really stick with the people that you have, make sure it’s selling in that grocery store really, really well, and then grow it.
It’s Frank from Repsly here at BevNET Live. I’m here with Taylor -- can you tell us a little about your brand and how you got started?
Our brand is Manzanita Madrone, that’s our company name, and the product we’re pitching these days is The Fizz. It’s a microdosed, 5mg cannabis ginger brew. This is the first all natural, sparkling microdosed product on the market, making cannabis accessible at a much lower dose than the standard medical versions we’re familiar with in a discreet sophisticated package.
So how did you get started bringing a beverage into this market?
I have 20 years experience manufacturing craft soda, tea, chai tea, yerba mate, etc. So we took all of our manufacturing knowledge and spun it into a good beverage first, and then got the emulsification technology to get cannabis infused in such a way that it’s easily assimilated into the body and it still tastes good.
It sounds like there’s a lot of innovation going on with the way you get those infusions right. What would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
So far I think it is serious attention to both the craft of manufacturing a good looking and tasting beverage and also responsibly medicating. When we go to a dispensary we’re able to say “look, we’re not a fly-by-night organization, we’re true beverage people.” We want to be part of this market - we have veterans both from beverage and from cannabis on our team, and combined buyers can see this is not something that’s just part of the gold rush.
You called it the “gold rush” - there are a lot of brands obviously rushing in right now. What would be one piece of advice to give to someone who’s just start out in this market, from your experience?
It would be tenacity. The barrier to entry in this market is higher compared to any retail setting for beverage that I’ve ever witnessed or experienced. Dealing with the buyers is not easy - it’s a culture that has been engrained 20 years, more than any retail you’ve got to get to know the buyers. You’ve got to have the family of reps behind you that have street cred, and you’ve got to be willing to put in the time to go over and over and over again. It’s not a quick sale. Once you’re in the market you are solid, but getting in the market is tremendously difficult but definitely worth the effort.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite product that you don’t make?
I just tried a CBD water (Cannaki) over there that was delicious - it was mojito flavored. I admire them cause they went CBD. I’m also a big fan of anything with protein, the 24mg protein shots were pretty cool… and The Grateful Dead.
I’m hanging out here at BevNET Live with Jake from Bold Brew Coffee. A couple of questions for you. Up first: how’d you get your start in the industry?
We got our start as students at San Diego State who wanted to make a little extra cash on the side. We weren’t really in love with our mechanical engineering degrees, so we decided we were going to start selling some coffee.
What would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
We’re taking a totally different branding play to cold brew. We like to say we’re not focusing on the guys from Seattle with their turtlenecks, we’re taking the naturally high caffeine qualities of cold brew and we’re applying it to the action sports marketplace, which is dominated by unhealthy energy drinks. This community is very influenced by caffeine but they need a healthier source with a beverage that they want to drink. We’re getting a lot of great feedback from people who are involved with surfing, rock climbing, skateboarding, and the Southern California lifestyle. They really love our brand, they associate with it, we’ve got a bitchin’ product, and people really love the flavor of it as well.
Sounds like you’ve created something people can identify with, which is awesome. Third question of the day is: what piece of advice would you give to someone in a similar position to where you are right now?
My advice would be to just get started. We didn’t really have a plan, we just kinda went with it. Then we reached out to everybody that we could. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed, so you just have to talk to everybody. Don’t be afraid to get out there and get shut down. Just go for it would be my advice.
Bonus question: What is your favorite product that you don’t make?
Well I love water, and I don’t make that and it’s absolutely delicious and very hydrating. But Modern Times Fruitland Beer is good stuff.
Hi everybody! I’m here at BevNET Live hanging out with John, owner of Phocus. So John, how did you get your start in this industry?
So currently, and when the idea kinda started, I am in medical school. It was a late night studying, and I was like: “Man I don’t want coffee, I don’t want an energy drink…” I wanted more caffeine than a soda, and that’s not good for me anyway. So I was like, why isn’t there just a caffeinated water? And I ran with that idea and found someone that wanted to go in on it with me and kinda here we are. So we have no beverage experience in our company at all.
Wow well that’s pretty impressive. In medical school, started a beverage company - so how do you balance all that? What would you say is the secret to your success so far?
We’ve got a really good team. We have two people that really bought into what Phocus is, what our mission is, and after we developed it and we started to find a co-packer and get all that started - we brought two people on full time which allowed me to finish up med school and allowed us to really succeed.
Well that’s great stuff. So what piece of advice would you give to someone who’s in a similar situation as you right now? Beyond just starting out and starting to scale - what piece of advice would you have for somebody?
I think that it really is about doing what you think is best. There’s a lot of people that will give you advice, but at the end of the day you know your own product. I think one of the toughest things is looking at the market and saying: “Am I on trend? Does this make sense? Is there a lot of me? Am I unique? Can I communicate that uniqueness?” And if you can do that I think you just really go for it. Find people that believe in it, stick to them, and your product will succeed.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite product that you don’t make?
You know, I’ve stopped drinking anything but Phocus since we started. Prior to that - I haven’t had it in forever - I used to be a big energy drink guy and that’s kinda what started all this. It used to be those zero-calorie zero-sugar Rockstar. I realized how awful they were for me, so I haven’t had one of those in months, but those were my favorite.
Hey everybody, I’m here at BevNET Live hanging out with Kevin from Nuun. So Kevin, My first question for you is: how did you get your start in this industry?
I got my start a little over 4 years ago, taking the CEO - or self-proclaimed Eternal Optimist - role at Nuun. Really they were looking for a change and looking to grow the company. I was a CEO at a different company and my passion point was all about what this company represents, which is an active lifestyle and getting people to move more.
Awesome, great stuff. You’re already bringing a level of experience it sounds like. So what would you say has been the secret to your success so far?
The team. The team is, without question, that’s the secret to my success because it’s their success.
Going off that note, what would you say is one piece of advice you’d give to someone that’s in a similar position to you right now?
I would say don’t underestimate the power of culture. At the end of the day, all strategy lives within your culture. You’ll either thrive or eventually die if you don’t really invest time and effort consistently on that.
Alright, that's great stuff that I think people would love to hear. So, last question for you, bonus question--
Oh a bonus question-- how many points is it worth?
Bonus question: You’ll have to wait and see, it’s really easy, it’s - what is your favorite product on the market right now that you don’t make?
Oh yeah, that’s a really good question. Oh my gosh - my favorite product on the market. I’m gonna say Beyond Meat. If you’re not familiar, it’s a plant-based burger, well that’s what they started with. And the texture and the taste of it are exceptional. You would think you’re eating a real burger - in this case it’s made with plants.