In today’s fast-paced world of beverage innovations and development, competition is fierce and options are endless. It can be an intimidating market for an up-and-coming beverage company. The alternative beverage market has changed greatly over the past few decades, and while these changes have brought a wave of competitors jockeying for shelf space, they’ve also brought huge opportunity for beverage company entrepreneurs who know what steps to take. Consumers are looking for exciting new beverage choices and investors are looking for the next big thing. With the right attitude and a lot of preparation, the path to success awaits.
The most important aspect of a successful beverage company is storytelling. From wine to bottled water, kombucha to carrot juice, consumers want to feel a connection with the products they purchase. They don’t simply want to buy a name and a flavor. People shopping the aisles of their local grocery or health food store are attracted to a product with a story behind it. Who founded the company and why? What is the history of the fruit that went into the juice used in the beverage? What philosophy does the company have? They appreciate a really great product, but when there’s competition, they’ll always choose a brand to which they feel a connection to the story.
Making the Pitch
It’s important for all the pieces of your company’s story to be in place before the first meeting with a potential distributor. This kind of meeting can be nerve-wracking for first-timers and this is normal. Realizing that no one knows what they’re doing when they first start out may bring some relief (or not), but the biggest help will be extensive preparation. Bring a sales kit that’s complete with POS, sales sheets and any information that you could possibly need to access during the meeting. Read and reread the distributor agreement. It’s essential to have a full understanding of every clause before signing, as you’ll be acting as your own attorney during the meeting. Even if you go in with specific demands, be prepared to negotiate. You will have to negotiate.
The Wellness Factor
Over the past decade or so, there has been a huge shift in attitudes towards health and wellness. Twenty years ago, people talked about exercise and healthy eating…as they were holding a carbonated, sugary soda. Today, consumers are focused on walking the walk when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle. They’re making health-conscious purchases, and retailers are working to accommodate these choices.
This opens up a wide array of options for beverage innovators. You can approach natural food stores and make a pitch or talk to the forager at the local Whole Foods. Even large grocery chains such as Safeway-Albertsons are working to accommodate their wellness-minded customers, so these should definitely be in the sights of any beverage entrepreneur. Although convenience stores may be the farthest thing from a health food setting, if your product can make it in this venue, it will get a real jumpstart on the road to success. Pursue all channels to find what works for your company; these days, healthier food and beverage choices are being marketed everywhere.
The honesty factor plays a role in both the “storytelling” and the “wellness” categories. Today’s consumer is more likely to educate themselves about brands and products than consumers of twenty years ago. Technology and the internet make this education easier than ever before. This is a great thing for companies who have built a story on a strong foundation of honesty and integrity. If you are pursuing the health-conscious consumer, it’s a wonderful way for them to be able to explore the high-quality ingredients that are in your product.
Build your story on a false premise, however, and it only takes a few mouse clicks for consumers to find this out. Present your product as a healthy choice when it isn’t, and potential customers will be turned off. Your product may also be driven off the market. Today’s health-minded consumer reads labels and researches products online. Health bloggers and reviewers proclaim the virtues of brands they believe in…while tearing down products and brands they believe to be frauds. By keeping honesty as a core value of your company, you’ll communicate to customers that your brand is one they can trust.
Entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry know that consistency is important when it comes to producing a high-quality product that provides the same experience for every customer, every single time. They sometimes don’t realize that consistency extends beyond the product. Every piece of your entire company should be consistent. The packaging from one product to the next shouldn’t deviate to the point that it’s not recognizable as your brand. Your marketing materials should all be consistent. The message running through your print ads, radio ads and social media campaigns should all be in the same vein and feel like they belong to the same company.
This is easier said than done, but it’s important to really think outside the box of what everyone else is doing to market their product. In today’s world of social media, that kind of presence is important—but it also means that many brands have abandoned media such as radio advertising. Voice and video ads can help connect directly with potential customers in a way that social media may not. Go forward boldly and don’t be afraid to take a risk, leave the herd and do something different. This is the way your brand will stand out from the ever-growing field of competitors.
As competition in the alternative beverage world grows, so does huge opportunity for entrepreneurs who are determined to put their product out there. With all the changes that have occurred over the past couple of decades, the next ten years will likely be even more dynamic than the last, with the development of significant brands in the beverage industry. When it comes to developing beverage innovations, there has never been a better time than right now.