BevNET’s Taste Radio is the podcast for food and beverage professionals, where we talk trends, interview the leaders and rising stars in the industry and discuss knowledge and topics that we hope entrepreneurs and pros everywhere find useful. Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can al…
The Taste Radio podcast is an incredibly valuable resource for anyone in the food and beverage industry. Hosted by Ray Latif, the show features interviews with founders, CEOs, and investors within the CPG (consumer packaged goods) space. The conversations are engaging, insightful, and packed with actionable ideas that listeners can apply to their own businesses. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, there is always something to learn from this podcast.
One of the best aspects of The Taste Radio podcast is the range of guests they feature. From successful founders who have built thriving CPG brands to industry experts who share their insights on trends and strategies, each episode offers a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed in this competitive market. The interviews are informative but also entertaining, with Ray often injecting some humor into the conversations.
Another great aspect of this podcast is the variety of topics covered. From discussions about marketing and sales strategies to insights into product development and distribution, there is something for everyone in the CPG industry. The guests share their experiences and lessons learned, giving listeners a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into building and growing a successful brand.
However, one possible downside of this podcast is that it primarily focuses on the food and beverage space. While this is understandable given its target audience, it would be beneficial to hear more about other categories within the CPG industry such as non-alcoholic beverages or frozen products. Expanding the scope could attract a wider range of listeners and provide additional value.
In conclusion, The Taste Radio podcast is a must-listen for anyone in the food and beverage industry. With engaging conversations, insightful content, and actionable ideas, it consistently delivers valuable information that can help entrepreneurs grow their CPG brands. Despite its narrow focus on certain categories within CPG, it remains an invaluable resource for those looking to learn from experienced founders and industry experts.
In the midst of our Winter 2023 events, the hosts highlighted the brands that triumphed in the NOSH Pitch Slam along with BevNET's Cocktail Showdown and New Beverage Showdown. They also spoke about the palpable energy and enthusiasm at the events and why a new generation of THC-infused beverages indicates a promising future for cannabis drinks. 0:35: What Day Is It? Connections Aplenty. A Sitar Under The Stars. — Ray and the team spoke about their first week in Marina Del Rey, the events' new venue and attendees' praise of plentiful networking opportunities and retailer meetings. They also discussed the quality of brands participating in the BevNET and NOSH competitions and how Calexo's victory in the New Beverage Showdown reflects strategic companies' evolving perspective on cannabis drinks. Brands in this episode: Lentiful, Confusion Snacks, Zwita, Lexington Bakes, Maazah, Calexo, Magic Cactus, Ponyboy Slings, Mission Craft Cocktails, Fresh Fizz, Good Spirits Cocktails, Fast Penny Spirits, DIO Cocktails, Tif's Spiked, Fresh Fizz Sodas, BTL SVC, Mason Dixie Foods
It's doubtful that Jimbo Someck would ever characterize himself as an influencer, but it's an apt description given his passionate and effective advocacy for organic and natural foods over the past five decades. Someck is the founder of organic-centric grocery chain Jimbo's, which operates four locations in the San Diego area. He opened his first store in 1984 and has long been a prominent figure in the development of the natural food industry. Jimbo's standards for selling high-quality and nutritious food have consistently won the chain plaudits and admirers. Meanwhile, its embrace of nascent and innovative concepts has earned it a reputation as a proving ground for disruptive food and beverage brands. In this episode, Someck chronicled the origins of his interest in organic food and the development of his grocery chain, how Jimbo's evaluates novel ideas and products and how he leverages his influence to promote values that he is passionate about, including regenerative agriculture. 0:43: Jimbo Someck, Founder, Jimbo's – Someck spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about Jimbo's overarching mission and “bill of rights,” the evolution of the natural/organic food and beverage industry, how Jimbo's curates its selection amid growing demand for affordable and accessible organic food and his perspective on plant-based meat and alternatives to animal-based protein. Brands in this episode:
The hosts discussed a planned merger between upscale corner store retailers Foxtrot Market and Dom's Kitchen & Market, munched on international snack brands and recalled a time when BevNET briefly entered the bar business. 0:35: Review And We Shall Drape Thee. You Got Two Days. We Have The Munchies. – Ray reminded listeners of the value that comes with reviewing Taste Radio on Apple Podcasts, and the hosts collectively urged folks not to miss out on BevNET and Brewbound Live. They also reflected on Foxtrot/Dom's deal, heaped love on LOVO (and some shade on KitKat) and went to town on a fresh box from Munchpak, a subscription-based brand that delivers monthly boxes of international candy and snacks. Brands in this episode: Just Ice Tea, Lovo Chocolate, Kit Kat, Fanta, Keogh's, Pipers, Gra Nuts, Slush Puppies
In the two decades since launching her eponymous Indian-inspired food brand, Maya Kaimal has introduced zesty simmer sauces, spicy rice dishes and piquant condiments to millions of Americans. And while she achieved a level of scale and success that few thought possible, there were also challenging times, like when she faced the prospect of bankruptcy and selling her house. A former photo editor for Saveur magazine, Kaimal started Maya Kaimal Foods in 2003 behind the belief that Indian cuisine needed new context. Her vision was to make accessible and easy to use products for creating flavorful and healthy Indian food at home. In its early days, the brand scored wins at specialty retailers in metro New York and later at Whole Foods stores across the U.S. In subsequent years, Maya Kaimal Foods pivoted from refrigerated to shelf-stable formulations and built a robust innovation pipeline that helped the brand gain distribution at thousands of new retail locations nationwide, including Safeway, Albertsons, Costco and Target. Throughout the process, however, Kaimal noted that there were many unexpected challenges and missteps, including some that in retrospect could have been avoided. In this episode, Kaimal explained how focusing on placement in the perimeter of the store supported consumer education early into the brand's development; how the company operates and innovates at the intersection of data, trends and retailer needs; aligning with an investor that should support her vision; and what she's learned about hiring the right – and wrong – people. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Maya Kaimal, Founder, Maya Kaimal Foods – Kaimal spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about how both Julia Child and her parents influenced her passion for cooking, how she cut her teeth in food by writing a cookbook and how getting laid off in 2002 launched her into entrepreneurship. She also explained how relationships with retail buyers gave her a foot in the door, why she was adamant that the brand's first products needed to be refrigerated (and how it benefited its merchandising strategy), and how she addressed questions about the scale and potential with investors. Maya also spoke about why innovation is “an ongoing conversation” and focused on “meeting people where they are,” how she identified North Castle Partners as the right fit for a strategic partner and why entrepreneurs should look from within their community to fill leadership roles. Brands in this episode: Maya Kaimal
It's not often that a high-profile investment deal is announced just before a major holiday, but we got lucky this week. After discussing the news that Kim Kardashian's private equity firm SKYY Partners has invested in upscale condiment brand TRUFF, the hosts munched on a new brand of cookies launched by popular Twitch streamer Pokimane and dove into a growing pool of caffeine-free energy drinks. Show notes: 0:35: For Future Reference… Congrats, Nicks (& Kim). Skillet Sweet. Nog & Nitro. – On the cusp on Thanksgiving, the hosts chatted about Turkey Trots,PRs and John chugging gravy before turning to topics like Kim Kardashian's acquisition of “a significant minority stake” in TRUFF, how a gluten-free skillet cookie became a studio favorite and whether good egg nog is bad a couple days after the expiration date. They also spoke at length about a new brand of cookies (and somehow avoided the controversy surrounding it), praised a new Straightaway SKU and hailed Jacqui's attempts to minimize coffee consumption. Brands in this episode: TRUFF, Tofurky, Wholly Gluten Free, MOSH, Super Coffee, Simulate, Verb Energy, Myna, MudWTR, Straightaway Cocktails
Trendy food and beverage categories often elicit a gold rush. The nascent market for ready-to-drink cocktails, in which new brands are launched seemingly every day, has sparked the latest one. Cy Cain, the co-founder and CEO of Portland, Oregon-based Straightaway Cocktails, praises growing interest and demand for bottled and canned cocktails, but he believes that “there will always be a flight to quality.” Indeed, the brand's prioritization of premium ingredients and blending methods continues to pay off. Launched in 2018, Straightaway produces a range of RTD cocktails crafted to replicate bar quality libations. The company also markets ACCOMPANi, Straightaway's sister brand of liqueurs, amari and vermouth. The award-winning products are available in 48 states through its e-commerce platform, Whole Foods stores and select locations of regional chains New Seasons and Market of Choice. In this episode, Cain spoke about how years of preparation prior to launching Straightaway gave the brand a strong foundation on which to build, why passion and opportunity equally drive the business forward and how he assesses a broader opportunity to reach consumers in other beverage alcohol categories. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Cy Cain, Co-Founder & CEO, Straightaway Cocktails - Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Cain about Straightaway's hometown of Portland, Oregon, how “honoring the craft” and collaboration is driving the city's CPG scene, and the brand's partnership with Alaska Airlines. Cain also discussed how his background in the coffee industry impacted and informed his decision to launch a cocktail company, Straightaway's roots as an underground brand, how early learnings influenced its development and why “balance is everything” is key to its formulation strategy. He also explained how an analysis of consumer behavior and growing demand for high-quality cocktails led to his belief that standardization of batched cocktails would be a viable, and potentially thriving, business. The conversation further touches on growth drivers for the RTD cocktail category and why he sees it challenging beer and wine in the coming years, why strategic companies entering the space is a good thing and the reason he describes Straightaway as both a “first-wave” and “third-wave” brand. Brands in this episode: Straightaway Cocktails, Starbucks, Salt & Straw, Stumptown Coffee, Steven Smith Teamaker, Jacobsen Salt, Tazo, Stash Tea
In this special presentation of our sister show, the Brewbound Podcast, Bernstein Autonomous analysts Nadine Sarwat and Trevor Stirling share what they know so far about Ozempic, Wegovy and other diet/diabetes drugs' effect on alcoholic beverage consumption.
We've all seen the cute, clever and occasionally terrifying images created using ChatGPT and other AI generators. But can CPG companies utilize these apps in a meaningful way? The hosts discussed potential ways that AI might help make certain processes more efficient. They also spoke about why a food brand's recent packaging revamp is excellent in every way and riffed on a spicy and sporty LTO. Show notes: 0:35: Street Fighter Showdown. 18 Brands, Two Winners. Colin Brings Us Fried Food. More THC. – Ray showed up in a suit and ready for battle in John's latest opus, Jacqui offered keen advice on how to leverage AI when working on a new label design and the hosts congratulated the participants in BevNET and NOSH's upcoming brand competitions. They also chatted about Dr. Pepper's new “Hot Take” variety and why spice is underutilized in beverages, munched on pickle chips and jalapeno poppers prepared by super colleague Colin (who briefly joined them on the mics) and discussed Feel Good Foods' packaging overhaul along with a few new products. Brands in this episode: Fair & Square, LEXINGTON BAKES, Maazah, Lentiful, Confusion Snacks, Zwita, Calexo, Nutcase Milk, Fang, Mixoloshe, adapt superwater, Joie Energy, Troov, Plant Press, MAGIC CACTUS, Sly, Erva Brew Co., Spade, Feel Good Foods, Harmless Harvest, Joia, Sipp, Hint, Eggo, Pop-Tart, Aura Bora, Tempo, Luv Yuzu Lite, Dr. Pepper
It's rare for a single independent consumer brand to generate $100 million in annual revenue. Chris Hunter has built two of them. Hunter is the co-founder and CEO of plant-based beverage company Koia, a maker of refrigerated vegan protein shakes and smoothies that are sold nationwide at retailers including Whole Foods, 7-Eleven, Sprouts, Publix, Kroger and Safeway. Last month, Koia added another major retail partner: Starbucks. The brand's Vanilla Bean and Cacao Bean protein shakes are now available in the coffee chain's coveted cold cases. The addition of Starbucks adds approximately 9,000 stores to the brand's existing presence in more than 25,000 retail doors. Having crossed the $100 million threshold this year, Koia is on “a clear path to $200 million” in annual sales over the next two years, according to company president Mike Woolard. Hunter, who co-founded Koia in 2016 and also co-created and helmed controversial malternative brand Four Loko, is quick to praise his team for Koia's growth trajectory and highlighted its ability to navigate a rapidly evolving industry. In this episode, Hunter spoke about the importance of setting goals in both his personal life and in business, lessons from an aggressive retail strategy early into the brand's development, why self-manufacturing is key to profitability and the company's future, and how to optimize the roles of celebrity partners. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Chris Hunter, Co-Founder/CEO, Koia – Hunter spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about why Koia's distribution at Starbucks is an example of perseverance paying off, how setting specific goals has benefited his personal life and why he was eager to expand distribution of Koia beyond the natural channel. He also spoke about the company's first month of profitability, why Koia shifted to a vertically integrated business model and how trends fit into its innovation strategy and the development of a new cereal-inspired line. Brands in this episode: Koia, Four Loko
How do you hold someone's interest after an initial interaction? What motivates them to stay connected with you and your company? Three weeks before BevNET's winter events kick off in Marina Del Rey, the hosts discussed ways that entrepreneurs can optimize meetings with investors and retailers and how to amplify their message to the industry at large. Show notes: 0:43: A Host And Three Judges. Agendas And Attendees. Cupcakes Of The Pizza Variety. Pickle Everything. – The hosts chatted about their respective roles in the four brand competitions at BevNET's winter events and highlighted the shows' agendas and attendee lists. They also munched on Pizza Cupcakes (yes, it's a thing) and spoke about how the brand has differentiated itself from traditional counterparts, why pickle-flavored LTOs are coming out of the woodwork and how Jacqui is doubling down on functional mushrooms. Brands in this episode: My Mochi, Heinz, JP Licks, Grillo's, South 40 Snack Co., Spritz Society, KIND Snacks, Sip Herbals, Rasa, Mud/Wtr, Om Mushroom, Four Sigmatic
Mari Llewellyn's personal wellness journey, highlighted by a remarkable 90-pound weight loss, brought her online fame and sparked the creation of her wellness brand, Bloom Nutrition. But it's Bloom's consumers who have been fanning its flames in recent years, evangelizing about the products' impact on their own journeys to better health and wellbeing. Founded in 2019, Bloom debuted as a direct-to-consumer brand of pre-workout powders and has since evolved into an omnichannel supplement company, anchored by its popular Greens & Superfoods products. The brand is bolstered by a thriving social media presence: Mari routinely touts products to her 1.5 million Instagram followers, while Bloom itself has 427,000 followers on the platform and over 660,000 on TikTok. Bloom had been solely focused on e-commerce until October 2022 when the brand landed its first retail partnership by entering over 600 Target locations. Just four months later, Walmart added its products to nearly 1,800 of its stores. After a year on shelf, Bloom is one of the highest turning brands in its category at Target according to co-founder Greg LaVecchia, who credited Bloom's social media prowess for driving sales and velocity. In this episode, Llewellyn and LaVecchia spoke about the company's roots and how its marketing strategy has gradually shifted away from an emphasis on her personal story to one of “letting the creators create.” They also discussed how they measure the return on its investment in social media, why hiring young talent has been key to success on TikTok and how they've supported Bloom's relationships with Target and Walmart. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Mari Llewellyn and Greg LaVecchia, Co-Founders, Bloom Nutrition – Llewellyn and LaVecchia spoke about their “Pursuit of Wellness” podcast, the differences between their respective offices and coffee consumption before Llewellyn discussed how a dramatic shift in health habits led to her becoming an influential figure in the wellness community. They also explained how they developed a popular brand of resistance bands and takeaways from its success, where they saw an opportunity to innovate in the supplement category, the reason that Bloom aligns with thousands of influencers and why it trusts its social team to make the right decisions for the brand. Later, they explained why Gen Z and Gen Alpha – and not experienced marketing leaders – are best equipped to lead social media strategy, how LaVecchia convinced Target to take on Bloom and why it thrived early on despite bottom-shelf placement, and how in-person events have been effective for driving awareness and trial. Brands in this episode: Bloom Nutrition
Why is a century-old apple orchard and cider company betting big on the future of cannabis? Eddie Brennan, the fifth-generation owner of New York-based Beak & Skiff, discussed its foray and continued investment into the cultivation of cannabis and production of THC-infused drinks. The company built and operates a 20,000 sq. ft manufacturing and co-packing facility dedicated to the cannabis beverages, one that Brennan described as the largest on the East Coast. Also in this episode: the hosts' take on Ocean Spray's new line of zero-sugar juice (and why an asterisk is involved) and what Travis Kelce, Michael Bublé and Matthew McConaughey now have in common. Show notes: 0:35: Wrong Pipe. White Out Is Not Nail Polish. Secret Spray. That Was Swift. We Don't Need No Pants. – Ray kicked off the show by explaining how he choked on his ride to the office, the hosts collectively agreed that “White Out” had its day and is not to be sniffed, and expressed skepticism about Ocean Spray's new products and how consumers may perceive them. They also riffed on Travis Kelce's new brand of refrigerated entrees, which of three new celebrity-backed beverage alcohol brands has the best shot of being successful, a “pointless” ginger ale and why Jacqui's instant review of a particular drink brand is not to be missed. 30:12: Interview: Eddie Brennan, CEO, Beak & Skiff – Brennan spoke about taking the reins of his family's business, the reason for entering the cannabis space and how Beak & Skiff's customers reacted to the move and what he views as the trajectory for cannabis beverages. He also discussed the company's education strategy, inducing trial via a new 1 mg THC variety and the challenges of marketing cannabis on social media. Brands in this episode: Beak & Skiff, 1911 Established, Ayrloom, Essentia, Fly By Jing, Ocean Spray, Travis Kelce's Kitchen, TB12, Unreal Candy, Tequila Pantalones, Casamigos, Fraser and Thompson, Vosa Spirits, Pointless Ginger Ale, Lifted THC, Bobo's, Uncrustables, Rudi's, Chubby Snacks, Better Than Booze, Superfrau, Spare Tonic
The adage “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” is often quoted by successful entrepreneurs. And it would stand to reason that the more opportunities you have, the luckier you'll be. But how do you best position yourself to create more moments, chances and meetings that might change the trajectory of your business? Austin Cocktails co-founders Kelly Gasink and Jill Burns, who founded the brand in 2012 and helped usher in a new era for premium RTD cocktails, say that the answer is two-fold: be okay with being uncomfortable and strive to “expand your luck surface area.” Doing so helped them land deals with Madison Square Garden and Virgin America airlines. It also led to an unexpected and pivotal meeting with the CEO of Constellation Brands. Introduced in 2016, Austin Cocktails markets full-strength canned cocktails made with premium spirits and natural ingredients. The products are distributed across the United States at a variety of retailers, including Whole Foods, BevMo, Target and Total Wine. In this episode, Gasink and Burns explained how they identified the opportunity for a premium tier of RTD cocktails, why they didn't emphasize a specific target demographic, how an unorthodox but highly effective sampling strategy unlocked new retail and distribution opportunities, and how they assessed the timing for a sale of Austin Cocktails to Constellation Brands. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Kelly Gasink & Jill Burns, Co-Founders, Austin Cocktails – Gasink and Burns riffed about eccentric weather patterns in Texas and Austin as a hub for entrepreneurship before discussing the impact of Skinnygirl on the development of the modern RTD cocktail category and how they initial spoke to retailers about the need for premium options in the space. They also spoke about the challenges in getting the products made, why “everything good happened” at sampling events and why maintaining the brand's core tenets amid growing competition paid off. Later, they explained how their personal and professional networks were instrumental in the brand's development and why basing innovation solely on data may not be the best strategy. Brands in this episode: Austin Cocktails, Skinnygirl Cocktails
In this special presentation of our sister show, the NOSH Podcast Sunrise Strategic Partners' Peter Burns and Coefficient Capital's Franklin Isacson explain why the investor-brand relationship should be treated like a marriage.
Why are some investors writing checks while others are content to stay on the sidelines? The hosts discussed a new survey that examines the dynamics of contemporary deal flow. They also spoke about opportunities for entrepreneurs to spotlight their brands at BevNET's Winter 2023 events and highlighted two food brands that developed new snacks in collaboration with beverage companies. Show notes: 0:35: Oh, Hi, Whole Foods. Ask And Interview. Ube & Scotch. Tia Traction. Donuts And Coffee. – The episode kicked off with the news that representatives from Whole Foods will be participating in “Retailer One-on-One” sessions at NOSH Live, how attendees can take part in a live version of our Elevator Talk series and join us for a conversation in the Taste Radio Studio at BevNET Live. John whipped up some purple cocktails before the hosts congratulated Tia Lupita founder Hector Saldivar, whose company just raised $2.6 million, and chatted about what's eliciting interest (and causing concern) among food and beverage investors. Later, they munched on hibiscus-flavored popcorn, coffee-infused mini-donuts, chocolate truffles and better-for-you protein bars. Brands in this episode: Tia Lupita, The Glenlivet, Ruby, BjornQorn, Deux, Chamberlain Coffee, Evolved Chocolate, Yaza, Genius Juice, Resist
If you take the brand out of the farmer's market, do you have to take the farmer's market out of the brand? Not if you're Michele's Granola, a brand whose rustic package design and proprietary recipe have remained the same since inception. It's a big reason why Michele's has become one of the top-selling brands in its category. Launched in 2006 by founder Michele Tsucalas, Michele's Granola markets small batch granola made from natural, organic and non-GMO ingredients. The company's Maryland manufacturing facility produces over 35,000 pounds of granola and muesli weekly. Michele's also sells a two-SKU line of granola butter made from oats and nuts. The products are sold nationally at over 3,800 retailers, including Whole Foods and Wegmans, where Michele's is the top-selling granola brand at each chain, as well as Ralph's, Kroger and Sprouts. According to a profile in “Baltimore” magazine,” the company is expected to generate $15 million in revenue this year. In this episode, Tsucalas and company CEO Oliver Buccicone spoke about how focusing on quality and “premium simplicity” has enabled the brand to scale while maintaining its original, rustic package design and positioning. They also discussed the brand's patient path to distribution in conventional grocery, how they've pushed back on retailer demands for promotional pricing and why examining every cost is key to being cash-flow positive and profitable. 0:35: Michele Tsucalas, Founder & Oliver Buccicone, CEO, Michele's Granola – Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Tsucalas and Buccicone, with the founder sharing a bit of background about the brand's hometown of Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland before she explained why its packaging has remained consistent in the nearly 18 years since its launch. Buccicone spoke about why he joined the company and took on the role of CEO in 2020, why the company's focus on high-quality and easily understood ingredients resonates with consumers, and how it responded when conventional retail chains began knocking on its door. Later, they discussed why a constant examination of expenses gives a clearer picture of profit and loss, how they evaluate opportunities to innovate and the value of self manufacturing in being able to remain independent and attractive to Investors. Brands in this episode: Michele's Granola
What defines compelling innovation? Novel ingredients? Esoteric flavors? Unusual packaging? The hosts discussed how strategic and entrepreneurial companies are attempting to innovate in food and beverage and what's moving the needle for consumers. They also riffed on two new celebrity coffee brands, one launched by a “Yellowstone'' star and the other known for her status as a “teen mom.” 0:35: Late Night Radio. Coke's Latest Cocktail. Mushroom Coffee & Cognitive Shots. Ray's Famous Celebrity Rankings. – Ray kicked off the show by getting an NKOTB classic stuck in Mike's head before the hosts spoke about The Coca-Cola's Co's continued foray into beverage alcohol and a spicy line extension, whether a Jenelle Evans' new functional coffee brand will resonate with her fans and “B+ list celebrity” Cole Hauser's cowboy java. Jacqui praised a brand of plant-based sushi and a tree-bark infused drink line, Ray sipped on a brain-boosting smoothie shot and shared hummus, crackers and iced latte powders with John and Mike, the latter of whom didn't bring any coconut yogurt for the group. Brands in this episode: Sprite, Absolut Vodka, Coca-Cola, Jack Daniels, Simply, Topo Chico, Fresca, Free Rein Coffee, Time Of The Day, Juvenescence, Little Sesame, Konscious, You Need This, Twrl Milk Tea, Fly By Jing, Mabi, St. Agrestis, Maxwell House, The Coconut Cult
In this special presentation of our sister show, BevNET & NOSH's Community Call, Fly By Jing founder Jing Gao discussed how she leveraged DTC sales to secure retail opportunities, building and scaling a first to market product, and the education and marketing required to drive trial.
When they produced their first batch of non-alcoholic beer in 2017, Athletic Brewing Co. co-founders Bill Shufelt and John Walker knew they were on to something special. They may not have realized, however, they were brewing a revolution. Founded in 2017, Athletic Brewing has emerged as one of the fastest growing beverage companies in the U.S. and is leading the charge for a burgeoning cohort of zero-proof alcohol alternatives. According to industry trade group The Brewers Association, Athletic is the 13th largest craft brewer in America and the leading producer of non-alcoholic craft beer. Its products are distributed in all 50 states and available at over 50,000 retail stores nationwide, including Walmart, Costco, Publix, Target and CVS. Amid surging demand – Nielsen data from March showed annual dollar sales of the brand up 94% – Athletic has invested heavily in production. The company operates brewing facilities in Connecticut and San Diego, built in part from the $173.5 million in outside capital the company has raised, including a $50 million investment from Keurig Dr Pepper in November 2022. In this episode, Shufelt and Walker spoke about Athletic's role in the evolution of alcohol-alternative beverages and its influence on how consumers perceive them, why it's in the company's interest to support competitors and how it does so, how they evaluate new retail and distribution opportunities and where resources are best utilized, and how they stay grounded amid continued growth and industry hype. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Bill Shufelt & John Walker, Co-Founders, Athletic Brewing – Taste Radio editor Ray Latif met with Shufelt and Walker at Athletic Brewing's facility in Milford, Connecticut, where they discussed the brand's outsized growth over the past two years, why they feel a responsibility to support competing brands in the nonalcoholic beer category, and how has how they have maintained the quality of their products amid exponential growth. They also spoke about why they prefer in-house staffing to outsourced help, how they consider entering new retail channels, including convenience stores, and why they are guided by Athletic's long-term vision amid speculation about a potential exit. Brands in this episode: Athletic Brewing Company, Heineken
From allulose-sweetened gummies and “junkless” granola bars to zero-sugar sodas and “WonderWater,” the hosts discussed how better-for-you brands are attempting to meet consumer demand for great taste and nutrition in snacks and beverages. 0:35: Thanks For Meeting! John Doesn't Do Shots. Impactful News. Mike Conflates. Japanese Delights. – Ray praised the work of BevNET's all-around star Amanda before the hosts chatted about the fear of (of lack thereof) Friday, the 13th, highlighted brands and founders featured at the recently held Newton meetup and pounded pickle juice shots (except for John). They also discussed the news that serial entrepreneur Mike Repole has invested in Junkless Foods, whether Bai is on the right track with a new tagline and why Mike is getting Austin Powers and Dr. Evil confused. Later, they sipped and munched on products marketed by several early-stage brands and ruffled through a box of Japanese snacks from Tokyo Treat. Brands in this episode: Biena, Alc-A-Chino, Al's Beer, Stormalong Cider, Spade Soda, Dr Pepper, Pickle Juice Shot, Behave Candy, Junkless Foods, Vitaminwater, BodyArmor, Pirate's Booty, Bai, RIND Snacks, Combos, Rivalz Snacks, Doritos, Goldfish, Ellio's Pizza, Celeste Pizza, Mason Dixie Foods, Krispy Kreme, Fast Penny Spirits, KitKat
It's been nearly 10 years since Bronya Shillo launched Fishers Island Lemonade, and even after selling her company to one of the largest beverage alcohol companies in the world, she's still on the grind and promoting her brand one customer at a time. She wouldn't want it any other way. Fishers Island Lemonade markets premium canned cocktails made with a base of barrel-aged whiskey, vodka, lemon and honey. Lauded for its unique taste profile and commitment to high quality ingredients, the brand comes in several flavor varieties and is sold nationally at a suggested retail price of $15.99 for a four-pack of 12 oz. cans. In May, Spirit of Gallo, the spirits arm of E. & J. Gallo Winery, announced that it would acquire Fishers Island Lemonade for an undisclosed fee. In a press release, the company noted that the purchase partly reflected consumers “trading up to spirits-based cocktails and demanding more full-flavored, higher ABV products.” Shillo remains on the Fishers Island board and serves as the brand's official spokesperson. In this episode, Shillo discussed the brand's origins, why quality of ingredients matters when meeting with retail buyers, how, after a variety of challenges, she aligned with the right manufacturing partners, why the adage “inch wide, mile deep” guided the brand's distribution strategy for years and how she built and maintained a relationship with E. & J. Gallo leadership. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Bronya Shillo, Founder, Fishers Island Lemonade – Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Shillo about her participation in BevNET's inaugural Cocktail Showdown competition, how her family's business factored into the development of Fishers Island Lemonade and the complex path to formulating, packaging, and eventually selling, a canned cocktail. She also explained why she eschewed using a malt base and lower quality ingredients, her thoughtful pricing strategy, how she developed strong relationships with distributors and why it was years before she hired her first employee. Later, she discussed how growing interest in RTD cocktails spurred an upcoming evolution in the brand's label design and why she was adamant about staying involved in the company post-acquisition despite constant travel demands. Brands in this episode: Fishers Island Lemonade
Can you pair tinned fish and beer… in the same can? Kids' cereal flavors in protein drinks – does it work? Is chili crunch and ranch dressing the perfect duo? And, why are we losing it over a “Dragnum”? The hosts discussed how brands are attempting to grab our attention and generate sales via innovation, package design and unexpected collaborations. Show notes: 0:35: Vibin' At The WCB. It's Award Season. Uber Ray Silent Mode. A Must For Office Holiday Parties? – The team reflected on BevNET's fun and engaging meetup at our San Diego office and highlighted conversations with several entrepreneurs at the event, and also noted nomination deadlines for Best of 2023 BevNET and NOSH awards. Ray explained why he doesn't love conversing with rideshare drivers (and was roasted for it) before revealing a magnum of a certain spicy spirit, John introduced a couple of unique beers and new plant-based beverages, and Mike and Jacqui riffed on Indian-inspired lemonades and a brand of noodles with a highly functional, if esoteric, ingredient. Brands in this episode: !MPROV Booze-Free Cocktails, Sol-ti, Recoup Beverage, Togronis, Spade, Koia, Mooski, Hidden Valley, This Little Goat, Truff, Ondori, Olipop, Fishwife, Talea, Tulua, MatchaKo, MALK, GreeNoodle, Bollygood
When we last spoke with Aura Bora co-founder and CEO Paul Voge in May 2022 his botanical-centric sparkling water brand was still a few months away from announcing a $10 million Series A funding round. At the time, Aura Bora was less than three years old. Investing in a young company that is competing within the crowded sparkling water category may sound risky to some. However, it was clear to Aura Bora's backers that the brand had an uncommon ability to not only connect with new consumers, but develop them into evangelists who would sing its praises. In this episode, Voge spoke about how Aura Bora has cultivated a loyal community by focusing on flavor, the brand's recent collaboration with cult olive oil brand Graza, why Aura Bora discontinued its viral “Secret Menu,” how DTC success translates to brick-and-mortar sales and why his personal phone number is on every can. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Paul Voge, Co-Founder & CEO, Aura Bora – Voge spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif at Expo East 2023 where they chatted about Aura Bora's new and limited-time Olive Oil Martini, why he believes that “the best marketing is sales and vice versa” and how retail buyers evaluate the brand's online sales. He also explains why profitability is always on his mind, whether water is the appropriate descriptor for Aura Bora products, how the company attempts to deliver consistent customer service across all forms of communication and why friendship is key to the company's relationship with Siddhi Capital. Brands in this episode: Aura Bora, Graza, Velveeta, Hidden Valley, Van Leewnen's, TOST, Samuel Adams, Dogfish Head, Waterloo, Polar Beverages, LaCroix, San Pellegrino, Justin's, Jeni's, Kettle Chips, Mid-Day Squares
The hosts discussed TikTok's announcement that it will make its Shop feature available to all of its 150 million U.S. users and ways that it may benefit CPG brands, and also spoke about the challenge of marketing kids' brands and why some excel while most fade away. They also riffed on several notable products, including beauty-centric beverages, snackable chocolate and Indian-inspired dips. Show notes: 0:34: Shaving Tools And Sham-Wows? The Algorithm Is Off. Eat The Tea. It's Boston Round, Ray. — On location at BevNET's San Diego office, the hosts chatted why some social media platforms are great at retargeting but may not understand their users as well as they should. They also discussed Eat The Change's decision to discontinue its mushroom jerky line and why Annie's has been one of the few entrepreneurial brands that has found success marketing kids' products. They wrap up by sipping on better-for-you sodas and functional libations and evaluating a legacy chocolate brand's new brand extension. Brands in this episode: AriZona Beverages, Snake River Farms, Eat The Change, Just Ice Tea, Halfday Tea, Honest Kids, Annie's, Once Upon A Farm, Uncrustables, Saint James Iced Tea, Fresh Fizz, Suja, Pick Me Up Potions, Aaji's, Niramaya, Tabu Chocolate, Scharffen Berger, Lea & Perrins
By any measure, consumers are drinking less alcohol. While their reasons for abstaining vary, the occasions in which they consume beer, wine and spirits have remained consistent. The circumstances have created an opportunity for alcohol alternative brands like TÖST to innovate and find relevance among mainstream consumers. Launched in 2018, TÖST markets sparkling non-alcoholic beverages made with white tea, white cranberry concentrate, ginger extract and other natural flavors. The products, which are available in two varieties, original and rosé, come in 750 mL individual bottles and 4-packs of 250 mL bottles . Distinguished by its sleek and minimalist label, the brand has won over consumers seeking a sophisticated alternative for occasions when they might typically drink alcohol. Distributed in 40 states, TÖST is carried by major retailers in a variety of channels, including Whole Foods, BevMo and CVS. Earlier this year, the venture capital arm of beverage alcohol conglomerate Constellation Brands acquired a minority stake in TÖST, praising its “delicious liquid that feels celebratory… and also versatile and approachable for everyday enjoyment.” In this episode, TÖST CEO Brooks Addington spoke about how the brand has carved out a positioning that has resonated with all types of consumers and how its thoughtful communication strategy has given it a leg up over competing products. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Brooks Addington, CEO, TÖST – Addington spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif at Natural Products Expo East 2023 where they chatted about the final edition of the event, his passion for architecture and how his background in financial services and worldly experience prepared him for his current role. He also spoke about the rise in abstinence among younger consumers, the origins of TÖST and how the liquid and package were designed to meet the expectations of a sophisticated drinking experience, and why it's critical for the brand to have an affordable price point. Later, Addington discussed TÖST's retail and merchandising strategies, why having few competitors is “a double-edged sword,” the company's strategic partnership with Constellation Brands and why it's important to be frugal with marketing dollars. Brands in this episode: TÖST
It was fun while it lasted... The hosts shared highlights from the final edition of Natural Products Expo East, including new brands, standout collaborations and innovative line extensions. Show notes: 0:35: Cinderella Song… Or Is It? Fork & Spork. Mixed Bag O' Sweeteners. Mike Didn't Dunk. – The hosts discussed the community's reaction to the sunsetting of Expo East and what might mean for other trade shows, offered dining recommendations for Philly and reviewed a rare collaboration between a food and beverage brand. They also riffed on low-sugar gummies and chocolates and the challenge in marketing products made with non-nutritive sweeteners, pickle-flavored foods and upstart brands marketing better-for-you trail mix, pecan milk, kid-centric nutrition bars and “modern Middle Eastern” hummus and pita bread. Brands in this episode: Aura Bora, Graza, ChocXo, Chutni Punch, Blobs, Root Foods, Treehouse Naturals, Better Sour, Patience Fruit & Co., Bollygood, Recoup Beverages, PLINK!, Daily Crunch, Dalsi, Happy Wolf, Absurd Snacks, MALK, This PKN, Baba's, Ziba Foods, Maazah, Ya Oaxaca!
For the leader of a company that is generating $1.5 billion in measured retail sales annually, Celsius CEO John Fieldly is remarkably frugal. He insists on flying coach and eschews expensive dinners while on the road. Thriftiness is a part of his personality, he says, but it's also about setting an example. Since taking the helm in 2017, Fieldly has built Celsius into one the fastest-growing beverage companies in the world. The brand, whose positioning has evolved from a focus on dieting to that of fitness-oriented energy, has emerged as the third best-selling energy brand behind Red Bull and Monster. Throughout his tenure, Fieldly has consistently emphasized traditional business fundamentals and profitability, maintaining that every expense requires a valid reason. Financial discipline, he notes, is embedded in company culture and has helped get Celsius to where it is today. In this episode, Fieldly spoke about Celsius' progress since his last appearance on Taste Radio in 2021, why brand-building is about “figuring out where you fit in a consumer's life,” navigating expectations and opportunities with strategic partner Pepsico and how junior-level employees influence the company's innovation strategy. Show notes: 0:35: Interview: John Fieldly, Chairman and CEO, Celsius – Fieldly spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about his recent presentations at investor conferences, before reflecting on Celsius' growth over the past three years and why he continues to maintain an open-door policy amid a surge in staffing. He also explained how ambition and paranoia help maintain the brand's momentum, why humility helps the company better understand and sell to its consumers and why Celsius' high-profile partnership with Pepsico doesn't mean the company is running any victory laps. Later, he discussed how the company considers innovation and the brand whose portfolio he aims to emulate. Brands in this episode: Celsius, Red Bull, Monster Energy, Gatorade
Amid a spate of high-profile investments and acquisitions, the hosts assessed Brooklyn Brewery's alignment with Hoplark and what it means for the emerging segment of hop-centric beverages and also discussed the timing of Smuckers' $5.6 billion purchase of Hostess Brands. This episode also features an expansive interview with Adam Crocini, the SVP and global head for food and beverage brands at Hilton. Show notes: 0:34: Get Some Expo-sure. Rudi's Convenience. Bullish Or BS? Banza & Bevs. – As the team gears up for Expo East 2023, they sampled a handful of new products that will be featured at the annual event, and discussed growing consumer demand for hop-flavored alcohol-alternative beverages and a widening pool of brands and investors in the space. They also spoke about Banza's foray into frozen waffles and what makes for a successful brand extension, before sipping on several new products, including tea-based energy drinks, “superfruit” sodas and RTD non-alcoholic cocktails. 36:29: Adam Crocini, SVP & Global Head, Food and Beverage Brands, Hilton – Since 2018, Crocini has been at the forefront of enhancing the Hilton's food and beverage offerings across its 7,000 properties spanning 122 countries and territories. His strategy guides everything from partnerships with Michelin-starred chefs to grab-and-go pantries. Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Crocini about how Hilton has navigated a post-Covid shift in guest expectations for food and beverage, how local and artisanal brands factor into its strategy and how interest for low and no-alc beverages impact its bar menus and in-room drink options. Brands in this episode: Honey Mama's, Mike's Hot Honey, Rudi's, Uncrustables, Chubby Snacks, Hoplark, Sierra Nevada, Hop WTR, Lagunitas, Athletic Brewing, Hostess, Twinkies, Banza, Brazi Bites, Eggo, Belgian Boys, CHA, Better Booch, Alldae, RSRV Collective, Boosthe, Snickers, Toblerone
When Christy Goldsby launched Honey Mama's in 2013, her vision for the brand was simple: make better-for-you, delicious snacks accessible to more people. Early on, however, communicating the attributes and better-for-you nature of her nutrient-rich refrigerated truffle bars had been anything but easy. Goldsby noted that during the brand's first few years on the market, most people “didn't know what the heck the products were.” While words may have fallen short, the bars' indulgent flavor and creamy texture spoke volumes. Great taste generated a loyal base of consumers and brand evangelists. Today, Honey Mama's is available in over 8,000 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Target, Sprouts and Costco. The brand's traction in natural and conventional channels attracted the attention of San Francisco-based venture capital firm Amberstone, which led Honey Mama's $10.3 million Series A funding round, completed in August 2021. In this episode, Goldsby spoke about how her experience as a bakery owner influenced the development of Honey Mama's, why demoing is the foundation of its marketing strategy and the evolution of its positioning and packaging. She also explained how the company navigated a high profile retailer's devastating decision to discontinue the brand and why handing over day-to-day operations was the right move for its future. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Christy Goldsby, Founder, Honey Mama's – Goldsby spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about Honey Mama's new “Truffle Treats” line before discussing her perspective on launching the brand at age 44 and lessons learned from her first business. She also explained how she developed strong relationships with the brand's first retailers, the company's gradual shift from an emphasis on “superfoods” to indulgence and why she “checked our ‘truth radar' at every step” of Honey's Mama's package revamp. Later, she discussed the brand's rise and fall at Trader Joe's, and why CEO Jared Schwartz is an ideal counterpart. Brands in this episode: Honey Mama's
When legacy brands start looking like startups, should entrepreneurs be worried? The hosts discuss. They also highlight several new and notable products, including chakra-specific shots and a cap-activated bottled cocktail. We also meet with Alan Kennedy, the master blender for rye-forward whiskey brand Redemption, who discusses the brand's emphasis on premiumization of experience across its portfolio. Show notes: 0:39: A Troll's “Tears.” Barbie Bottles. Snacking Pineapple And Wasabi Cheese. Twisty Cocktails. – Ray and Mike returned to the show and the latter brought his favorite beverage with him. The hosts chatted about attention-grabbing rhetoric surrounding the “Barbie” movie and a new LTO featuring the pop culture icon, as well as Dole's solid segue into snacking and entrepreneurial takes on puffs and popcorn. Jacqui sipped on an “ayurvedic superdrink” while everyone wondered about its scaling potential and also discussed The Glenlivet's innovative RTD libation. 33:24: Alan Kennedy, Master Blender, Redemption Whiskey – Kennedy joined Redemption owner Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits in November 2022 and oversees all aspects of production and innovation for the brand, which describes itself as “leading the rye revival in America.” Two decades of experience in the culinary, hospitality, wine and spirits industries gives him an uncommon perspective on distilling and blending, yet one that remains focused on delivering consumers a premium and quality experience at every sip, a topic he expounded upon in this interview. Brands in this episode: Richard's Rainwater, PATH Water, Swoon, RIND, Chuza, Yummate, CheeseBits, PopZup, Pipcorn, Chakra Chai, The Glenlivet, Karma Water, Redemption Whiskey
Richard Laver's first beverage brand is named after his daughter Kate. He named the second one, Lucky F*ck, after himself. A former professional tennis player, Laver became an entrepreneur out of necessity. Kate was born with cerebral palsy and couldn't eat solid foods nor was able to tolerate tube-feeding formulas. Frustrated with the lack of better-for-you options for his daughter, he created a protein shake made with plant-based ingredients and free from common allergens. The beverage helped Kate thrive, and Laver, sensing it could benefit others, commercialized the product, launching Kate Farms in 2012. The brand has since become the most recommended plant-based formula in U.S. hospitals. Two months after Kate Farms closed on a $75 million dollar Series C funding round in September 2022, Laver stepped away from the company and set his sights on another beverage category he viewed as ripe for disruption: energy drinks. The goal was to create what he describes as an “anti-brand” akin to Liquid Death. The result is Lucky F*ck, a name inspired by Laver's survival of a 1985 plane crash. Designed to appeal to Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumers, the brand launched in August and promotes five “super” ingredients, including maca and ginseng, five calories per 19.2 oz. can and no aftertaste. In this episode, Laver chronicles his path from a 12-year-old child who made it out of the crash that killed 136 people, including his father, to being homeless at age 27, as well as the birth of his daughter and the eventual development of Kate Farms. He also discussed how a pivot in Kate Farms' positioning and sales strategy changed its trajectory and outlined the retail and communication strategies for Lucky F*ck. Show notes: 0:43: Interview: Richard Laver, Founder, Kate Farms & Lucky F*ck – Laver spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif while on vacation with his family in Spain, where he was also producing social media content for Lucky F*ck. He discussed the harrowing prognostication and effects of surviving a plane crash, his refusal to accept a ‘failure to thrive' diagnosis for his daughter and how the healthcare industry became the primary distribution channel for Kate Farms. Later, he explained how Lucky F*ck's positioning separates it from legacy and better-for-you energy brands, weaving his personal story into that of the brand's and how the company is attempting to elicit engagement with consumers. Brands in this episode: Kate Farms, Lucky F*ck, Justin's, ProBar, Orgain, Liquid Death
The hosts discussed the rise of high-profile creator-led brands and their transcendence beyond celebrity ties. They also reflect on a PSL season that started way too soon and the strategy behind functional brands that market both energizing and calming products. We also feature the latest installment of The Goat Pen, our regular series with Carlton Fowler, the co-founder and managing partner of early-stage investment firm Goat Rodeo Capital. Show notes: 0:42: Brad Is Back. “A Different Style Of Celebrity.” Craven Won't Leggo of Eggo Cream. – After a year-long hiatus BevNET reporter Brad Avery returned to the podcast and shared his perspective on the evolution of creator-led brands, including Chamberlain Coffee, Prime and Feastables. The hosts collectively bemoaned the early start to pumpkin spice products and continued the conversation on a few notable brands and products mentioned in recent episodes. 25:00: The Goat Pen with Carlton Fowler, Vol. 3 – Fowler spoke about Campbell's acquisition of Rao's owner Sovos Brands, why he's bullish on hard tea and the potential for Monster Energy and Dunkin's respective forays into the category, his perspective on how to most effectively set expectations and navigate disagreements between investors and entrepreneurs and the trajectory for CBD-infused food and beverage brands. Brands in this episode: Chamberlain Coffee, Prime, Alani Nu, Feastables, Starbucks, Eggo, Bennu Bev Co., Bang Energy, Kin Euphorics, Milk Bar, Magnolia Bakery, Fabalish, Rao's, Monster Energy, Dunkin', Samuel Adams, Twisted Tea, Luna Bay, Jiant, JuneShine, PBR, La Colombe
The term “white space” is often used by entrepreneurs as a reason for launching a new brand. A void exists in a particular food or beverage category, and founders will claim that their products fill it. But what if others, notably investors and retailers, don't see that opportunity? That's the question that Shadi Bakour and his co-founders faced when they launched PATH, a bottled water brand that uses refillable aluminum containers, and it's fair to say that they have answered the query. Founded in 2015, PATH has become one of the fastest-growing beverage brands in the U.S. Its products – which include still, sparkling and alkaline varieties – are sold at over 50,000 retail locations nationwide, including CVS, 7-Eleven, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Wegmans. In September 2022, PATH announced a $30 million Series A funding round led by Altos Ventures along with investment from celebrities Kevin Hart, Ryan Seacrest and Guy Fieri. In this episode, Bakour spoke about the inspiration for PATH and how he and his co-founders set about commercializing the concept, how he they won over retail buyers, beginning with 7-Eleven, the company's alignment with San Francisco Airport retailers and Natural Products Expo West, the impact of limited-edition and licensed products and which parts of the business were most attractive to investors. Show notes: 0:35: Interview: Shadi Bakour, Co-Founder/CEO, PATH – Taste Radio editor Ray Latif spoke with Bakour about PATH's collaboration with Barbie before he discussed lessons from his days as an Uber and Lyft driver, navigating the a rocky start with the company's first co-manufacturer and how convenience factors into the marketability of PATH. He also spoke about how the brand landed its first few retailers, how he was able to negotiate an Expo West sponsorship at a reduced rate, PATH's bottle as a billboard, and what he's learned about becoming a better leader and manager of people. Brands in this episode: PATH Water
Is it groundbreaking or headed for infamy? The hosts sample several new products made with controversial (or, perhaps, objectionable) ingredients and flavors and assess the mainstream potential for each. This episode also features an interview with Alex Conyngham, the co-founder of Slane Irish Whiskey, who discussed the duality of building a modern brand that's rooted in tradition. Show notes: 0:33: Who Needs Ray? She Is The Champion, My Friends. Leggo My Eggo (Or Not). Cannabis & Kava. – With Ray on vacation, John took the reins, Jacqui spoke about her camogie skills and Melissa shared notes on recent and highly informative episodes of Community Call. They also sipped on some breakfast-inspired booze (“a real wallop to the ol' system”), munched on seaweed salad and discussed how kava might follow in the footsteps of another controversial ingredient. 24:45: Interview: Alex Conyngham, Co-Founder, Slane Irish Whiskey – Conyngham met with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif at spirits convention Tales of the Cocktail, held in July, and spoke about the development of Slane, which has emerged as a brand that lives at the intersection of music, sustainable farming and premium liquid, and how he communicates that positioning within the competitive landscape for Irish whiskey. Brands in this episode: Slane Irish Whiskey, Eggo, Genius Juice, Atlantic Sea Farms, Kooshy, Bennu
Sketch comedian. Ghostbuster. Vodka entrepreneur. It's all in a life's work for the remarkable Dan Aykroyd. An original cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” Aykroyd is perhaps best known for the film franchise “Ghostbusters” in which he plays Ray Stanz, the proton pack-wearing ghoul fighter, a role that he will reprise in an upcoming sequel. He's less recognized, however, as the co-founder of Crystal Head Vodka, a globally distributed, ultra-premium spirit brand identified by its distinctive skull-shaped bottle. Launched in 2008, Crystal Head Vodka is atypical of celebrity-backed spirits in that its association with Dan is not front and center. Although he does meet-and-greet events with consumers and occasionally goes on sales calls, the brand was designed and developed to be sold on its own merits. It's a point of pride for Aykroyd who praised the company's emphasis on business fundamentals and premium positioning. In this episode, Aykroyd spoke about cutting his teeth in beverage alcohol as an importer of Patron tequila, how Crystal Head Vodka enhances its resonance with the heavy metal community, how he attempts to establish an authentic relationship with consumers, and, why, despite the company's long standing independence, he may be interested in aligning with a certain luxury-centric conglomerate. Show notes: 0:48: Interview: Dan Aykroyd, Co-Founder, Crystal Head Vodka – Aykroyd chatted with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about Crystal Head Vodka's limited-edition "Paint Your Pride" bottle before discussing the brand's origins, the inspiration behind the skull package and its initial reception among retailers and bar directors. He also explained how he's built sustainable relationships with distributors, what makes him an effective salesman and why he believes that his celebrity has a limited impact on the brand's past and future. Later, he spoke about the delineation of roles and responsibilities among the company's ownership team and what postal work has to do with their harmonious relationship, why his friend and fellow actor Bill Murray doesn't drink Crystal Head Vodka (a sister whiskey brand is another story) and answered an infamous question with a “little g.” Brands in this episode: Crystal Head Vodka, Patron, Casamigos, Teremana