Vine Notes: Wine, beer, spirits groups benefit from sharing stories

Most who enjoy adult beverages don’t confine themselves to one particular type of drink. A craft beer or hard cider on a hot day, cocktails on Friday evening with friends and a fine wine with dinner at a good restaurant all have their place in contemporary lifestyles.

That said, do the makers and distributors of these products find themselves competing with one another for the same market share or struggling to define themselves as the one consistent beverage of choice?

Not so, according to industry experts who are tracking trends and working to establish best practices in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It appears that as competition becomes stiffer, wine, beer, spirits, and now hard cider groups are finding more, not less, benefit in sharing their stories.

Consider the fact that the recent Craft Beverage Expo in San Jose drew 1,300 attendees and 160 exhibitors to its inaugural event.

Industry professional Lesley Berglund organized the closing panel on industry innovation at the Craft Beverage Expo. It was comprised of representatives from the wine, beer, whiskey, cider and mead industries -- and what she discovered through the process was surprising.

“What I found by interviewing participants and putting together the panel was fabulous innovation in product, in distribution, in trade partnerships, and what they’re doing to connect with consumers,” Ms. Berglund said. “There was much more similarity to these testimonies than what I had previously appreciated.”

Ms. Berglund is a business partner with J. Smoke Wallin, an industry strategist with a long history in wine, beer, and spirits distribution. The two are co-chairs of the 10th annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS), held June 30--July 1 in Napa.

This year’s lineup included the first annual gathering of the Beer Industry Technology Symposium in conjunction with WITS, an intersection that Mr. Wallin called a no-brainer.

“In the 1990s there were a thousand wineries in the U.S. Now there are eight to ten thousand,“ Mr. Wallin said. “The same with beer. A core retail list today might include as many as 20 taps, with six to eight of them rotating monthly. With more consumer choices, the market has become more cluttered for everyone. By focusing on technology and innovation, you can learn about the latest available tools to get your products to market. Everyone is collaborating on sharing best practices. It’s happening across beverage industries in all categories.”

Along those lines, plans are underway for the launch of the U.S. Beverage Industry Expo ’16, a trade show and conference Feb. 16--18, 2016, in Washington D.C. It is designed to focus on the wine, craft beer, spirits and cider industries.

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