On May 16-17, the United States Trade Tasting (USATT) event brought together producers, importers, distributors and other industry professionals at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York. Producers learned more about how to enter the competitive U.S. marketplace, while importers and distributors got an early look at some of the innovative brands and products potentially coming to the U.S. market.
The event, which featured more than 2,000 participants and 138 exhibitors from more than 20 countries, focused on helping emerging brands stand out and differentiate themselves within their product category.
Learning to tell your brand story
As many of the speakers at USATT 2017 pointed out over the course of two days, being able to tell a unique and dynamic brand story is especially important when it comes to attracting new importers, distributors, and retailers. If you’re not telling a unique brand story, you’re making it harder for suppliers and wholesalers to sell your product.
Chris Mehringer, President of Park Street, emphasized that brand differentiation had to be at the core of any marketing strategy. One way to do that is by creating “badge value,” in which brand can serve as a badge for people to communicate who they are and what they want to be.
Jonathan Newman, Chairman, and CEO of Newman Wine talked about the 10 biggest factors that can help brands get picked up by national chains and large retailers. For example, he mentioned the value of creating point-of-sale (POS) materials that help retailers sell wine, as well as the importance of making the label look right. At the end of the day, the attractive packaging really matters.
Stephen Fahy of the Wine Library emphasized that producers always have to be thinking like a marketer. Wine brands, he said, need to take an activist approach to getting noticed within the U.S. marketplace. That means infusing your brand with passion and enthusiasm. And it also means staying one step ahead of what customers want in the marketplace, “Look for new angles, new perspectives, and new opportunities. Always.”
New and innovative products on display
At this year’s USATT 2017, there were different tasting sessions to help participants explore wines from up-and-coming wine regions. For example, on Day 1 Chateau Rongzi held a public tasting of its highly acclaimed wines from the Loess Plateau of China. This marked the first-ever public tasting of its wines in the United States. And on Day 2, show participants had a chance to attend a master class on the wines of the Tejo region of Portugal.
In the Grand Tasting hall, attendees had a chance to see many of the themes and trends emphasized in the speaker presentations in action. Walking around the buzzing showroom floor, participants could see some of the innovative new products coming soon to the U.S. market – such as wines from Portugal and Eastern Europe (Slovenia, Romania, Croatia, Moldova). premium rum and mezcal drinks from Latin America, spirits with new flavor and taste profiles, and wines and spirits with innovative new packaging. Some of the brand’s people were buzzing about at the event included Vodquila, Get Hot Tequila, Bira, and LIQS cocktail shots.
Getting educated about how to enter the U.S. market
What made this year’s event so distinctive was how carefully the conference content was tailored to the specific needs of the U.S. market. Day 2 of the event, for example, featured a dynamic Q&A hosted by Steven Raye. Members of the audience had a chance to ask one-on-one questions about building a successful brand to members of an expert panel: Martin Sinkoff of Frederick Wildman, Rob Bradshaw of Cape Classics and Michael Yurch of Blue Sky Group.
Participants asked a wide-ranging number of questions, touching on everything from how global warming will impact the wine industry, to how the growing legalization of marijuana could impact the future trajectory of the alcoholic beverage industry.
Later on Day 2 of the event, there was also an interactive panel with three prominent journalists from the wine and spirits industry: William Tish (Beverage Media), Gregg Glaser (Modern Distillery Age) and David Spencer (iSante). Audience members asked specific questions about how to get press attention, and what types of stories can attract media coverage.
And throughout the two-day event, there were speaker presentations on every aspect of bringing a new wine or spirits brand to market. Thomas Barfoed of JF Hillebrand, for example, discussed the logistics of bringing a product to the U.S. market from overseas. Being able to optimize your supply chain can have a dramatic impact on your brand’s bottom line. And Donna Hartman, an attorney with OlenderFeldman, discussed the important legal points to keep in mind when drafting distribution agreements.
If anything, the pace of innovation within the wine and spirits industry is accelerating, and that’s placing even more of an emphasis on staying ahead of key trends in the market. It’s no longer just enough to have a quality product. That’s now a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. You also have to have a compelling brand story and a true understanding of where your product might fit within an import portfolio and how it should be priced.
The general consensus of the show’s attendees, based on first-hand conversations with many of the exhibitors, is that this year’s USATT 2017 far exceeded expectations. USATT 2017 showcased a range of dynamic new brands and brought together these brands with importers and distributors to think creatively about how best to bring them to market. Watch this space for follow-ups on success stories from these brands ahead of USATT 2018!