Market Your Craft was thrilled to attend the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) recently in Denver and Expo East Natural Products show in Philadelphia. These are some of the most anticipated events in their respective industries, bringing brands, vendors and speakers together annually under one roof for presentations, workshops and tradeshow exhibits. And this year was no exception: energy was positive and spirits were high despite reduced attendance and fewer exhibitors due to COVID-19 and the Delta variant.
We’ll get into our summary of the conferences in a bit. But as we sat in on technical, marketing and business sessions hosted by respected members of the community, we were reminded of the influence we have on our peer group. Which got us thinking: why don’t more craft beverage brands present what they’ve learned to others in the industry? Because of competition? Maybe. Afraid to speak in public? Valid. Because you don’t have anything to teach or learn? Doubtful.
Now more than ever, the craft beverage community wants to hear your voice – from what you and your team are doing around equity and inclusion to the creative ways you’ve survived the pandemic and everything in-between. And while our team was inspired to submit seminars on Storytelling, Mobile Websites and Social Strategy for next year’s CBC in Minneapolis, there is no shortage of opportunities for your team to share ideas with others, some of which we’ll cover in this email:
- Key takeaways from CBC and Expo East
- In-person and virtual speaking engagements
- Your voice on a podcast
Our goal has always been to share the tools needed to drive traffic, build engagement and capture more sales. So, how does presenting or being part of an industry panel at events like CBC and Expo East benefit your business? Because we draw others to ourselves when we share our energy and authority. The effects can be far-reaching: from networking to invitations to collaborate to industry press and social chatter. More than anything, you become known as a positive force in the craft beverage industry. And as we brace for another season of COVID-related challenges, it’s important to have a surplus of energy in the tanks to weather the storm ahead.
key takeaways from CBC and Expo East
It was incredible to attend two major in-person events after being away for so long! While conference organizers took necessary precautions to ensure attendees had the safest, most enjoyable experience possible, attendance was well below pre-COVID numbers. Overall, the spirit of craft is alive and well, and producers are eager to return to in-person events like these when it is safe to do so. General sessions at CBC discussed the state of the craft beer industry, exploring topics such as: diversity, equity and inclusion; sales trends and drinker behavior; and COVID-era strategies for survival. Some key marketing takeaways include:
- The Brewers Association is addressing sexual harassment and discrimination through the BRU (Brewing Respect Unity Coalition) initiative, using #NotMe to report inappropriate conduct.
- Bart Watson, Chief Economist, talks about an industry in transition, or “in between,” with changing consumer demographics and buying behavior. And with more drinkers buying across beverage categories and occasion, having a clear ABV% on the label/packaging is important.
- Breweries are getting creative with Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) subscription programs and shipping where allowed.
- It’s important to use all forms of media when driving traffic to your Tasting Room, including your storefront, employees, website, social media and public relations.
- You want to be the “best place for customers to try your beer,” so make a good first impression: communicate guest comfort and safety; be clear about children and pet policies; and highlight your knowledgeable staff.
- The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) awards ceremony took place during CBC this year on Friday, September 10, recognizing 265 commercial breweries with 290 medals.
Visit the 2021 Craft Brewers Conference website for more details on seminars, workshops and tradeshow exhibitors, as well as details for the 2022 conference in Minneapolis May 2-5.
Expo East was a very different focus, with seminars geared towards natural and organic products. There were important crossover topics, including: changing consumer attitudes; equity and inclusion; and legal/regulatory updates. Speakers emphasized the overlapping trends in health and wellness marketing, like packaging, sustainability and organic best practices being considered together as table stakes for new product introductions. A couple key takeaways for craft beverage brands:
- Keto diets and low-carb lifestyles continue to be part of the conversation.
- Natural and organic sales are set to surpass $300B by 2023 according to the Nutritional Business Journal/SPINS.
- Wellness attributes are still booming, including the categories of sustainability, social responsibility and heath and whole foods.
- Trends that start in supplements have a tendency to move to beverage before making it to food.
- Mood and sleep support beverages are hot, as are coffees using plant-based alternatives for ready-to-drink (RTD).
Non-alcoholic, functional, kombucha and juice beverages had a significant presence at the show. With better-for-you beverages that boast taste without the guilt, it’s no wonder drinkers are starting to see themselves enjoying their same social occasions without alcohol. Producers in this area are pushing the packaging discussion forward with the use of sustainable/recycled materials. And consumers are increasingly searching labels for ingredients that will work harder for them. Visit the Expo East Natural Products website for more information and a list of vendors represented on the tradeshow floor.
in-person and virtual speaking engagements
Organizers often put out the request for proposals months in advance of the conference or event. Applications could prompt for an overview of your discussion topic; a list of learning objectives; downloadable presentation materials; and other info to aid in evaluation. But what topics are worth talking about in front of your industry peers? Start with questions or challenges recently faced by your team and how you addressed them. If you have unique experience with a particular production, packaging or marketing technology, design a presentation around your research and selection process. Or attack head-on an issue facing the craft beverage industry and get credit for raising collective awareness and prompting discussion. Whatever you choose, make sure you can speak credibly and authoritatively on the topic should you get selected to present your work!
While COVID-19 continues to challenge both organizers and attendees, there are a number of upcoming beverage-focused events still scheduled. Those in the near future may no longer have speaking opportunities, but all are worth keeping on your radar:
- National Beer Wholesalers Association Annual Convention – Las Vegas, NV, October 3-6, 2021
- Food and Beverage 2021 Global Symposium – Online, October 5, 2021
- Craft Beer Fall Virtual Conference – Online, October 18-20, 2021
- Craft Beverage Expo – Louisville, KY, October 19-20, 2021
- Master Brewers Conference – Cleveland, OH, October 28-30, 2021
- North Carolina Craft Brewers Conference and Expo – Winston-Salem, NC, November 2-4, 2021
- American Wine Society National Conference – Atlantic City, NJ, November 4-6, 2021
- Beer Now 2021 – Austin, TX, November 10-14, 2021
- Brewbound Live Winter 2021 – Santa Monica, CA, November 30-December 1, 2021
- CCBA Winter Conference – Sacramento, CA, December 1-3, 2021
- American Craft Spirits Distillers Conference and Trade Show – Louisville, KY, December 4-6, 2021
- Ohio Craft Brewers Conference – Dayton, OH, January 18-19, 2022
- Direct-to-Consumer Wine Symposium – Napa, CA, January 19-20, 2022
- Unified Wine and Grape Symposium – Sacramento, CA, January 25-27, 2022
- Northwest Food and Beverage World 2022 – Portland, OR, February 15-16, 2022
- Eastern Winery Exposition – Syracuse, NY, March 22-24, 2022
- New England Craft Brew Summit – Portland, ME, March 31, 2022
- The Beverage Forum – Chicago, IL, April 28-28, 2022
- Craft Brewers Conference 2022 – Minneapolis, MN, May 2-5, 2022
- Future Drinks Expo – San Francisco, CA, May 17, 2022
- Cheers Beverage Summit – Orlando, FL, June 13-15, 2022
- Homebrew Con 2022 – Pittsburgh, PA, June 23-25, 2022
- Society of Wine Educators Annual Conference – Indian Wells, CA, August 2022
- ADI Craft Spirit Conference and Expo – St. Louis, MO, September 14-16, 2022
- Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference – Cancelled for 2021
Don’t limit yourself to just submitting for craft beverage conferences. Producers in other areas could benefit from a fresh perspective on your topic.
your voice on a podcast
You may already be participating in craft beverage forums discussing topics such as equity and inclusion, COVID-19 operations, production, equipment and others. Facebook groups, Quora.com or Reddit.com threads and member-only websites are just a few of the platforms hosting hobbyist and professional conversations like these. Over time, your comments may attract more attention and engagement, making you an authority on a particular topic. With that kind of support, you may consider taking the next step towards creating content in that area of expertise: podcasts. All it takes to get started is a good microphone, a comfortable setting and a video camera (optional: many podcast apps don’t support video). Looking for inspiration? There are hundreds of craft beverage podcasts across dozens of popular hosting platforms like Buzzsprout and Captivate. But don’t be intimidated: some of these podcasters have been at it for years, with an impressive presentation and loyal fanbase. The point is to share information you’re uniquely qualified to discuss with others who have faced similar situations or issues.
Why start a podcast if you’re not in it for the money? Because it gives your business a stronger voice in the craft beverage conversation. Just like paid advertising helps you reach new audiences with your story, speaking engagements, podcasts and other opportunities expose your brand to industry professionals and aspiring craft beverage producers. That exposure not only builds goodwill in the industry, but grows your network and uncovers new business opportunities. Not ready to start from scratch? Ask to be a guest on your favorite podcast!