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NY Grapevine: Action Upstate

Posted on  | January 5, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Governor’s Summit & NYSLA Roundtable Create Positive Direction

by Cara McIlwaine and Keven Danow

Governor Cuomo’s Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit in October put the lie to the notion that Albany is no place for progress. A packed room of producers, farmers, SLA representatives, tourism experts and other business leaders gathered, with the collective goal of better promotion of New York State tourism and marketing of New York-produced beverages.

It is accurate to say that the Governor listened, heard and acted. Following a break, the Governor announced plans for a new marketing campaign as well as a series of regulatory reforms. Among the highlights:

Promotion and Tourism

  • The state will provide $1 million dollars for a new advertising campaign to promote the industry; an additional $2 million—based on an industry match—means a potential total of $5 million.
  • A working group led by Secretary to the Governor Larry Schwartz will coordinate annual marketing events—similar to Restaurant Week and trade shows—that partner restaurants and hotels across the state with producers of New York wine, beer, spirits and food.
  • The state will aggressively work to find new ways to promote New York State-produced beer, wine, spirits and cider at the annual State Fair.
  • The state will look into ways to ensure that alcoholic beverages sold at New York Racing Association tracks are produced in New York.

Regulatory Reforms

  • Ending prohibition against multiple manufacturing licenses at the same location
  • Allowing craft manufacturers to sell bottles when they are conducting tastings
  • Allowing beer and cider producers to obtain temporary permits to sell at special events/street fairs
  • Reducing fee for manufacturers’ marketing permits
  • Eliminating Duplicative License for Distilleries and Breweries

And in yet another positive sign that sets the stage for future progress, the Governor proposed creation of a single point of government contact—a one-stop shop—with representatives from the agencies that regulate manufacturers and licensees.

NYSLSA Roundtable Focuses on Trends

After attending one of the NYSLSA Holiday Trade Shows (featured in our December issue), The Beverage Network sat down for a roundtable discussion in Albany with leading members of the association. The lively discussion addressed issues affecting retailers today and into the future. Below are some of the group’s take on top issues.

Beverage Media: What are some trends in products and pricing you have noticed recently?

“We’ve been seeing a lot of this ‘skinny’ concept—low-cal. A glass of wine has always been 100-110 calories, but bringing that info out and tagging it to a product has been an effective marketing tool. The high point was at the beginning of this year, but now I’m starting to see it fade. Pricing is too high and copycats are coming in too late.”

“You only have so many dollars at a given time to budget and you have to stretch sometimes. I can’t carry multiple cases of every Skinnygirl flavor. A smart retailer is going to put his money where he can get the most bang for it.”

“You have to pay attention to what’s on the horizon. If a retailer is just now picking up the skinny trend, it’s too late. If one supplier and then another and another all put forth a honey product, you better get a honey product on your shelves. But I’m also selective with new products and choose what I think my customer will buy.”

“I am noticing the trend for breast cancer products—a lot of pink coming in the door. It almost makes you feel compelled as a retailer to bring [these products] in. But there are a million good causes. Pink is big and retailers have got to market that in your windows.”

BM: How about in the spirits category?

“We’re seeing more fruit-infused products, like the sangria concept but with spirits. It sort of gives the consumer the feeling of buying illegal moonshine, but adding fun with fruit like cherries, strawberries, etc…. Our suppliers are very demanding; you have to keep things fresh and have good marketing positioning in your store so consumers can see these products and maybe make an impulse buy.”

“There are many brands with flavors, especially in vodka with flavors and they are often similar. I can’t carry them all. Demographics are important. I live in a college town. We have doctors, lawyers and whatnot, but then I have the blue collar people, so price is a big consideration. I have to pick one or two lines to get behind that will fly off my shelves. One trend that has been consistent the past 24 months—small batch distillation, local New York State or not, flies off the shelves.”

“Sweet whites and Moscatos are a long-term trend, knocking White Zinfandel off the racks, but producers are still making White Zinfandel. Flavored vodkas are big and they are hurting schnapps, and schnapps producers are not reacting. An alarming trend, to me, is about gift packs. We used to sell them year-round, but now we don’t get them until October, and if you don’t get them then, you don’t get them at all. It takes us out of the gift-giving business.”

BM: What are your thoughts on the recent initiatives to cut down on underage drinking and the challenges retailers face from the increasing sophistication of fake IDs?

“Looking at the profile of an individual that owns and runs a store, they are sole proprietors. In this economy, they’ve been chief cook, bottle washer, running the cash register and doing the merchandising. So when it comes to issues like underage drinking they are not always aware of the tools available to help them. We have an opportunity to speak to store owners upstate and send the message that these tools are available to them, and we can use Beverage Media to spread the word. It’s where I go to get information on what’s happening, politically and with trends.”


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