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Every brand has a unique story to tell


The two-day United States Trade Tasting event in May 2017 opened up new opportunities for wine, beer and spirits brands to enter the U.S. marketplace.

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 had more than 1,500 participants and 138 exhibitors from more than 20 countries, focused on helping emerging brands grab eyeballs and differentiate themselves within their product category.

Speakers at USATT 2017 pointed out that being able to tell a unique and dynamic brand story is especially important when it comes to attracting new importers, distributors and retailers. If the brand does not have a great story to share, the going gets tough 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 (Could you tell us which 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, attractive packaging really matters.

Stephen Fahy of the Wine Library emphasized that producers need to think like marketers. He said that, “Look for new angles, new perspectives and new opportunities. Always.” Wine brands need to take an activist approach in getting noticed within the U.S. marketplace. That means infusing your brand with passion and enthusiasm. It also means staying one step ahead of what customers want in the marketplace.


At 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, 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 witness 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 brands people were buzzing about at the event included Vodquila, Get Hot Tequila, Bira and LIQS cocktail shots.


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, had an interactive Q&A session hosted by Steven Raye, President of Bevology. 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 could 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 a panel discussion with three prominent journalists from the wine and spirits industry: William Tish (Beverage Media), Gregg Glaser (Modern Distillery Age) and David Spencer (iSante). Audience and visiting delegates asked specific questions about how to garner media attention, and what specific story lines can help with wider media reporting and visibility.

Throughout the two-day event, there were speaker presentations on every aspect of introducing a new wine or spirit brands to the market place. Thomas Barfoed of JF Hillebrand, 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. Donna Hartman, an attorney with Olender Feldman, discussed the important legalities to remember when drafting distribution agreements.

Interestingly, the pace of innovation within the wine and spirits industry is accelerating, and that’s placing pressure to stay ahead of key trends in the market. It’s no longer just enough to have a quality product. That is now a necessity, but not enough. Have a compelling brand story to narrate and a true understanding of the brand fitment and its pricing within an import portfolio.

The general consensus of the show’s attendees, based on first-hand conversations with many of the exhibitors, is that USATT 2017 far exceeded expectations. Watch out for USATT 2018!

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