Twice annually, BevNET brings together leaders in the beverage industry for the BevNET Live conference. From engaging discussions on sales and marketing to sample bars showcasing the most exciting new beverages on the market, there are plenty of opportunities for attendees to connect with other entrepreneurs and gain insight on industry trends.

The BevNET Live Winter 2018 conference, sponsored in part by ForceBrands, took place from Dec. 3-4. Read on for a few major takeaways from entrepreneurs and experts in the beverage industry who participated in panel discussions on Monday.

1. Cannabis is coming to the beverage industry in a big way
The market for cannabis continues to grow, and you can expect CBD-infused beverages on store shelves by the end of the year. GT Dave, Founder and CEO of kombucha brand GT’s Living Foods, announced that GT will be launching the Dream Catcher line, a variety of sparkling waters with CBD.

“I believe at GT’s Living Foods that we’re blessed with the ability to be trailblazers … so that’s what we’re doing here with Dream Catcher,” Dave said.

Dream Catcher beverages will be sold in Southern California starting in late December, and Dave has future plans to expand beyond the region.

2. Instead of competing, large retailers can serve as launching pads for smaller brands
While it’s true that large retailers have an advantage in the beverage industry, smaller brands don’t have to compete with them — instead, they can cooperate. Sarah Alderson, the Direct Marketing Manager of Chilled Packaged Goods for Walmart, explained how major national retailers like Walmart, were actively promoting up-and-coming beverage brands. Alderson says that 800 Walmart stores are now considered “high emerging brand stores,” which specifically aim to reserve shelf space for smaller brands and give them a boost.

3. Wellness trends are pushing alcohol brands to go beyond beer
“Wellness” isn’t just a buzzword in the beverage industry — when it comes to refreshments, consumers are actively seeking out healthier options. Even alcohol brands are taking notice. Randy Ornstein, who serves as the Vice President of Sales for Anheuser-Busch‘s Beyond Beer Portfolio, explained how AB is actively keeping up with this trend. Drinks like spiked seltzers present a lighter alternative to beer, and sparkling water continues to gain popularity.

4. Doing one thing well can be the key to brand longevity
While it’s always interesting to see brands launch new and innovative products, some of the most successful companies continue to grow just because they’ve mastered the basics. Elizabeth Stephenson, President of the Fiji Water Group, made this clear when she spoke about Fiji’s long-term growth and “mature brand” status. Sometimes, a company just has to do one thing very well without trying to switch it up, and that’s exactly what Fiji Water has done with their single signature product for years.

“Winning for us is first and foremost extraordinary product delivered into the market with premium service and inspired branding,” Stephenson said.

Click here to read highlights from NOSH Live’s Winter 2018 conference.

Seeking opportunities in the beverage industry? Check out our job board.