Craft Beverage Expo 2017

Fresh from the Craft Beverage Expo in Portland, Oregon, we listened and took notes to help you and your business—whether you are craft beverage or specialty food, this is worth a read.

Disruptors and Disruption

A theme about disruption blanketed the expo. From being a producer with a new category, aka a disruptor, to facing the challenge of fast-paced trends and new consumers, the concept to let disruption be your friend persisted. Small producers can turn and adapt quickly unlike larger counterparts, so use this to your advantage. Take initiative when it’s time to change direction. You can always return to quality.

“Well served and served well are not the same."
-–Joe Heron, founder Copper & Kings, Nutrisoda, Crispin Cider

When disruption happens, big ideas and big thinking are what's going on and it’s time for you to take initiative. Always remember purpose and why--what are we doing the work for, who are we doing the work for and why does it matter?

Share Your Knowledge

Community not competition is a song we sing a lot at BPD. In the age of the information economy, the more knowledge shared the better. Speakers and panel members at the expo shared insight that if you didn’t get affirmation to what you may have already known or been on the verge of figuring out, it at least brought inspiration to your hustle.

There was a side note regarding emerging categories. If you’re creating a new category and you have found another company in the same place, this is your chance to work together to lift each other and the category … you may just get to define your own shelf space instead of figuring out what type of product yours would work best next to.

Share your knowledge with companies in your region and look for opportunities to collaborate. It can be as simple as helping each other distribute to the same retailers or restaurants or as strategic as co-branding communications or events.


Many of the attendees were small producers with the I-can-do-everything-myself attitude. Some sessions at the CBE were designed to share with these attendants how and why established brands take some key strategic steps. We concur with the speaker’s hard-pressed side note; use your strengths and fill in your weakness’ by hiring out--there are plenty of resources out there for you. We applaud the DIY spirit and also encourage smart strategizing. Don’t forget to look at the big picture; what are you trying to achieve?

Spend more time on your strategy than your dream.

Step Outside

There were a lot of deer-in-the-headlights looks during Q&A sessions. It is not uncommon to feel frustrated or overwhelmed when you’re too close to your goals. This indicates you may want to circle back to your mission statement, value statement, brand promise and vision. These should be the backbone of your company, powering your decisions. Self-actualization is important for your business. This year’s Craft Beverage Expo was about self-help for your craft business. After all, how are you going to get the help you need without any direction?

“If you’re going to betray your mission or your values, you need to do it with eyes wide open.”
-–Alan Kropf, Executive Director of Education at Anchor Distilling Company

Don’t Be Lazy

It may have only been said out loud a few times but the message was blaring at each and every session.

Don’t be lazy!

Apathy is your worst enemy. You are your toughest obstacle. The most successful people who were at the expo are the ones who are the busiest--with purpose. Don’t be busy just to be busy. Everything you do has to have purpose.

Don’t be lazy. Don’t be slow. You can do anything you want to do but don’t be lazy.

Branding Branding Branding

The importance of quality branding played huge part of the Craft Beverage Expo. If it wasn’t the purpose of a session it was an underlying message. And to reiterate—a brand is not a logo. (Every time we hear that we want to give a Hoorah!)

So what is a brand? It is the experience your customers and employees have with every touchpoint of your company and products. It is a visual and verbal consistency in all your communications. It is the story that inspires your customers and enables conversation.

"Always try to inspire to sell."
-–Tom Flanagan, Co-Founder of Dive Bar Brewing Company

Really get to know your customers. You cannot perfect the customer experience if you don’t know who they are and what their lifestyles are. This brings us back to knowing your power of why--it will make your what and how much stronger. Then you’ll know what you’re selling (and it’s not just your product).

Final Words

What we heard from the speakers and what we learned of the attendees, were almost extremities. We were inspired equally by both speakers of tremendous experience and confidence and by attendees seeking footing for cool and creative products. There were missing pieces about funding, hiring and staying on top of technology.

Biggest lesson for everyone--you are not alone. Continue to connect, we’re all here to help each other. You can’t do it all yourself, don’t hesitate to lean on your community for support.