Award-winning educational forum draws largest gathering of regional craft beverage entrepreneurs yet
NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. (Oct. 6, 2016) – Hundreds of local craft business owners poured into Marriott Pavilion at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for the Hudson Valley Beer Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit on October 4. Created by the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. (HVEDC), the Summit is the Hudson Valley’s premier educational forum and networking opportunity for alcoholic beverage industry professionals, and features innovative programming and tastings. Topics discussed included the remarkable growth of the craft beverage industry, where it is headed and what businesses can do to maximize its potential. More than 550 people registered for the event.
“In 2013, there were approximately 57 breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries in the Hudson Valley,” Laurence P. Gottlieb, president and CEO of HVEDC, told the gathering at the main auditorium of the CIA. “Now that number has grown to 139 strong, and continues to grow. We are the growth engine for the State and credit for that belongs to many individuals in this room. You don’t see 140 percent growth in a few years without a team effort.”
Gottlieb also announced that HVEDC’s Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit has won a Bronze award in the category of Entrepreneurship for excellence in economic development in 2016, given by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). This is the organization’s second IEDC award, it received a Gold award for its Hudson Valley 3D Printing (HV3D) cluster development initiative just last year.
Summit keynote speaker Charles Merinoff, principal founder and co-chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group, told participants he believed four main trends were emerging in the craft brewery business: Health and wellness, sustainability, buying and hiring locally, and social media. By being local and environmentally conscious, entrepreneurs can harness social media to tell their unique story and develop their brand, he said.
“In my generation, it was about the process. Now it is about the story,” said Merinoff, speaking about the importance of reaching out to and cultivating customers, distributers and bartenders. “Understand the different stakeholders and turn each one of them into evangelists for your brand.”
Merinoff led the acquisition of Sunbelt Beverage Corp., then operating distributorships in several Eastern states. Sunbelt continued to expand, and in 1997 the wholesale companies in which the family had an interest became known as the Charmer Sunbelt Group. Merinoff served most recently as chairman and chief executive officer.
“It’s an amazing time for the craft beverage industry. You might think you are late, that there are too many people,” said Merinoff. “But there is so much room for growth. I wouldn’t worry about clutter if you have a story to tell.”
Additionally, breakout panel discussions with beverage industry-specific and regional business experts were part of the event again this year.
The “Update on Everything Craft – New York State Roundtable,” was led by Sam Filler, director of Industrial Development for Empire State Development; Tom Donohue, New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) special counsel; Vincent Bradley, chairman of New York State Liquor Authority; and Sue Santamarina, marketing and promotion specialist for the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets. The discussion brought participants up-to-date on key changes to state laws, rules, regulations and grant programs.
“For a long time, the State Liquor Authority’s laws were really from the Prohibition Era and weren’t necessarily business friendly,” said Filler. “The SLA has done a lot of work over the last six years to really liberalize the laws and to make them supportive of the industry. With the Craft Act of 2014, the mission of the SLA changed to an economic development mission, instead of viewing it from a temperance perspective. It’s about growing business.”
The “Crafting Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions” session was led by Robert J. Levine, Esq., a partner with Corrigan, Baker & Levine, LLC and chairman of the HVEDC Board of Directors; and Frank P. Giordano III, CPA, partner/shareholder with Judelson, Giordano & Siegel CPA PC and member of the HVEDC Board of Directors. Special guests Alan Daniels, CEO of Half Time Beverage; and Brian Facquet, co-owner of Prohibition Distillery provided additional industry insight.
In this panel, financial and legal executives discussed improving cash flow, intellectual property protection and other legal, accounting and financial issues. They spoke of the potential challenges of a crowded market and how to survive despite the competition.
“Be careful about spreading yourself too thin. Have a market, a base of customers that will take you through this time,” said Levine. “I think the industry is sustainable because that’s where the trend is going. It’s craft, it’s local, it’s fresh, it’s organic, it’s quality. But you have to have a business plan that will get you through the difficult times.”
In the “Crafting Connections – Journey Inside the Mind of Your Consumer” session, Dr. Russell Zwanka, SUNY New Paltz School of Business professor and CEO and partner at Triple Eight Marketing, described how the retail market is experiencing a tough time. Commodity prices are falling, workforce participation rate is sliding and the proliferation of smart phones is creating an environment where mobile purchases are being made more frequently, he said.
“By next year nearly 10 percent of retail transactions (by revenue) will be conducted in this fashion,” Zwanka said. Generation Z (the demographic following Millennials) is driving this trend and to reach this audience, he said, retailers must realize they now have to communicate to this generation with images, not text. “Remember, this generation doesn’t want to own anything. They just want to live and experience life and share it with their friends.”
Before concluding the day with the return of the Thirst & Vine tasting area with more than a dozen regional craft beverage samplers, CIA Service and Hospitality Education Professor John Fischer moderated a panel of lecturing instructors Alex Cutler, Rory Brown and Brian Schmid. The discussion focused on beverage sales and service and brought to light the latest trends in the business, including food pairings with beer and whiskey.
“Whiskey in general is hot right now. Appreciation for regional styles of American whiskey is becoming more prevalent,” said Brown. “Cocktails are a great way to introduce customers to whiskey, but increasingly diners are looking to try whiskey neat, or on the rocks.”
New this year, the CIA challenged students to develop a “small plate” menu item best served with a locally produced beer, wine, spirit or cider beverage. Three dishes were tasted and voted upon by Summit attendees during the Thirst & Vine tasting portion of the event.
The creator of the dish with the most votes was student chef Kevin Markey, who made oven roasted crispy Brussel sprouts with preserved lemon and garlic aioli. As the winner of the first Hudson Valley Bar Food Challenge, Markey won $1,000 a scholarship. Carly (CeCe) Cooper won second place and a $300 scholarship with her “Bang Bang Eggs,” and Jinyeub Lee won third place and a $200 scholarship for his fried short rib of beef with a yogurt/pepper sauce. The competition was sponsored by Bellefield at Historic Hyde Park.
The Summit was sponsored by Hudson Valley Economic Development Network; The Culinary Institute of America; Taste NY; Hospitality Resource Group, Inc.; Bellefield at Historic Hyde Park; Judelson, Giordano & Siegel, CPA, PC; Corrigan, Baker & Levine LLC; Breakthru Beverage Group; JLL; Orange & Rockland; Lakeland Bank; Heineken; Nestle; Think Dutchess; Pentegra Retirement Services; Today Media; TownSquare Media and Pamal Broadcasting Ltd.
Keynote Charles Merinoff, principal founder and co-chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group, speaks to hundreds at the Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit on October 4.
From L to R: Student chefs and participants in the first Hudson Valley Bar Food Challenge Kevin Markey, Carly (CeCe) Cooper and Jinyeub Lee with HVEDC President and CEO Laurence P. Gottlieb. Markey won a $1,000 scholarship for his winning dish of oven roasted crispy Brussel sprouts with preserved lemon and garlic aioli. The competition was sponsored by Bellefield at Historic Hyde Park.
Breakout sessions were packed at the Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit on October 4. Here Dr. Russell Zwanka, SUNY New Paltz School of Business professor and CEO and partner at Triple Eight Marketing, speaks to a crowd about the current state of the retail market.
About Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC): HVEDC is the leading economic development agency for the seven-county region of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, and Sullivan counties. The public-private partnership markets the region as a prime business location to corporate executives, site selection consultants, and real estate brokers. HVEDC helped start the organizational, branding, and promotional effort for NY BioHud Valley, Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Alliance, Hudson Valley 3D Printing, Hudson Valley EDs & MEDs and Hudson Valley PLAY. To learn more, call 845-220-2244 or visit hvedc.com.
About The Culinary Institute of America (CIA): Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is the world’s premier culinary college. Dedicated to driving leadership development for the foodservice and hospitality industry, the independent, not-for-profit CIA offers associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts; bachelor’s degree majors in management, culinary science, and applied food studies; and executive education through its Food Business School. Its conferences and consulting services have made the CIA the think tank of the food industry in the areas of health & wellness, sustainability, world cuisines & cultures, and professional excellence & innovation. The college also offers certificate programs and courses for professionals and enthusiasts. Its worldwide network of 48,000 alumni includes leaders in every area of foodservice and hospitality. The CIA has campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore. For more information, visit ciachef.edu.