Cheers to That!

Vacationers are influenced by many different factors and attractions when choosing their final destination. Why not draw visitors to your location with beer?

“Beercations” have soared in popularity in recent years because of the craft beer craze that has taken the country by storm. These vacations are all about trying new craft beers and touring breweries local to the area. “There is something special about learning where something that we use, eat or drink on a daily basis comes to be,” says Peter Rait, owner of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro in Boston. “The connections we make are what everyone searches for and what life is all about.”

Keith Richards has come a long way from frying chicken, slicing tomatoes and making salad when he was 18 years old working for a café in the local Kmart. After opening his first restaurant in 1998, Richards now leads the rapidly expanding fast-casual chain that recently opened its 42nd location. “We create relationships with our guests and use the food as a tool to do that,” he says. “Ninety-nine percent of our franchisees are customers.”

Taziki’s Café is the product of a long-awaited trip that Richards and his wife, Amy, took in 1997 to Greece. “We went there for about three weeks and fell in love with the people and the food,” he says. “We wanted to do something for ourselves and create our own restaurant. 

“Returning to Birmingham, [Ala.], with a taste for Greek cuisine, the first Taziki’s opened in 1998,” he adds.

The Matt family has been brewing beer in Utica, N.Y., since 1888. Now in its fourth generation of family ownership and management, the F. X. Matt Brewing Co. is one of the oldest family owned breweries in the United States. “What distinguishes us as a company is this,” Chairman and CEO Nick Matt says. “We’ve been around for a long time and have seen a lot of things happen in this industry. But we’ve also learned and gotten a lot of experience, and as a result of that, we’re making some awfully good beers. For a company our size, the only way you’re going to be successful is if you make great products that people choose because they like them better, and that is what we try to do every day.”

Nick’s nephew, President and COO Fred Matt, emphasizes the company’s innovation. “The reason we’ve survived and thrived for 127 years is that we have been innovative and taken the brewing knowledge and expertise that we have and evolved that into great beers,” Fred stresses. “That’s why we’re around and will continue to be around.” 

The classic glass Coke bottle is a packaging icon, but it represents less than 2 percent of sales today compared to the more than 70 percent it represented in the 1970s. The bottling industry has gone through multiple changes in the 95 years that the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co. has been bottling and distributing beverages, and those changes will continue.

“There have been a lot of changes in our business,” President and COO John Schaefer declares. “I was thinking of all the changes that have occurred. I started in this business in 1973 right out of high school and worked my way through college for four years off a Coke truck. When I started, we sold about 20 different SKUs. Today, we’re approaching 500. The beverage space in the store is fairly static in the sparkling soft drink sections. We will battle with Pepsi and 7-Up for what percent of that space we get and do that all day long, but what’s really changed is how many more aisles of the store we are represented in today.”

For many years, Mr. Green Tea Ice Cream packaged its frozen desserts in the same kind of unidentifiable 2.5-gallon cardboard container its competitors used. The company sold directly to restaurants in the New York City Tri-State area and its low public visibility meant Mr. Green Tea had no marketing recognition. 

Then, six years ago, Vice President Michael Emanuele realized his family’s company needed a brand identity if it was going to grow and he saw new packaging as the solution. Mr. Green Tea introduced resealable plastic containers with the company’s logo laser-printed right onto the package and everything began to change.

“It was a really different approach to foodservice packaging,” Emanuele says. “The Mr. Green Tea brand name was getting out onto the street.” Soon, the discarded containers began popping up in unexpected places. “Before you know it, we’re seeing these [containers] used as ice buckets in Hoboken,” Emanuele says. “The container is sticking around and our logo is sticking around.”

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