This year’s keynote speakers were Ice-T (actor, musician and author), Bruce Himelstein (former Chief Marketing Officer, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company), and Bill Newlands (CEO, Constellation Brands).
In the newly developed WSWA Supplier Leadership Series, answers were provided to some of the most pressing distribution-related questions including: brand building, how to stand-out in a sea of similar products, alternative 3-tier compliant routes to market, finding venture capital, and navigating compliance and state laws.
One of my favorite parts of the WSWA Convention was the Brand Battle, which is their version of Shark Tank, and puts brands with impressive pitches and compelling stories in front of a panel of decision-makers to compete live on stage. At the conclusion of the Brand Battle, the panel’s scores are combined with the audience scores to determine a first and second place winner. Contestants are judged on presentation, brand viability in the marketplace, taste, marketing innovation and overall appeal. I really enjoyed learning about these startup brands, and the inspirational stories behind their creation. For the first time ever, two brands tied for first place, which was very exciting to see! The two winners were Boukman Botanical Rhum made in Haiti and Seaside Grown Bloody Mary Mix, which also got my vote.
It was very fun and exciting to see my many photographs blown up and used in all of the amazing wall displays that were featured in the main exhibit hall at the convention.
The WSWA Annual Convention & Exposition is the only event that exclusively links wholesalers, importers and exporters with suppliers and service providers in the most value-packed event in the wine & spirits industry. Held in Grande Lakes, Orlando Florida, the WSWA Convention is the premier event where distributors seek out new and exciting beverage products, meet with existing partners and look for services to enhance internal operations. This event unites more than 3,000 suppliers, distributors, influencers and a record number of industry media attendees under one roof for three days of networking and deal making. I have been photographing this event for the last six years, and each one is better than the next. Every year, I leave the convention in high spirits (pun intended)!
Another notable event was the Wholesaler Iron Mixologist Competition, which showcases the best mixologists in the business, and is judged by a panel of highly respected experts. They take part in a timed competition where they have to create cocktails that incorporate surprise ingredients, which are unveiled to the competitors at the very beginning of this creative challenge.