For better or for worse, New Orleans has always been known for its mass consumption of alcohol, according to the Forbes website. The article goes on to say: New Orleans has become a hub for fostering entrepreneurship, so it is no surprise that innovation in the beverage industry can also be found there.
The article aslo says that New Orleans is setting trends in the alcoholic beverage market, trends that are integral to the growth of the industry. The title of the Forbes article is: For beverage entrepreneurs with a drinking problem, advice from New Orleans. That sounds about right to us.
Want to know what Forbes magazine says in reference to this issue? Read on..
By: Adriana Lopez, Forbes.com
Alcoholic beverages have long been an essential part of different customs and occasions – from religious events and celebrations to social situations and, at times, during an emotional crisis. However, in recent years, the alcohol industry has witnessed increasing demand and growth, particularly as a result of the gradual economic recovery in the country.
Shaping new trends in the way consumers drink and choose what they drink, the beverage industry’s growth can best be evidenced through the popularity of “mixologists,” handcrafted cocktails, premiumization, new flavor offerings, and innovative products. And, at the forefront of those trends aren’t always the large, corporate leaders that have long been dominating the industry, but the new entrepreneurs, who have passion, creativity, and innovation on their side. So, where better to look for the beverage entrepreneurs setting the trends for the industry than New Orleans, where boozing and partying once dominated its past and innovation now promises its future.
For better or for worse, New Orleans has always been known for its mass consumption of alcohol. It’s where “last calls” cease to exit, cocktails are poured in to-go cups, and drive-through daiquiris stands are more prevalent than Taco Bells. Let’s be honest, there is even a street – which resembles somewhat of a debauch Main St, Disneyland – dedicated to boozing and revelry, and coincidentally shares its name with American whisky. Fun fact: Bourbon Street was actually originally named after a French monarchy.
These days, New Orleans is coming out of its hungover haze and competing with leading markets in the country within several industries, including digital media, biosciences, and film. The fun-loving city has been luring new industries with financial incentives, and retaining them with a growing workforce and high quality of life.
While craft beers currently only hold about 5% of the market, it is expected to make up 10% of all beer sales by 2017, as larger brewers like MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch continue to lose sales, according to the Brewers Association. Unlike the larger brewers, craft brewers add new dynamic to beer offerings through experimentation, quality, and passion – factors that are integral to the growing segment. Craft brewers also stay better connected to today’s consumer, who tends to look for more local products and variety. “We make our beers to pair well with New Orleans food and activities,” said Kirk Coco, owner of NOLA Brewing, “Creating flavorful beers that can still be consumed in 100 degree, 100% humidity weather isn’t easy, but I think we really pull it off with high quality beers that fit N.O.
Located in the heart of New Orleans, NOLA Brewing has embraced the facility’s location by implementing the city’s culture and flavor into every aspect of the business – down to its brew names, packaging, and tap handles that all pay homage to its hometown. Flambeau Red, the brand’s spring brew named after the burning torches carried during Mardi Gras parades, is a red ale that commemorates the Carnival Season, while Hurricane Saison, named for obvious reasons, is the summer’s golden ale.
After offering their brews only on draft at bars and pubs throughout the region, NOLA Brewing began releasing their line of canned beers last year in order to continue to cater to their consumer and growing demand. Currently, three of their year-around brews are sold in canned form, which is better for keeping the beer fresh longer and more environmentally friendly than bottles. The aluminum packaging is also more conducive to the region’s lifestyle and is legal to take to tailgates, beaches, and New Orleans parade routes.
Now offering four year-around brews, a seasonal line, and a high gravity line of beers, NOLA Brewing is expanding their facilities and offerings, since being founded five years ago as an effort to bring back commerce to New Orleans after Katrina. Their facility in New Orleans’ Irish Channel has doubled in size to 20,000 square feet in order to create more brews, make room for more inventory, and add new offerings to the facility, including an adjacent brew pub and tap room.
Coco added, “We are building on that history of flavorful food creations and using the same artisanal skills to create beers that bring the flavor and fun of New Orleans to our consumers. “
The Big Easy Blends business model also offers consumers variety. Their line of frozen to-go drinks include a variety of flavors, including Classic Lime and Watermelon MarGOritas, Strawberry DaigGOri, PinaGOlada, and ChoGOlate Mudslide housed inside a re-sealable CapriSun-esque pouch. With its portable packaging and locally inspired packaging, each drink brings a little bit of the New Orleans lifestyle to fans around the country – a lifestyle and influence that has been an important factor in creating and defining the brand.
“New Orleans is a gumbo of different races, ages, backgrounds and cultures that trade and exchange traditions and ideas,” said Cordes. “[The city] doesn’t stifle creativity like some other cities, it embraces it. That, and the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to start drinking at 3pm on a weekday, fosters a fertile environment for new ideas. New Orleans is like a big playground, and we learn through our exploration.”
Embracing his hometown and its ability to inspire innovation, Cordes added that Big Easy Blends will be releasing new pouches in 2013 with a more active New Orleans influenced design. He concluded, “This is huge for us as everyone loves New Orleans (whether you have visited or not). Everyone knows about Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, delicious food, great cocktails, laid back lifestyle, and oh the fact we can walk around the street freely with cocktails in hand.”
The revival of the beverage industry stems beyond merely boozing at happy hour or a growing selection of premium bottles at the grocery store, it is a craft that involves education, networking, and promotion. That is where Tales of the Cocktail comes in.
In its tenth installment, the annual event is the world’s premier cocktail festival, bringing together bartenders, mixologists, brand ambassadors and aficionados to celebrate the craft behind the cocktail, appropriately hosted in New Orleans. Each year, the week long festival presents numerous events that include tastings, seminars, dinners, and new product launches. In addition, events are held throughout the year to commemorate the spirited industry and further connect the community. A cocktail apprentice program, medical fund, and a scholarship fund provide continuing support and education opportunities to those in the industry who are in need.
Besides supporting the worldwide beverage industry, the festival creates a significant economic impact. This year, Tales of the Cocktail created an economic impact of $14.3 million to the New Orleans economy, a significant increase of $1.6 million from 2011. Now, think about that kind of impact next time you order your drink.