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The Beverage Forum once again descended upon the Windy City this year. Presented by New York-based Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) and Beverage Industry, a publication of Troy, Mich.-based BNP Media, the 2016 annual conference welcomed more than 150 attendees April 26 and 27 at the Westin River North in Chicago.

This year’s event titled “Looking to the Future — A New Era of Innovation and Transformation” addressed the numerous trends impacting the U.S. beverage market, including craft proliferation, distribution evolution, new product innovations, the impact of digital and much more.

With opening remarks from Beverage Industry Publisher Steve Pintarelli as well as a welcome address from BMC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael C. Bellas, attendees were given an in-depth look into the state of the beverage industry. Among the highlights shared were that total U.S. beverage market volume was up 1.7 percent in 2015.

Immediately following the state of the industry was the Winning Beverage Innovation panel. On hand to share their insights and answer attendees’ questions were Rene Lammers, senior vice president of global beverage research and development (R&D) for PepsiCo; Valerie Toothman, vice president of marketing innovation at Anheuser-Busch; and Andy Dratt, executive vice president for Imbibe.

The first keynote speaker for Day 1 was MillerCoors Chief Executive Officer Gavin Hattersley.

Following the keynote interview, the Future of Craft LRBs & Alcohol panel took the stage. Moderated by Ross Colbert of Rabobank, attendees were treated to  insights from Kara Goldin, founder and chief executive officer of Hint Inc.; Thomas Mooney, co-owner and chief executive officer of House Spirits Distillery; and Simon Thorpe, president of Duvel USA.

The afternoon sessions kicked off with the Beverage Awards Presentations. Recipients of the 2016 awards were Pabst Brewing Co. for Small Company of the Year, Constellation Brands for Large Company of the Year, and Don Vultaggio, chairman and co-founder of AriZona Beverages USA LLC, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Immediately following Vultaggio’s award presentation, he sat down with Bellas for his keynote interview. Among the various topics that Vultaggio addressed was how the company strives to maintain its consumer-friendly price point of $0.99 for its 23-ounce cans of AriZona Iced Tea.

The afternoon continued with a keynote interview with Al Carey, chief executive officer of PepsiCo North America.

Following a networking break, attendees gathered to hear Mike Pengue, president of Nestlé Waters North America Brands; Blaise D’Sylva, vice president of media for Dr Pepper Snapple Group; and Douglas Busk, global group director of digital communications and social media for The Coca-Cola Co. The three encompassed Day 1’s final panel:  Digital & Social Era — Where We Are Now & Where We Are Going.

Day 1 concluded with a keynote interview with Rob Sands, president and chief executive officer of Constellation Brands Inc.

Day 2 of the Forum kicked off with the Disruptive Beverage Distribution panel, which featured Bob Brockway, president and chief operating officer of Pepsi Cola and National Brands Beverages Ltd., Canada Dry Delaware Valley Corp. and Canada Dry Potomac Corp.; Mike Mazzoni, consultant with M.J. Mazzoni Inc.; and Nick Rellas, co-founder and chief executive officer of Drizly.

Eugene Kashper, chairman and chief executive officer of Pabst Brewing Co., followed the panel for his keynote interview.

Following a networking break, panelists descended upon the stage for A View from Wall Street. With insights from Bonnie Herzog, managing director at Wells Fargo Securities; Carlos Laboy, managing director and global beverage sector head at HSBC; and Mark Swartzberg, managing director of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Inc., the group discussed the biggest winners and losers within the beverage sector. Moderated by Caroline Levy, managing director of beverages/HPC for CLSA Americas LLC, the panel noted the successes of Constellation Brands, The Coca-Cola Co. and Monster Beverage Corp.

The conference portion of the Forum concluded with a keynote interview with Jorn Socquet, vice president of marketing for Anheuser-Busch.

The afternoon then featured four workshops: Top Trends Shaping the Non-Alcohol Market, presented by Gary Hemphill, managing director and chief operating officer of BMC Research for Beverage Marketing Corporation; Generation Z— Are Brands Ready for the World’s Fastest Group Consumer Group, presented by Matt Fasano, account direct at Fluent; Top Trends Shaping the Beverage Alcohol Market, presented by Brian Sudano, managing partner at Beverage Marketing Corporation and BMC Strategic Associates; and New Product Pacesetters for the Beverage Market, presented by Larry Levin, executive vice president of consumer and shopper marketing, surveys, segmentation, innovation and thought leadership for Information Resources Inc.