Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) and Beverage Industry welcomed beverage professionals to the in-person return of The Beverage Forum. Taking place April 28-29, the conference was hosted at the Swissotel Chicago.

Welcoming everyone back, Michael Bellas, chairman and chief executive officer for BMC, presented his opening address “The Wellness and Functional Future: How a Dynamic Beverage Category is Poised to Meet Consumer Needs.”

The two-day conference welcomed speakers from all walks of the non-alcohol and alcohol beverage markets. To kick-off the day was, John Fieldly, CEO of Celsius Holdings Inc., and Kyle Watson, vice president of marketing at Celsius. The two noted how the functional energy brand has found success across a variety of retail channels in recent years.

Later, the event welcomed John Shea, chief marketing officer for Mark Anthony Brands Inc., and Angela Smith, manager of consumer insights and engagement for Talking Rain Beverage Co., for the Transforming Brands and Transcending Categories panel.

Mallika Monteiro, executive vice president and chief growth, strategy and digital officer with Constellation Brands, also took to the stage where she detailed the ways that the total beverage alcohol company is adapting to today’s consumer needs. 

Following a lunch break, Steve Pintarelli, publisher of Beverage Industry, and Bellas presented The Beverage Forum awards to Red Bull North America for Large Company of the Year and Celsius Holdings for Small Company of the Year.

After the presentation Mark Rampolla, co-founder and managing partner with PowerPlant Partners as well as founder of ZICO Beverages, joined Bellas on stage to discuss his transition to an angel investor.

The day continued with the Generating the Future Beverage Space panel, which welcomed Stephen Ellsworth, co-founder and CEO of poppi; Joe Peleg, founder and CEO of The Fun Wine Co.; and Jason Shiver, CEO of Waterloo Sparkling Water.

Following their discussion, Brendan Whitworth, CEO of Anheuser-Busch joined Bellas on stage where he highlighted the steps the company is doing to support the North American beer market.

Finally the day concluded with the panel A Wall Street Perspective on the Beverage Market, which was moderated by Caroline Levy, Founder, Caroline Levy Advisory Services, and welcomed speakers Bonnie Herzog, managing director at Goldman Sachs; Carlos Laboy, managing director of global beverage sector head at HSBC; and Robert Ottenstein, senior managing director at Evercore ISI.

For the second day, the general session began with a keynote conversation with Albert Baladi, president and CEO of Beam Suntory. 

The morning then continued with The Driving Forces of Innovation panel with speakers Chris Sinclair, global head of product optimization with NielsenIQ BASES; Jason Cohen, founder and CEO of Gastrograph AI; and Wade Schmelzer, principal food scientist at Cargill.

Following a networking break, the Retail’s Next Steps panel took the stage with moderation from Danny Stepper, co-founder and CEO with L.A. Libations LLC; and Mark Wilkins, director of grocery beverage and beer/wine at Sprouts Farmers Market.

The conference then concluded with a closing keynote from Brad Goist, chief operating officer at Refresco North America.

The Beverage Forum is looking forward to returning next year and will share 2023 with all in the coming weeks.