The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) concluded its record-setting 73rd Annual Convention & Exposition last week at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, an event that featured action-packed tasting and mixology competitions, compelling keynote speakers, sold-out exhibits and suites as well as strong wholesaler participation.
WSWA welcomed more than 2,800 attendees over the three-day event. General Session keynote speakers, sponsored by the Distilled Spirits Council, included renowned journalist David Gregory who provided analysis on the dynamic political landscape, and Aron Ralston, whose struggle to overcome unimaginable odds inspired the film 127 Hours. WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf delivered remarks reflecting back on his decade of leadership, noting successes as well as looming challenges facing the industry. Incoming 2016-2017 WSWA Chairman Doug Epstein of Horizon Beverage Group, Norton, Mass., talked about the past successes of the organization and his vision for the future.
The WSWA Educational Foundation honored Tito Beveridge, founder of Tito’s Handmade Vodka and presented him with the Sidney Frank Award, named for an industry giant who set new standards for innovation, community engagement and philanthropy. The award is given in partnership with The Sidney Frank Importing Company, and includes a $10,000 contribution in Tito’s name to the charity of his choice: CORE—Children of Restaurant Employees. WSWA recognized Larry Ruvo, Senior Managing Director of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada with the Lifetime Leadership Award for business leadership in the industry and decades of philanthropic service to Nevada educational, health and community organizations. Click here to read more about these awards and recipients.
The always-popular Wine & Spirits Tasting Competitions, in partnership with The Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal, judged more than 600 entries in their respective categories. Click here to see the list of winning products. The popular Call for Cocktails Mixology Competition added excitement with brands submitting their original cocktails, executed on-site in front of a gallery of fans and judged by a panel of experts. Click here for the winners and winning recipes. The Wholesaler Iron Mixologist Competition added an increased level of complexity as original cocktails with secret ingredients revealed on-site, were created in a timed competition. Click here for the winners and winning recipes.
Celebrity appearances from Flo Rida, Cheech Marin, Florida-Georgia Line, Jake Owen, Billy Bush and Lisa Vanderpump, and celebrity product launches from Christie Brinkley and Channing Tatum added to the event’s buzz. The popular Opening Night Reception featured brands from the portfolio of Presidents’ Forum of the Distilled Spirits Industry companies. The well-attended Taste of the Industry showcased a multitude of products from both startup and established suppliers from around the globe.
The week’s program concluded with record attendance at the U.S. Beverage Alcohol Forum covering valuable topics. “From Around the World—to Around the Corner, offered a global and U.S. perspective on trends followed by a panel of mixologists who discussed trends happening right now in U.S. bars and restaurants. The new “Brand Battle” showcased five startup companies selected from more than 40 entrants that pitched our panel of top industry experts and received feedback in front of a live audience. Finally, “Start, Stretch or Sell: How to Attract Dollars at Any Stage” provided insight from investors and advisors on how to attract investment to start, grow or sell brands.
“The WSWA 73rd Annual Convention & Exposition set new records for attendance both by wholesalers and suppliers, and continues to be the place where the industry connects to forge partnerships,” said WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf. “With this year’s event in the books, we’re hard at work planning next year’s session in Orlando,” he added.
WSWA is the national trade association representing the wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry, dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of wholesalers, distributors and brokers of wine and spirits. Founded in 1943, WSWA has 379 member companies in 50 states and the District of Columbia and its members distribute more than 80 percent of all wine and spirits sold at wholesale in the United States. More information is available at www.wswa.org.