Recently, I attended the National Restaurant Association show here in Chicago, held from May 22-25, to check out what was on display in the world of beverages. I was joined by my friend Nicko Sahlas, founder of our partner site ChefTalk.com, as we explored the thousands of exhibitors showcasing their products and services.
Now, the NRA show (not to be confused with that “other NRA“) is primarily focused on the foodservice industry, restaurants, and hotels/motels, so when it comes to the beverage side of things, everything is filtered through that perspective. Here at BevReview.com we take a look at the non-alcoholic side of the coin, thus we didn’t dig into the Wine, Spirits, & Beer Event that was taking place as part of the convention. Hopefully, you trust our eyes and ears as we explored the event to see what’s interesting and new… and what that means to someone like yourself who is probably a beverage enthusiast.
Incidentally, I’ve been to the NRA show many times in the past as a guest with some of the food service management I used to work with way back in my college days. During my education, as part of my student loan work program, I spent 4 years working in differing areas of the dining commons, from clean-up crew up through management. Anyone who has served time in institutional food service understands the interesting life lessons you experience in those environments! In any case, since BevReview HQ is here in Chicago as well, it was easy to drop by the show and check it out for a few days.
We’ll be showcasing reviews on many of the beverages we tried at the show, so please stay tuned in future weeks for that. While the “Big 3″ were in attendance (The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group), it often was the smaller brands that had the most interesting products and stories. We hope to spotlight a lot of these brands and hopefully introduce something to diversify your tastes! It was a lot of fun to get out from “behind the screen” to talk to the folks that bring these items to market, from owners to distributors to marketing & PR folks.
As we gear up to write about many of these beverages, here’s just a taste of what we saw…