From Craft Beer to Healthy Soft Drinks – An Insider’s Story

About the Episode

The beverage industry is moving to keep up with consumer desires for healthier options. Mary Pellettieri discusses her move from craft beer to start a beverage company offering healthier options in tonics and soft drinks. From the dangers of high fructose corn syrup to the benefits of natural sugar, from a definition of functional beverages to a discussion of nutrition and details on how to move a new beverage into the marketplace – this wide-ranging discussion offers tips on navigating this tricky landscape.

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“If you’re considering starting the next beverage company, my advice would be this: if you’re doing it as a hobby, that’s great, and it can bring you happiness, but you’re not going to necessarily make a killing. If you want to grow a national brand, you’ll need a lot of money behind you, and you have to go in knowing that if you want to do something locally, do something local and do it with the taproom mentality because consumers do respond to that. Either stay small or go big. It’s hard to play in the middle of the beverage industry.”  

Mary Pellettieri

In this Episode

4:15 What are the links between botany, understanding plants, nutrition, and the technology of developing new foods?
5:15 What are the dangers of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?
9:50 Why do F&B products pay a slotting fee for shelf space in retail stores? How is this handled differently for alcoholic beverages?
13:28 How did the lack of choice, flavor, and a non-holistic approach to beverages lead to the creation of Top Note tonics?
18:08 What are the origins of tonic, and how has it changed to be made with HFCS today?
22:10 What is included in elevated spirit-free cocktails or non-alcoholic better-for-you soft drinks?
25:01 How can monk fruit be used as a natural sweetener?
28:00 Why are consumers buying drinks in the better-for-you soft drink category and functional beverages? How are drinks defined as being functional beverages?
34:07 How can caffeine be seen as a successful functional beverage? What is organic caffeine?
39:53 What are the different routes to market that a beverage manufacturer can consider?
43:59 How much influence do bartenders have in what beverages they serve? Can a brand exert influence over the purchasing habits of bartenders?
51:58 What has changed the most in the beverage and cocktail industry?
57:08 What is some advice for people who are thinking of starting a beverage company?

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Resources Mentioned

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Acronyms or Terms Used in This Episode

  • Aspartame: Artificial sweetener found in diet products
  • Phenylalanine: Essential amino acid and aspartame component
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): Sweetener derived from corn starch
  • FDA: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • Slotting: Payment for product shelf space in stores
  • Craft beer: Unique beer from small breweries
  • Sucrose: Common table sugar from plants
  • Kombucha: Fermented tea with potential health benefits
  • Viscosity: Fluid’s thickness or resistance to flow
  • C store: convenience stores
  • BFY drinks: better-for-you functional drinks

Meet Our Guest

Mary Pellettieri

Mary Pellettieri

Co-founder, President, and CEO of La Pavia Beverage, Inc.

Mary Pellettieri is Co-founder, President, and CEO of La Pavia Beverage, Inc., the maker of Top Note Tonics, and she works with Sugaright, a division of CSC Sugar, supporting their objective to grow sales in the beverage channel for the fair trade and lower carbon footprint sugars. Mary has been involved in the beverage trade in one way or another since she began her career as a laboratory technician at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, the former training institute for anyone who wanted to up their skills in professional beer operations. She started her interest in beverages with her degree in Botany from NC State University and has followed her passion to make better-for-you soft drinks and mixers. Mary has worked in many facets of production and research and development in craft beer, cider, soft drinks, and now with her own soft drink company, La Pavia Beverage Inc., makers of Top Note Soft Drinks and Mixers, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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