The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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Page 77 of 134

july 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  75 The Brand Battle judges at WSWA's 75th Annual Convention & Exposition included Charlie Merinoff, Co-Chairman, Breakthru Beverage Group; Steve Slater, Executive Vice President/General Manager–Wine Division, Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits; Meridith May, Publisher/Editorial Director for The Tasting Panel, The SOMM Journal, and The Clever Root; Marc Sachs, Vice President of Supplier Business Development, Republic National Distributing Company; Bill Rancic, author and restaurateur; and Syd Ross, Co-CEO, Great Lakes Wine & Spirits. Mixologist extraordinaire Tobin Ellis, who served as the host and moderator of Brand Battle, is the owner of BarMagic, an award-winning hospitality design and consulting firm in Las Vegas. july 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  75 Not unlike the popular TV show Shark Tank, which introduces aspiring brands to investors and millions of viewers, the Brand Battle competition at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) 75th Annual Convention & Exposition puts wine and spirit entrepreneurs in front of some of the country's most important distributors and trade media representatives. For the industry, that's a priceless opportunity: It's a win in itself to have an in-person "meeting" with these decision makers when it comes to promoting a burgeoning brand. In fact, the goal of the competition is to showcase how the three-tier system of distribution succeeds in introducing new products to the market. While the judges had the power to choose the top contenders, an audience of more than 200 industry influencers also chimed in with their votes. This year's convention in Las Vegas ended on a high note for the contestants, who performed a timed pitch and tasting for the judges after the screening of their "sizzle reels." PITCH Perfect by Bill Brandel / photos by Tony Tran PHOTO COURTESY OF MAZZA ILLUSTRATIONS PHOTO COURTESY OF MAZZA MAZZA ILLUSTRATIONS ILLUSTRATIONS

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