Was it worth it? InnoBev Global Soft Drinks Congress 2014

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sally Uren, left, (CEO, Forum for the Future), Marc Mathieu (Senior Marketing VP for Unilever) and Ulrike Sapiro, Coca-Cola Europe (Director Community and Environment) discuss 'The Role of Brands in Creating a Sustainable Future' in Lisbon
Sally Uren, left, (CEO, Forum for the Future), Marc Mathieu (Senior Marketing VP for Unilever) and Ulrike Sapiro, Coca-Cola Europe (Director Community and Environment) discuss 'The Role of Brands in Creating a Sustainable Future' in Lisbon

Related tags: Global soft drinks, Soft drink, Alcoholic beverage, Zenith

We're starting up a new slot at called 'Was it worth it?' to review beverage conferences and trade shows. First up is Zenith International's Innobev Global Soft Drinks Congress in Lisbon. The sun was shining there on April 5-7, but did the event sparkle?

Place (10/10)

Lisbon. In one sense that word should say it all, as Portugal’s port city and capital is a truly delightful place. The venue for this event was a well-equipped conference centre attached to what is arguably the city’s swankiest hotel, the Myriad (pictured).

This lies just on the the edge of town, next to a tranquil park that shadows the sea, with nearby bars and seafood restaurants. Attendance at Zenith’s conference unlocked a special room rate.


Program (9/10)

An all-star cast. As is usual with such events, you’ll never please some section of the crowd as much as others. Journalists are notoriously hard to please! Perhaps it’s my obsession with brands, but the fast-paced third day (Fever-Tree, Welch’s, Dreampak, Free Drinks, Coldpress, Verlinvest, etc.) was my favorite.

An entrepreneurial shoot-out on Day Three between three nascent brands was a great idea, and as always with Zenith there was plenty of trenchant market analysis, news on innovations (enhancers, breakfast drinks, packaging), and up-and-coming brands throughout a meticulously organized event.

It’s laudable and necessary to concentrate on issues such as ‘Balancing Society’s Needs’ and ‘The Role of Brands in Creating a Sustainable Future’, but I find such discussions tend to paint such broad brushstrokes – as a neutral, it can be hard to drill down to the facts beneath each side’s very civilized rhetoric.

That said, I'm quibbling a little, and one doesn’t expect hair pulling or name calling in public! Vital issues were addressed, the debate flowed, and it’s to Zenith’s credit that it got Coca-Cola, the American Beverage Association (ABA), Oxfam and the WWF to debate on the same platform for the first time ever. Brownie points there.

Price (8.5/10)

High but not eye-wateringly so. 8.5 because show delegates always want more for less! But you get what you pay for, and, I would say, you get a lot more here. €1,832 (roughly $2,500) – the early booking price – looks extremely good value given the boutique nature of the event, and included a plant tour (of PepsiCo bottler Sumol+Compal), briefings, receptions and the gala dinner.

The fact that you can rub shoulders with Zenith’s well-informed analysts (led by industry doyen Richard Hall), top executives from firms including WILD, Unilever, Unicer and Bericap, consultants and other established or rising stars in the beverage world, really lifted this event.

Catering (8/10)

Now we’ve got the ‘thee Ps’ out of the way we can turn to the catering. This was top notch – delegates took all their meals (included in the package) at the plush Myriad hotel, and cuisine was of a good standard with plentiful healthy and vegetarian options. Zenith is always aware of the need for delegates to network, and there were several excellent drinks receptions.

Was it worth it?

‘Yes’. In a word. Fulfilled the difficult task of following and improving upon 2013’s successful Warsaw event. My overall score is 35.5/40 or 88.75%. What cannot be over-emphasized is the importance of the venue, organization and the atmosphere it inspires among delegates at such events – the organisers got it just right. In sum, Zenith hit top gear in Lisbon.

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