More than 300 spirits industry people gathered in San Juan, Puerto Rico from June 12-15 to attend a conference specially designed for companies in the Caribbean.
Hosted and organized by Miami based WEBB Banks and its sister company, WB Canna & Wellness, the conference welcomed representatives of more than 25 of its supplier brands and more than 60 distributors and key accounts to an extremely worthwhile 3-day event at the San Juan Sheraton.
WEBB Banks CEO Andy Consuegra tells TMI that after a tough few years the goal of the event was to connect and reconnect after the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially because relationships are the foundation of this business.
WEBB Banks also wanted to celebrate the industry’s resiliency to overcome the crisis. He chose to hold it in San Juan as a way of giving back to the region.
“We do not feel that the current industry gatherings, including the IAADFS’ Summit, were serving our needs. So we are bringing everyone together here, to examine trends, share best practices, and showcase our brands,” Consuegra said.
A centerpiece of the event was a morning conference on June 13 that examined the drivers for success and recognized the company’s collaborations and partnerships.
The speakers also took a deep dive into understanding industry trends that have occurred since the pandemic.
Top speakers see bright future
Presenting an excellent over-view of the Caribbean marketplace, Dr. Michael Cheng, Dean of Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, discussed The Future of Tourism in the Caribbean, highlighting data and opportunities that would be most relevant to conducting business in the region.
Renowned Wine & Spirits consultant Michel Recalt, formerly CMO at Bacardi and Global Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Moet Hennessy, presented a fascinating assessment of trends in wines and spirits today. (ie. 50% of all premium wine is now bought by women.)
Chris Hetherington, currently CEO of CBD company Peels and a National Football League player for 14 years, inspired the audience with his stories about dedication and perseverance.
Achieving success as an experienced executive, board member, entrepreneur, consultant, and investor, Hetherington cited the lessons learned from his mentor, Coach Bill Belichik of the New England Patriots, whose mantras were “do your job,” and “put team first.”
Jim Clerkin, whose career reads like a Who’s Who of the Spirits industry, ranging from senior positions at Guinness, to Allied Domecq, to Jim Beam to CEO and President of Moët Hennessy USA, enthralled the audience with his entertaining tales of climbing the corporate ladder. Currently CEO of his own company, Demeter & Co., and Chairman of the Board of ReserveBar, he also spoke of the potential of new trends, such as cannabis.
External Affairs consultant William Bullard, OBE, a former SVP of Corporate Affairs for Diageo in LATAM and the Carib-bean, presented a look at tariffs and creating conditions to minimize taxation and make sure taxes are applied logically, as well as the importance of stakeholder engagement and community involvement.
In line with WB Canna’s CBD and wellness focus, Dr. Alexandre Rebelo-Marques, a world renowned specialist in sports medicine, spoke about the importance of hydration, while the very popular Dr. Jaime Claudio Villamil, a doctor, professor and TV, Radio and Newspaper medical news analyst who is a strong proponent of the value of cannabis in medicine, spoke about wellness and beyond.
Following the morning conference, suppliers and distributors attended breakout sessions—Consuegra reported that more than 500 separate meetings had been planned to take place between Monday and Wednesday. The eleven wellness and CBD brands represented by WB Canna & Wellness held a mini-trade show that attracted great attention.
Dinner on Monday evening was billed as a “San Juan Dine Around,” with small groups sent to restaurants throughout the city.
“We wanted to involve as many venues as we could, especially after the hardship of the last few years,” explained Consuegra.