For all the innovation there might be on back bars and on retailers shelves things have stayed pretty much the same in the way wines, spirits and beers are judged and awarded medals. With blind tastings and products assessed on quality being the way to go. That was until the end of 2017 when the London Drinks Competitions were introduced – with separate awards for London Wine, London Spirits and London Beers – by the Beverage Trade Network which announced it was going to awards its medals based on the quality of the drinks, its value for money and what it looks like in terms of packaging and design. Four years on we talk to the competitions founder Sid Patel about how and why he came up with the awards and his plans for keeping them different from the competition.
If you are interested in entering this year’s London Drinks Competitions then act fast if you want to take advantage of special discounted pricing that ends on October 15. You can find out about the London Wine Competition here, the London Spirits Competition here and London Beer Competition here.
Tell us how you came up with the idea of the London Drinks Competitions ?
There was a clear gap between what our industry loves and what the actual consumers love. The idea behind the launch of the London Drinks Competitions was to make awards more relevant and be closer to the end consumer and the way they reward their wines, spirits and beers. More importantly, this is how the trade also rewards any brands they list.
London, was chosen as the city to host the awards as it undoubtedly has the best judges with the best palates and has such a true international appeal. We really wanted to reward products not just by quality, but also by value and packaging.
Once you had the concept how did you go about creating that point of difference?
The gap was clearly in the value element of the scoring. We have not been fair in rewarding wines, spirits and beers based on the value they offer. When we see a consumer shopping in a supermarket, they shop by their eyes first, then the price and then the quality which most of the time is unknown before they taste the product. London Drinks Competitions want to assure the consumers and trade, that the product they see with a London Drinks Competition medal is a chosen by quality, value and packaging.
Why not just stick to the quality metric that virtually all other drinks competitions use?
Because quality can be used as a metric if there is no money in the equation, but that’s not how the real world works. We must start rewarding wines that offer the best quality for the price. Design is an important element of a buying process as well. We don’t want consumers to second guess when they pick a bottle that has a London Competition medal sticker. They should be confident that the brand was chosen by the best judges and offers great quality and value.
The link between the awards and the consumer is very important for you – why is that and what do you to bring the two together?
The next phase of the London Drinks Competitions will be how we create more consumer awareness. We want consumers to use the medals as a benchmark when they are looking out for wines, spirits and beers. We looked to do that with the launch of the London Drinks Guide, a dedicated editorial platform where we talk about the products that have won medals and interview and profile our judges about how and why they list certain drinks.
London Drinks Competition winners will not only be promoted in London, but will be promoted in New York Drinks Guide, Paris Drinks Guide, San Francisco Drinks Guide, Mumbai Drinks Guide, Los Angeles Drinks Guide and Chicago Drinks Guide. Beverage Trade Network aims to build one of the biggest consumer focused drinks platforms where we will talk about these amazing winners all year round.
In 2022, London Spirits Competition also launched cocktail stories where consumers can see the recipes of the winning brands.
How have the awards developed over the years in terms of the products and producers entering?
The awards have grown very well. We believe in giving more value to the entrants every year. We have also invested a lot in the scoring platform to increase the accuracy and integrity of the competition. We are expecting close to 4,000 entries for the 2022 competitions.
You are working hard to expand the awards internationally – how are you doing that?
Yes, when we started, our goal was to make London competitions a true global award. With Beverage Trade Network’s media e-cosystem, we plan to showcase winners all over the world. With new media partnerships with magazines and also trade buying groups, we are expanding the competition awareness.
How do you choose which judges to work with and what criteria is based on?
All judges must be Master of Wine, Master Sommeliers, or an active trade buyer. They must be making purchasing decisions on a weekly basis. It is very important we have the same repeat judges in order to improve the consistency of the competition and that is why for any new judge to come on board, we take our time to make them understand the philosophy of the competition and also to see if they meet the criteria.
The London Competitions are all part of your wider business the Beverage Trade Network – can you explain what that is and what services and range of events do you run?
London Competitions is owned by Beverage Trade Network, a US based media company. The vision behind BTN is to build a true global marketplace and an ecosystem where we create more value for suppliers and buyers by bringing the synergies via our media assets, face to face events, platforms and competitions.
We do trade shows like International Bulk Wine and Spirits, USA Trade Tasting, Cannabis Drinks Expo. Future Drinks Expo, Cannabis Edibles Expo. Our competitions include Sommeliers Choice Awards, China Wine Competition, Paris Wine Cup, Bartenders Spirits Awards. Our media assets include Sommelier Business, Bartender Business, BevRoute, London Drinks Guide and many more portals around the world. We are also investing in upgrading new Beverage Trade Network website which is due for the launch in 2022.
How would you like to see the London Competitions grow and develop in the years to come?
The idea is to be relevant to the trade and consumers. The medal should mean something to the buyer and help them with their purchase decisions. We will continue to give more value to the entrants and help them grow their awareness globally.
What do you need to do to make that happen?
I have no doubt we will continue to give winners more value, we will listen to the trade buyers, we will listen to the consumers. On the note of who can help us, we encourage trade buyers to give these brands a chance. These products have been tasted by their peers and they will love what they find in these products.