When we ranked the most powerful people in food for this year, our editorial director Colman Andrews put it best: "Power is juice — the ability to make things happen." And now, we've put together a list of the most powerful people in the drink world. What is it that these tastemakers, winemakers, beer brewers, coffee roasters, and policy makers make happen? They decide what we'll be drinking. How do we choose between two bottles of wine, or pick a craft beer over a big-name beer, or one bottled water over another? With the help of the work of our most powerful decision makers in the drink industry.
As a key group of influencers, the folks on our list of the 40 most powerful people in the drink industry help decide in one form or another how we drink in the United States. When we analyzed our list of last year's honorees, we deliberated and debated on who still holds the most power in our industry — and who the game changers are in the business. After careful consideration of the weight each of the honorees carry from last year, we decided to add 10 more tastemakers to our list that can't be ignored. Take Julie Herz (#39), the pied piper of craft beer, or James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee (#24), the face of the third wave coffee scene. Annette Alvarez-Peters (#20) is in charge of Costco's wine sales, totaling $1 billion, no small chunk of change for discounted and wine. And Bethenny Frankel (#40) may have prolonged her 15 minutes of fame with her Skinnygirl line of beverages, and forever changed the low-calorie liquor game.
Our list of these 40 individuals represents power in every sense of the word: authority, control, influence, and sheer force. It ranges from the tastemakers to the moneymakers: from the cocktail experts that have deftly shaped the cocktail programs at the bars and restaurants we visit (David Wondrich, #33; Gaz Regan, #38; and Ted Haigh, #36) to the wine critics that we rely on for their expertise and finely tuned palate (Robert M. Parker, #32; and Eric Asimov, #25). But of course, we can't ignore the buying power and enormity of the corporations behind the big-name brands we love, or love to hate, and buy all the same: Coca-Cola (#5), PepsiCo (#6), Anheuser-Busch (#7), the list goes on. While no one may want to admit to the power behind these big brands, it's hard to escape them at the bar and at the store. Take Constellation Brands (#13), with more than 100 brands in their company. Buy a six-pack of Corona, grab a bottle of Robert Mondavi wine, pick up a bottle of Svedka and you're always within the Constellation family. Or how about Diageo (#9), with everything from Guinness to Jose Cuervo to Ciroc. You're never far from one of the top corporations on our list. Likewise, it's hard to ignore the government's role in deciding what we can drink, thanks to the states' liquor boards and the USFDA keeping us safe from harm, like with the recent debacle over unsafe energy drinks. And of course, there's always Mayor Bloomberg (#19) there to fight the soda constituency about selling oversized drinks to New Yorkers, but we digress.
It goes without saying that any list such as this has a touch of subjectivity, but our rankings are hardly arbitrary. After much discussion, research, and questioning, we decided on who we think holds the most weight within this ever-growing business. And as Americans continue to change their buying habits (from soda to water, big beer to craft beer, spirits to flavored vodka), we anticipate that our list will change much more over the years to come.