Sixteen years after founding BeerAdvocate, the Alström brothers (Jason, left, and Todd, right) run the number-one online beer-rating site, complete with a monthly magazine, 1.5 million monthly unique visitors, extensive rankings of beers, bars, and beer stores, community forums, and a high level of user involvement. This is the go-to reference destination on the web for beer geeks.
There’s a reason why Starbucks, that all-powerful beverage being, recently decided to venture into the juice business — it’s an estimated $3.4 billion industry, and easily one of the hottest diet and lifestyle trends on the market today. Early to the game were Zoe Sakoutis (right) and her business partner Erica Huss (left), founders of BluePrint Cleanse, a New York-based mini-empire that has found success marketing itself as a "less extreme" juicing regimen. Thanks to publicity from big-name publications like InStyle, Allure, The New York Times, Details, Vogue, People, and Elle (among many others) and celebrity fans like Sarah Jessica Parker, the brand has been exposed to masses of on-trend, diet-conscious consumers.
Kathleen Lewis will be the first to tell you that her organization and the Master Sommeliers it produces wield great power in the industry. Fair enough — the Court is, after all, the preeminent internationally recognized examining body for sommeliers. Its weighty influence on the wine service industry can be seen in many of the country’s best wine programs, created by professionals who have taken its courses. Lewis, though not herself a Master, has worked for the organization for the last 14 years, currently guiding it as its executive director.
Since 1993, two little words — Got Milk? — have been drilled into the heads of Americans everywhere, reminding us of the importance of drinking a daily glassful (and, incidentally, making super-hot celebrities seem a tad more accessible by getting them to sport milk mustaches). Yet, while the creative minds out west at the Goodby, Silverstein & Partners ad agency and the California Milk Processor Board may be responsible for this iconic dairy campaign, chances are pretty good that the milk in your glass is produced by Dean Foods Company. As far as the American dairy industry is concerned, Dean Foods is king: As the parent company of name brands like Horizon Organic, Garelick Farms, Tuscan, and plenty of others (including — ssshh — Silk Soy Milk), this corporation wields incredible power. The guy calling all the shots is Gregg L. Engles, the CEO of Dean Foods; Engles has held this position since his company, Suiza Foods Corporation, bought Dean in 2001.
If knowledge is power, then on the subject of American cocktail history, Wondrich has it in spades. And considering that old-school, classic cocktails are the inspiration behind a countless number of today’s coolest and most important bars, it’s a significant field to be an expert in. The James Beard Award-winning author and Esquire’s resident drinks writer is also a founding member of the Beverage Alcohol Resource (the country’s leading mixology and spirits training program) and the definitive authority on the all the lore that today’s top bartenders want to master.
If you've asked a friend to drive you home after a good night out, or found yourself drinking much more lightly than you would have back in college because you had to drive yourself home, it's probably because of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD. If you're a bar owner or restaurateur who has seen alcohol sales decline, that might be due to MADD's influence, too, at least indirectly. The organization is based in Irving, Texas, but was founded in California in 1980 by Candice Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, who then received a lenient sentence. Thanks to MADD, the legal drinking age in every state and the District of Columbia is now 21, and the highest legal blood alcohol content in any state is .08 percent.
As is to be expected with someone who is commonly referred to as "the King of Cocktails," DeGroff’s influence on today’s cocktail and bar industry has been in no way insignificant. An award-winning author and cocktail consultant and the founder of The Museum of the American Cocktail, DeGroff is probably best known for his behind-the-bar tenure at New York’s famed Rainbow Room in the late 1980s. For his work there, giving classic cocktails a new life, and in the time since, he has been credited with "reinventing the profession of bartending and setting off the cocktail explosion that continues to transform the industry." But perhaps the best exhibit of his power today is not displayed in his own accomplishments but in those of his protégés — industry power players and big hitters like Julie Reiner and Willy Shine who are setting the standard for what is cool in cocktails right now.
A one-time investment banker who bought an alcohol trade publication called Impact in 1973, Shanken today presides over a mini-empire of publications concerned with drink, food, and lifestyle. Impact has been joined by another wine and spirits trade magazine, Market Watch, and together they are indispensible to anyone in the business. For the layman, Shanken's Wine Spectator has become the most authoritative wine reviewer this side of Robert M. Parker, Jr. (see #17), and brings inside-y wine trade stories to a civilian audience. Shanken also publishes Food Arts and Cigar Aficionado, and two years ago purchased Malt Advocate, which publishes the magazine of the same name and stages WhiskyFests around the country.
As one of the original faces of the hipster coffee-roaster movement, Duane Sorenson certainly deserves a good deal of credit for sparking the popularity of anti-Starbucks artisanal coffee. The Stumptown Coffee Roasters founder of is known for traveling to Africa, Latin America, and Indonesia to scout for the best beans, often paying higher prices than anyone else. Of course, this means Stumptown prices are usually higher than the industry standard, but the roaster is at the forefront of eco-friendly, single-origin coffee, and has helped shift consumer perspective to viewing coffee as a beverage worth appreciating instead of just an early-morning necessity.
Trader Joe's sells private-label coffee, juice drinks, and other beverages, but in many states is also a serious player in the purveying of low-price wine, beer, and spirits. What really gives Dan Bane his swack as a drink industry power-player is Trader Joe’s jackpot product, "Two-Buck Chuck." This company-branded house wine has become emblematic of inexpensive but eminently drinkable vino, and along the way turned the stigma of cheap plonk into something cool and young. According to a report by Forbes.com in 2011, the Chuck — i.e., Charles Shaw — wine program had sold nearly 500 million bottles since its launch.
The craft beer industry's output may be a drop in the bucket relative to that of the overall beer market (it accounts for 6 percent of what's sold), but there’s no denying that the segment is very much on the rise. It was recently reported that "craft brewers saw a 15 percent increase in retail sales and a volume increase of 13 percent in 2011." In that same period, the number of craft breweries in operation was up 11 percent. The Brewers Association supports and represents craft brewers, and at its heart is founder Charlie Papazian, who in addition to his role as president of the association is responsible for founding the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, and the American Homebrewers Association. And in regards to that latter field in particular, Papazian has been especially influential: his book The Complete Joy of Home Brewing was the first American mass-marketed guide on the subject.
Some might take issue with us putting a fictitious character on this list, but "his" book, Mr. Boston’s Official Bartender’s Guide, is widely known as "the Bible of Booze." The top hat-wearing icon of imbibing was originally created by Old Mr. Boston, a Beantown-based distillery, and made his debut appearance on the guide’s first issue in 1935. In that span of nearly 80 years, this cocktail recipe book has established itself as the definitive resource for home bartenders and budding professionals alike. Recently released in a 75th anniversary edition featuring more than 1,500 recipes, this best-selling volume now includes contributions from such spirits authorities as Jonathan Pogash — but it's still Mr. Boston's book to us.
The so-called "granddaddy of the craft breweries," with its Samuel Adams brand, Boston Beer Co. currently ranks as the country’s top-selling American craft brewing company. Founded in 1984, the firm now employs some 750 people, has breweries in Boston, Cincinnati, and the Allentown, Pa., area, and its 30 different styles of Sam Adams beers are sold in every state in the country. Under the leadership of founder and chairman (and genuine beer enthusiast) Jim Koch, the company has demonstrated the larger-scale market potential of craft beer. And while some might contend its membership in the "craft beer" category, Koch is nevertheless dedicated to supporting the small brewers with his philanthropic program, Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream.
A wine-loving former attorney, Parker launched the wine newsletter that was to become The Wine Advocate in 1978. He slowly built a loyal following for his detailed tasting notes and straightforward opinions, and became a wine-world sensation for his praise of the 1982 vintage in Bordeaux — which most other critics denounced as overripe and "Californian" in style. Before long he had become the most influential wine critic in the world. His impact on international wine prices has been phenomenal, his 100-point scoring system has achieved almost biblical authority, and his preference for intense, extracted "fruit bombs" has changed the way thousands of producers worldwide make wine. Parker has lately been ceding more and more of his critical realm to associates, but he is still the man.
Dunkin' now brags that it fuels America. Well, until recently, that wasn’t entirely true. Of the more than 6,700 locations in the U.S., only some 75 or so were west of the Mississippi, mostly in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. But the chain has started to steadily expand westward, bringing its Coolattas and Dunkachinos to Las Vegas and now Camp Pendelton, Calif. As the CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts, Nigel Travis leads the charge against Starbucks’ national coffee domination.
Gallo produces approximately one quarter of all the wines sold in America, and is the second-largest wine producer in the world. (The largest is Constellation Brands; see #10). That means that they exercise tremendous influence over grape (and glass bottle) prices, that they can spur and react vigorously to wine trends, and that you've almost certainly had their wines more than a few times, whether you realize it or not. (They're by no means all sold under the Gallo label. The company has almost 60 brands, from Anapamu to Winking Owl, made in California but also in Italy, France, Spain, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa. Ecco Domani, Maso Canali, Martín Codax, and Sebeka are among their imported wines, and their domestic portfolio includes such old-line California classics as Louis M. Martini and Mirassou Vineyards.)
For many, Kraft (the world’s second-largest food and beverage company) may naturally bring to mind childhood memories of boxed macaroni and cheese. But the mega-company is also responsible for bringing you big names in the beverage world like Maxwell House, Capri Sun, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid, Tang, and Gevalia. The company’s CEO and chairwoman, Irene Rosenfeld, ranked #10 on Forbes' 2011 list of the world’s most powerful women. At the end of this year, however, when the company breaks into two divisions, Rosenfeld will take over as CEO of the larger offshoot focusing on the snack industry, whereas her colleague Tony Vernon will head the North American grocery sector, and Deanie Elsner will be president of beverages.
Coors, Miller, Milwaukee's Best… Budweiser aside, MillerCoors controls many of the most popular beers in America (you know: the ones most often found in beer pong games on college campuses and in bars across the country). With the fairly recent merger of the Miller and Coors brands, this is the beer company most likely to give Anheuser-Busch InBev a run for its money. As its CEO, Tom Long, who once ran Coca-Cola's northwestern European operation, will no doubt continue to exercise the decisive management style for which he is known.
In the world of water, Jeffery holds a lot of weight. As president and CEO of Nestlé Waters North America, he runs the country's leading bottled water company — brands include Poland Spring, Ozarka, and Arrowhead, to name a few, and the company also distributes imported brands like Perrier and S. Pelligrino. Jeffery also deserves praise for using his position of power to further his commitment to the environment, having launched a partnership with The Nature Conservancy.
You and your friends probably can’t spend a night at the bar without drinking something owned by Diageo. With brands like Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Bailey's, Guinness, and Jose Cuervo in its pocket, Diageo controls some of the world’s premier spirits and beers, owning more brands in the top 20 than any other company. Schwartz was made president of the North America division in March of 2012; expect him to continue innovating and increasing market share for the company.
Distinguished as the world’s largest premium wine company, Constellation boasts a expansive portfolio of some 200 brands across the wine, beer, and spirits categories. And these are not insignificant labels, either; they cater to a diverse range of beverage consumers. You could pick up a serious bottle of Robert Mondavi cabernet, a six-pack of Coronas for the beach or a Tsingtao for your takeout dinner, and a bottle of Svedka, all without leaving the Constellation family.
The Yelp community may have a yappy vibe, but compared to Google, Facebook, and all the countless apps out there, Yelp is still the go-to source for bar and coffee shop recommendations. The site gathers more than 60 million monthly unique visitors, and there are photos, recommendations, rankings, and everything else you may need to make a judicious decision on where to go to drink.
If you drink alcohol in America, chances are you drink Southern. Founded in 1968 in Florida by Chaplin and Jay W. Weiss, the firm has become our nation's largest wine and spirits distributor, operating in 34 states and the District of Columbia and representing something like 1,600 wine, spirits, and beer producers or importers. This privately held company (number 30 on Forbes' list of such firms last year) employs more than 11,000 people, all of them dedicated, in various capacities, to making sure that you drink the brands they sell.
The craft beer industry may be on its way up, but in the end, at least for now, it seems there is no beating Budweiser. That "Great American Lager," and its equally famous "light" counterpart, are the company’s flagship products, helping make it the world’s largest brewer. And even if you’re not a fan of Budweiser, there’s no denying its hold on the country’s pop culture consciousness, what with it having been the Super Bowl’s exclusive beer advertiser for the last 24 years (a position it will retain through 2014). Even if you’re not guzzling a Bud while watching one of the country’s biggest beer-drinking events, you won't be able to escape it.
As Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, Muhtar Kent doesn’t just control the world’s most iconic soft drink, he also oversees a range of some 3,500 beverages. That expansive portfolio includes everything from diet and regular carbonated drinks to still beverages such as 100-percent fruit juices and drinks (Minute Maid), bottled water (Dasani), sports and energy drinks (vitaminwater, Powerade), teas and coffees, and milk- and soy-based beverages. In other words, good luck leaving the supermarket without Coca-Cola beverage product in your basket.
Walmart may have a bad reputation in terms of labor practices (not to mention that embarrassing Mexican bribery cover-up), but give the mega-chain some credit; it is the world’s largest grocer and America’s largest buyer of organic foods. In terms of purchasing power, Mike Duke is one important person in the drink world, too, purveying staggering quantities of soft drinks, bottled water, beer, wine, and spirits. (Yes, Walmart sells alcohol — at least in the states where they're allowed to.) Since becoming CEO in 2009, Duke has made a commitment to source more locally grown and sustainable produce; we can only hope he'll start working on local juices, teas, coffees, and wines and beers, too.
Pepsi-Cola, Tropicana, Gatorade — these are just a few of the beverage industry standouts included in PepsiCo’s portfolio (allegedly the world’s largest when it comes to food and drink brands). That portfolio has been reported as "including 19 different product lines that each generate more than $1 billion in annual retail sales." And at the helm of it all is Nooyi, who, since taking her current position as head of PepsiCo in 2006, was been named Fortune’s "most powerful woman in business" four years in a row.
Sure, the FDA might stand for "Food and Drug Administration," but if you think of any drink-related drama that happened this year, it was probably a result of some serious FDA actions took on behalf of your health. The raw milk debate? Spurred by FDA-approved messages concerning the dangers of unpasteurized cow-juice. This year’s OJ debacle? The FDA found carbendazim, an unapproved fungicide, in orange juice imports. And of course, the FDA is reviewing inhalable caffeine to see if it should be considered a "dietary supplement." Call it an agent of the nanny state, or call it the safety patrol, but the FDA does ovewrsee a lot of what you drink and how you drink it. They've even approved a hangover cure in the form of an aspirin/caffeine/stomach-calming pill.
Call it an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a Liquor Control Board, a Liquor Commission, a Division of Alcohol and Tobacco, or any variation on the theme — every state in the union has an official agency that regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages within its boundaries. That means deciding every detail about the distribution of such substances, from how much alcohol is locally taxed to when and where it can be sold, which means everything from setting opening hours at the brewpub to decreeing what alcohol, if any, may be sold on Sundays or in supermarkets. Like it or not, the man or woman who heads up this agency holds the fate of your sobriety in his or her hands.
They say America runs on Dunkin’, but there are almost twice as many Starbucks units across the country as there are Dunkin' Donuts outlets. That’s no surprise considering that in the 1990s and early 2000s, the chain was supposedly opening a new store every workday. Starbucks is now about much more than drip coffee, beans, and frappe-dappa-ding-dongs — it’s also about instant coffee, single-serving coffee, energy drinks, and most recently, fresh-pressed juices. Heck, there's even Starbucks ice cream. Beyond that, Starbucks stores have steadily become America’s town squares — office space for a world gone online. It’s also about real estate, and a resistance to franchising, a tact largely attributed to its chairman and CEO Howard Schultz. While it’s unquestionably influential on American’s drinking habits, Starbucks has also been forced to close a number of stores permanently and seen a steady drop off in efficiency behind the counter. You have to wonder if Schultz, who came back out of retirement several years ago stressing the need to rediscover Starbucks’ "romance" and "soul," hasn’t allowed the company’s expansion to outperform the brand.