Chief of ZX Ventures, Pedro Earp, tells us how to make this year work for you.

The start of each year always creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to pause, analyze what worked from the past year, and reset their plan of action for the following year.

As Chief of ZX Ventures (a global growth and innovation division within AB InBev), I do the same thing with my team. I ask, “What were our biggest successes and failures in the past year? What can we learn to help us be more innovative in the next year?”

Pedro Earp

At ZX Ventures, our mandate is to disrupt ourselves before anyone else does. We’re a small but mighty team of beer-loving innovators working tirelessly to find, launch and scale unique products that deliver exceptional consumer experiences and bring people together. While we work within AB InBev, we operate more like a start-up: We’re nimble, flexible and innovative – which helps us identify and move on trends quickly.

Investors aren’t afraid to go where consumers most flex their spending power, and that’s the food and beverage industry. In the United States, the beer industry alone is valued at $250 billion and it contributes to 1.5 percent of the United States’ GDP. This also presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to identify ways they can cash in on the demand within the beverage industry in 2018.


Trend #1 for 2018: Better for You Beverages

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s one common thread that will keep your business running – consumers. Smart investors – especially those of us who play in the beverage space – closely watch what consumers are doing to help gauge strong investment opportunities. After all, it goes without saying that trying to succeed in the food and beverage space is tough – competition is fierce and consumers are not afraid to speak with their dollars.

Lately, there’s been an increased interest among consumers in the health and wellness space; the beverage industry is no exception. As people begin thinking more about the food they’re consuming and what they’re putting into their bodies, we are seeing a rise in demand for “better for you” beverages, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) that are alternatives for a healthier lifestyle. These types of drinks will continue gaining popularity in 2018 because they’re often organic, gluten-free and environmentally responsible – some of the values that consumers are starting to demand from companies.

How ZX Ventures Does It:

At ZX Ventures, we’re investing ahead of the curve, supporting drink products that are good for people and the planet. For instance, our partnership with Canvas, a plant-based barley beverage, helps divert millions of tons of spent grains full of fiber and protein from landfills and into healthy beverages. Our collaboration with Golden Era (brewed from quinoa, millet and buckwheat) further showcases our commitment to providing consumers with better for you, gluten-free options.  We also work with companies like Kombrewcha, who are putting an adult spin on the well-known kombucha drink.

Even AB InBev has invested in an organic energy drink that aims to increase your energy levels without giving you those sugar crashes – Hiball.


Trend #2 for 2018: New delivery methods

One of the most talked-about acquisitions for investors (and nearly everyone else) in 2017 was Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods. This deal made waves across a number of industries beyond food and beverages because it proved that Amazon has indeed become a disrupter in the space. Their use of technology is changing consumer behaviors and creating a new retail environment, forcing businesses across the U.S. and the world to rethink their delivery model, too.

Entrepreneurs and investors alike should keep a close eye on Amazon and take a page from its book. As it continues shaping the retail industry, it’s also creating opportunities for startups, innovators and entrepreneurs to create new delivery models that meet the future needs of consumers.

How ZX Ventures Does It:

We foresaw some of those opportunities to disrupt delivery models early this year with Starship Technologies. This UK-based company is developing specially-designed robots to make local deliveries faster and more cost-efficient, and our investment in them shows our commitment to ideas that are breaking the mold. We also saw potential in BeerBox, a vending solution for beer that hopes to eliminate the long lines at concerts and sports stadiums.


Hot Trend #3 for 2018: Better Beer Experiences

In the U.S., craft beer is well-established. But the craft beer revolution isn’t purely centered in the U.S. – there’s a craft beer revolution happening in almost every city in the world.

Take, for example, the growth of American craft beer exports in Europe and Asia. Exports of American craft beer to the UK and Japan grew by double digits in 2017, according to the Brewers Association Export Development Program. Plus, drinking beer is being elevated beyond consuming a product – the emergence of tap rooms and brewery tours is providing customers with an experience.

In 2018, the popularity of craft brews and brew pubs across the world will continue to flourish. Consumer exposure to different flavors and beer styles will continue, thanks to global travel, and beer lovers will continue increasing around the world.

How ZX Ventures Does It:

Here at ZX, we are working with passionate craft brewers in key markets across the globe to provide access to innovative beers and brewpub experiences. We’ve helped open up and expand brewpubs across the globe, from Latin America to Asia. In Shanghai, we helped one of China’s first microbreweries, Boxing Cat Brewery, open three brewpub locations. Next year, we’ll partner closely with Pirate Life Brewing in Adelaide Australia to finalize plans for a new brewpub down under.


What now?

If you’re an entrepreneur playing in the beverage or health space, 2018 may be your breakout year. Remember to keep building your network, stay positive and continue innovating. You never know where an opportunity will come from.


About Pedro Earp:

Pedro Earp is the Chief of ZX Ventures, which he launched after nearly 17 years with Anheuser-Busch InBev. A native of Brazil, Pedro holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Financial Economics from the London School of Economics.

Pedro joined AB InBev in 2000 as a Global Management Trainee in its Latin America North Zone. In 2002, he became responsible for the Zone’s M&A team and in 2005, he moved to Leuven, Belgium to become Global Director, M&A. Later, he was appointed Vice President Strategic Planning in Canada in 2006, Global Vice President Insights and Innovation in 2007, Global Vice President M&A in 2009 and Vice President Marketing for the Latin America North Zone in 2013. In February 2015 he was appointed Chief of ZX Ventures.


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