Interview with craft distillery founder Theo Ligthart

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Theo Ligthart started as an artist, an outsider to the scene. Das Korn was an art project which led to his first experience distilling spirits. Without knowing it, it turned out that Ligthart had launched one of the first craft distilleries in Germany redefining old traditions, creating a brand new approach to an old handcraft. Das Korn became a huge hit – nominated in 2009 for the prestigious “Best Spirit of the Year Award BCB” – leading Ligthart to become one of the pioneers of the German craft distillery scene. In 2012 Ligthart followed up with the spirits brand STEINREICH that won the “Made in GSA” competition.

Ligthart has gained valuable experience in the marketing of spirits and the ins and outs of this particular market, and so decided to found the first fair for handmade spirits in Europe, the “Craft Spirits Festival DESTILLE BERLIN” in 2012. Twitter

Craft Distillery Founder Theo Ligthart

What are the biggest challenges you see facing the food & beverage industry?

It turns out that there is no such thing as an uniform, global preference for taste. Rather, there is a growing diversification of what we want. This contradicts the idea that convenient or fast food will bring a standardization of global taste preference. Especially when it comes to food, today’s consumers are creating their identities through idiosyncratic diets.

The core challenge remains though: To provide enough food for everyone while complying with an increasing demand for transparency and sustainability.  Twitter

What do you imagine the future of spirits will look like? Which trends do you think we will see more of?

There have been three growing trends in the spirits business for some time now, that we can expect to shape the future of spirits:

First, people drink less but spend more. In other words, there is a “premiumization” of spirits happening. Second, spirits are not marketed anymore in exotic environments (e.g. tropical beaches), but rather as a product with regional heritage. Third, the craft movement means that spirits from small and independent distilleries are becoming more popular than major brands with sophisticated marketing strategies.

Jose Cuervo

Shift in marketing from exotic environments to heritage. © Jose Cuervo

What factors are critical to help keep brands, and their products, forward-thinking?

Today, “forward-thinking” food brands focus on – and reinterpret – tradition. Twitter  Compared to other market segments, food & beverage consumers have a greater desire for authenticity. Rather than waiting for big corporations to catch on, they are founding their own companies.

I’m personally inspired by these grassroots food and beverage innovations and a radically transparent and sustainable production.

Do you think it is important for brands to “co-create” with their consumers and young innovators?

Absolutely. Involving consumers in the creation process is a central component of the future. It establishes an important and lasting relationship between consumer and product. The collaborators learn from partner brands, communicating their experience in the process. This makes the consumer therefore not only a co-producer, but also a brand ambassador.

Involving consumers in the creation process is a central component of the future. Twitter

Is there something you want the creatives and entrepreneurs who participate in the project to consider when submitting their ideas?

The future of food and beverages will develop at two opposite poles: on the one hand, the daily procurement of food will be increasingly simplified – even automated by delivery services and subscriptions. On the other hand, the traditional separation of food production and consumption will be abolished. Food production, for example, will move increasingly into urban areas.

What made you decide to be a jury member for the project?

As a producer, I am very interested in the challenges of the market and future developments, and as a jury member, I am thrilled to get to know so many exciting and innovative projects.

Theo Ligthart is a jury member for the Future of Food & Beverages project, the world’s biggest think tank that connects food and beverage innovators and entrepreneurs, global brands, and a global interdisciplinary crowd of up to 80 000 creative professionals. For more information visit the website or download the PDFTwitter

Join us at the Future of Food conference in Berlin on October 28, 2016 to explore exciting food and beverages industry innovations and developments! Buy Tickets here.



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Katharina Brendel

Kat (she/her) is a storytelling and podcasting strategist. After studying journalism, she gained a boatload of marketing experience around the world (including at jovoto!) and co-founded CoWomen. Today, she collaborates with unheard voices to find, own, and spread their story through a podcast & beyond.