Monday, November 14, 2011

Q & A with Steve Nickolas about the beverage business and investing

I sat down with my good friend Steve Nickolas, who has over 30 years experience in the food and beverage science industry, and got his thoughts on that industry. It is a great area to invest in right now and Steve is someone I trust to invest with, since he has the vision and and expertise to come out with new innovative products. The most surprising part about the interview was when Steve explained how he used to spend five hours a day preparing raw food to eat in order to be super healthy!

Q. How did you get into the food and beverage industry?

A. · I have always been in the food and beverage business. I have been working in my family restaurants in the SF Bay Area since I was 7 years old. I have run fine dining restaurants for the Rockefellers’ (RocResorts) and the Hyatt Regency. You can say it’s in my DNA.

Q. You have been heavily involved in the bottled water industry. What have you learned about consumer preferences and bottled water?

A. · I believe I understand more about the bottled water industry than any single person I have met. The number one reason statistically one bottled water is selected over another is convenience. The second reason is price; and the third is status. Most everyone is aware that bottled water is better for you then tap.

Q. What do you see for the future of bottled water?

A. · The packaging may change from time to time but bottled water will never go away. Water from the tap will continue to get worst over time and people will for the most part not maintain their home water purification units. Despite the environmental impact bottled water will be around for a long time to come.

Q. What do you see for the future of bottled water?

A. · OMG; how can anyone not see the results of a healthy eating regimen. You lose weight, you feel better, you look better. The problem is keeping it up. I have always said that some day I will have a chef who does nothing but prepare healthy meals for me and my loved ones. The bases for any healthy eating is lots and lots of fruits and vegetables. That means regular shopping, preparing and cooking. Before I had a family, while living in Maui I eat 95% raw food. The problem was it took over 5 hours a day to prepare.

Q. What foods and drinks should consumers stay away from (e.g. really unhealthy)?

A. · As we all know; we should stay away from excess. We are all built differently and different foods affect us all differently. There is just no denying it.

Q. You started the Healthy Food Project to introduce healthier food in schools. How is that going?

A. · We have shifted our focus from schools to more consumer and industry advocacy. The school focus was going to be to slow and overly complicated when we really started to examine it more closely. We would like to build a science and education center here in Arizona and really focus on helping emerging technologies that make process foods healthier find their way onto store shelves.

Q. What is a lesson you have learned in this business?

A. · There are so many lessons to be learned in running any business. You have to manage your staff, your customer, your products and even government. It was much easier to run a business 20 years ago. I don’t care much for what is happening to our business climate here in Arizona and around the nation. The biggest lesson I have learned is not to take anything for granted.

Q. Is the food and beverage industry a good area to invest in and why?

A. · It is a great area for investment because we all need it and depend upon it. There is always room for new products and innovation. This has continued for thousands of years and will never stop as long as we are here. You have to be smart though and make sure there is a market for what you do. The food and beverage industry business is tough but what industry isn’t.

Q. You used to work for Nutripure Beverages. Tell me about that company.

A. · Nutripure Beverages; the people involved in Nutripure are all trying to make it work. No one wants to see it fail. The biggest problem facing Nutripure is the new government regulations and the fact that the SEC is doing everything they can to take the money out of sub-penny stock. Good for the big stocks, bad for the small companies trying to cut a break. Sub-penny stocks have launch many a great venture and could really help the economy grow.

Q. What advice would you give to someone considering entering this field?

A. · The food and beverage industry is a wide open field and has room it for anyone who has desire and the right attitude. My cousin Nick Nickolas who owned some of the finest white table cloth restaurants in the US would always ask his new waiters “how do you feel about being a servant?” He would immediately know from how they responded to that question what type of waiter they would be.

Q. What will your next venture be?

A. · My primary focus is still the launch of my “Flavorless Vitamin Water”. That will do more to help people and change the direction of the beverage industry than anything else I can do today.

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