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Breakout Session / Tuesday / October 11, 2022 / 9:30 AM

Putting the "Fun" in Functional Beverage Innovation

Consumers have a growing thirst for beverages that not only taste great but serve a greater purpose whether it's fueling their busy lives, supplementing their nutritional intake or supporting their dedication to smart sustainability. The functional beverage category has become a point of competition, most notably in the fast casual restaurant segment.

In this session, we will take a look at how restaurant operators are addressing the functional beverage category and overall beverage innovation. Panelists will also serve up a refresher on the importance of functionality when paired with ease, familiarity and convenience. They'll also discuss how non-exclusionary agreements create a more limitless approach to beverage innovation.


Seth Larsen | Chief Relationship Officer | Cheba Hut Toasted Subs
Seth Larsen is the Chief Relationship Officer at Cheba Hut, the first marijuana-themed sandwich “joint” in the United States. Originally from Chicago, Larsen became familiar with the Colorado-based Cheba Hut brand while studying business marketing at Colorado State University. Larsen has been a franchise owner with Cheba Hut for 14-plus years and has seen year-over-year double digit same store sales growth at the modern-day fast casual restaurant. During the pandemic, Cheba Hut, with more than 35 locations in Arizona, Colorado, California, Oregon, New Mexico and Wisconsin, introduced a state-of-the-art loyalty program to keep customers engaged with the brand.
Steve Schulze | Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar
Now with more than 170 locations, another 200 in development and $100 million in systemwide sales, Steve Schulze, as CEO, has grown Nékter Juice Bar into the clear leader and pioneer of the $2 billion juice bar industry. Founded in 2010 upon a promise to reinvent a restaurant category that had lost its way, Nékter Juice Bar has been a catalyst for change, vowing ingredient integrity and authenticity across its menu of 100% freshly made, nutrient-rich and entirely clean juices, Superfood smoothies, acai bowls, cleanses, and a variety of healthy snacks.
Chase Wardrop | President | Swig
Chase Wardrop was named president of Swig, the highly popular and fast-growing specialty drink shop, in 2021. In this position, Wardrop oversees all company operations and the management team of Swig. He is responsible for expanding the brand's footprint into new geographies while maintaining the unmatched customer service, speed and innovative products the brand is known for. Wardrop is a graduate of Brigham Young University. After graduating in 2015, with longtime friend and co-founder Dylan Roeder, he co-founded The Soda Shop in his hometown of Gilbert, Arizona. The Soda Shop became a widely popular brand locally and grew to two stores in less than a year. Wardrop and Roeder then sold a majority stake of The Soda Shop to Savory in early 2017, after which it merged with the original soda brand, Swig. During this transaction, Wardrop became the vice-president of operations for Swig, under the direction of Savory, a Mercato Partners food and beverage focused fund.

Charles Dixon | On-Premises National Accounts Manager LSR/QSR segment | Red Bull
Charles Dixon began his career at Florida’s Natural where he worked in various roles in Florida and California. After 10 years with Florida’s Natural he accepted a position with Sara Lee Foodservice as Sr. National Account Manager selling value added protein, bakery and coffee/tea. From there his journey continued to Diamond Crystal Brands as Director of National Accounts and then Schwan’s Food Company. Finally landing him at Red Bull North America as National Account Manager focusing on Business Development in Limited Service Restaurants. Over the course of his career, he has encountered some exceptional people in this industry that have mentored him to achieve what he considers the most important goal: Building lasting relationships.
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