Like many in the fireworks industry, Stephen Vitale is in the family business. He runs a fifth-generation company, Pyrotecnico, in New Castle, Pa. In October, he made a surprising alliance with Nova Sky Stories, the drone company Kimbal Musk acquired from Intel.
Increasingly, drones illuminate skybound entertainment shows. Swarms of flying robots have created magical illusions everywhere from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to the coronation of King Charles III this spring. And the global drone lightshow market, which was virtually non-existent a decade ago, is estimated to be worth about $1 billion by 2021, according to Allied Market Research.
Drone shows are, in some ways, the newer, hipper brand of fireworks. And they are quieter, safer and better for the environment.
Fireworks providers like Vitale face a tough decision: invest in the expensive equipment and regulatory clearance needed to get into the drone business, or believe demand for fireworks will remain steady even as a new type of competition skyrockets.
Change is coming. Fireworks providers collect most of their revenue around July 4. And some organizers of those events are switching to drones. Places like Salt Lake City and Boulder, Colo., plan to use them instead of fireworks for Independence Day celebrations this year, citing the reduced risk of wildfires and pollution.
But not everyone is convinced that the light shows will suffice as a replacement. Galveston, Texas, is returning to fireworks after using drones in 2022. And Reddit pages on the downsides of drone shows complain about the fact that drones don’t evoke the booming sound that fireworks do.
“Drones are much more advanced,” said Chris Hopkins, co-owner of Celebration Fireworks and Star Flight Drone Shows. “They just don’t have the same visceral response.”
Turning is a big investment. Hopkins invested in drones last year, eager to take advantage of the creative freedoms they offered. “In the past, I could have hinted at the Demogorgon,” he told DealBook, referring to a monster on the Netflix show “Stranger Things.” “Now I can have the Demogorgon.”
It was an expensive gamble: drones cost more than $1,500 apiece, and he soon learned that a good show needed at least 75. Then there was the hassle of filling out a nearly 200-page application to the Federal Aviation Administration for regulatory approval and finding people skilled in piloting the devices.
Some companies stick to fireworks. “I know there are some companies out there that do — I think our philosophy is we’re going to do what we do best,” Heather Gobet of Western Display, an Oregon-based fourth-generation fireworks company, told DealBook.
Gobet, who bought the company from her parents about eight years ago, has decided that dealing with the expertise, certifications and costs of acquiring drones is prohibitively expensive. Instead, she’s going to partner with companies that offer drone shows when customers request them.
In addition, she has other challenges on her mind: the industry is grappling with supply chain issues, labor shortages, an aging generation of pyrotechnic experts and costly compliance.
There is hope for harmony in the industry. Drones can be used for advertising in a way that fireworks cannot, for example displaying a company logo above a busy road. Many shows, such as a Democratic celebration of the results of the 2020 presidential election, feature both drones and fireworks.
But growing competition presents opportunities, says Rick Boss, who runs Sky Elements, a drone show company that’s nearly three years old. Larger traditional fireworks companies want to expand or enter new areas, such as drones, while smaller fireworks companies are struggling.
“There are companies that are shrinking, maybe even exiting – and so that creates opportunities,” he said. “It’s a good time to be aggressive.” —Lauren Hirsch
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Bidenomy 2.0. President Biden tried to restart reporting on his economic record as his polls have hit rock bottom despite apparently good data: 13 million new jobs, unemployment rates for black and Hispanic Americans at record lows, and a new industrial policy to stimulate green investments . Inflation is a major reason, with Americans still feeling the sting of rising prices. But the Biden team believes it also needs to sell better.
Ryan Reynolds and RedBird stepped on the accelerator. The Canadian actor teamed up with the private equity firm to lead a 200 million euros ($218 million) investment in Renault-owned Formula 1 team Alpine. The group also included actors Michael B. Jordan and Rob McElhenney, Reynolds’ partner-owned Welsh football club Wrexham AFC, who has become a media phenomenon thanks to the Hulu series on the team.
The Supreme Court is having a big week. The court made a series of important decisions: it struck down affirmative action in universities; it supported a company that refused to provide services to a same-sex couple despite a state law prohibiting discrimination against gay people; and it rejected Biden’s proposal to cancel at least some of the student debt, placing new restrictions on presidential power.
Weekend wins. As people’s schedules changed during the pandemic, consumer spending shifted from weekdays to weekends, according to The Economist. The reasons: Fewer employees go to the office and go out after work, and many restaurants, bars and clubs close for good during lockdowns.
The never-ending Aperol spritz summer
For many Americans, summer vacation weekends mean cold drinks during cookouts. Beer is the stereotypical go-to choice, but sales by volume have declined. What has become more dominant? For many an Italian cocktail called the Aperol spritz.
For more than a decade, the drink, with its signature bright orange hue and slightly bitter bite, has survived countless summer rival drinks and pandemic lockdowns. Its continued success is a testament to how smart marketing and deftly navigating trends have made an obscure Italian aperitivo a staple for urban millennials.
An introduction to Aperol. Created in 1919, the drink was largely confined to northern Italy until 2003, when Campari Group purchased Aperol and began rolling out a painstaking marketing campaign. The company quickly seized on the spritz — a simple cocktail with an easy-to-remember recipe of three parts sparkling wine, two parts Aperol, and one part club soda — as a vehicle.
Those efforts paid off for Campari. Aperol accounted for 21 percent of the company’s €2.7 billion ($2.9 billion) revenue last year and grew 28 percent globally and nearly 50 percent in the United States alone.
Experts attribute its success to a number of factorsbeyond wall-to-wall marketing:
The rise of low-alcohol cocktails. After decades of what Spiros Malandrakis of the research agency Euromonitor called “energy-rich” night drinking (read: shots), Aperol is a relatively light alcohol of 11 percent.
The ease of making it. “It’s a very forgiving cocktail,” says Julie Reiner, co-owner of New York cocktail bars Milady’s and Leyenda, even for home bartenders.
The inherent attractiveness of Aperol on social media. “The shade of orange looks so good in Instagram feeds,” Malandrakis said — and its association with European glamor is reinforced by its notoriety in HBO’s “The White Lotus.”
Aperol’s success stands out in the fad-driven cocktail industry. Remember when hard seltzers like White Claw were the talk of the town? Or how Dirty Shirleys were last summer’s must-have drink? Those concoctions may have faded, but Aperol’s appeal hasn’t: Campari said first-quarter sales were 33 percent higher than a year earlier.
This has led to an increase in sales of bitters in general. The category sold 487.8 million liters last year, according to Euromonitor, an increase of 30 percent compared to 2012.
The popularity of the Aperol spritz has helped make a slew of cocktails — many of which follow the blueprint of the original drink but substitute other ingredients — into bar must-haves.
“For a brunch menu, you have to have a spritz,” Reiner said. “It’s a category that’s only growing because people like it.” (When she reopened Milady’s last fall, she created two cocktails: a martini riff and a take on an Aperol spritz that uses ruby sparkling Lambrusco instead of Prosecco.)
Aperol will likely have legs for some time to come. “I don’t see it going anywhere for the next three to five years,” Malandrakis said, noting that tastes will eventually change.
Campari also continues to have high hopes for its bestseller: In February, Robert Kunze-Concewitz, the company’s CEO, told analysts, “We’re just at the beginning of a very long Aperol runway.”
Which BBQ Ingredient Is an Inflation Anomaly?
Ingredients for your 4th of July cookout are more expensive this year. While inflation is down from its 2022 highs of about 9 percent, prices remain high: On average, prices for grill favorites are about 31 percent higher than they were four years ago, according to the “BBQ Index,” a report by the market. from Rabobank. research unit, RaboResearch. But there is one exception. Which of these items will cost about the same as in 2020?
Find the answer below.
Thank you for reading! We’re taking a break for the holidays. We’ll see you on July 5.
We want your feedback. Email your thoughts and suggestions to dealbook@CBNewz.
quiz answer: It’s the tomato. The U.S. market has seen a surge in tomato imports, particularly those from Mexico, said Almuhanad Melhim, a fresh produce analyst at RaboResearch. That has driven prices down.
The item with the highest price increase? Hamburger buns, the prices of which have skyrocketed due to a rise in wheat prices after Russia invaded Ukraine, remain high.