SoMax Circular Solutions was named the grand winner of the Distilled Spirits Council’s “Innovation Showcase” competition during the awards luncheon at the 2022 DISCUS Annual Conference in New Orleans.

SoMax Founder and CEO Dan Spracklin presented the company’s innovative resource recovery technology during the Shark Tank-style competition. The technology, which uses hydrothermal carbonization, can help distilleries convert distilling byproducts, including spent grains, into renewable energy, eliminating disposal cost while also improving the environment.

The second place winner was Bacardi, presented by Bacardi Senior Packaging Developer Adrien Fletcher, for the spirits company’s development and execution of new packaging that eliminates all single use plastic in its secondary packaging, including plastic windows, thermoforms and neckers. This is part of the company’s commitment of removing 100 percent of all single-use plastic from its gift packs and point-of-sale materials by the end of 2023.

Third place was awarded to Tapi Group for its new bottle closure that includes a bio-compostable case containing a seed inside that consumers can plant, giving the topper a second life.  The innovation engages the consumer in advancing sustainability and features a wide variety of seeds that can be planted indoors or outside.

“There’s so much momentum in advancing sustainability in the spirits sector and this year’s Innovation Showcase highlighted exciting new products and technologies that can support distilleries in further reducing their environmental footprint,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of DISCUS and

Six finalists were selected to compete in the Innovation Showcase sponsored by DISCUS partner member The Spearhead Group at this year’s conference.  The finalists were chosen out of more than 30 submissions in categories spanning from spirits packaging, technology, supply chain, sustainability, marketing, structure, responsibility and product development.

Each contestant had 15 minutes to present their innovation in front of a panel of judges who scored the innovation based on its concept, value, scalability and demonstrated impact.

“The packaging industry is in continuous evolution,” said Heather Fritzsche, CEO, The Spearhead Group.  “As collaborators in the spirits industry, it is our opportunity and responsibility to share new and sustainable packaging materials, but also guide clients in operations and sustainability for long term solutions.  The Innovation Showcase is one opportunity to highlight truly transformative ideas and solutions that can be shared across the spirits industry, but also to other adjacent categories.”

The judges were Jason Drook, VP Consumer & Industrial Business at CIA; Mariana Ruiz, Associate Director Client Services, NielsenIQ and Mark Gillespie, Host/Executive Producer of WhiskyCast.  Lana Toler, Marketing & Innovation Manager for The Spearhead Group, moderated the event.

The first, second and third place winners receive prize packages ranging in value from $5,000 to $20,000 including a $10,000 cash prize for the showcase winner.

Other finalists included: Endless West; Two Trees Distilling Co; and Vigate.


“The diversity of innovation at this year’s Innovation Showcase was inspiring and thought provoking,” said moderator Lana Toler.  “Innovation is a key to our future and continued efforts to renew, reuse, and recycle waste materials and packaging are major initiatives to continue efforts in sustainability. I’m really looking forward to next year’s submissions and innovation!”


The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is the leading voice for distilled spirits in the U.S., advocating on legislative, regulatory and public affairs issues impacting the distilled spirits sector at the local, state, federal and international levels. DISCUS members are committed to responsibility and encourage adults who drink to do so in moderation.

The Spearhead Group revolutionizes the industry and redefines how packaging and brand work together to deliver a more memorable buyer experience. Through exclusive partnerships with expert pioneers in global Physical Brand Enhancements™, rethinking the manufacturing process, and refining automation operations, Spearhead delivers fast and efficient results. Spearhead is committed to supporting other women-owned businesses and offering sustainable Physical Brand Enhancements™ for clients while creating a better brand experience for consumers.