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Among the many consumer buying trends that took place during the last six months, the rise in alcohol sales surprised few people. Beer, wine and spirits sales were all up during the pandemic, and some newer entries in the alcohol sector, canned cocktails, seltzers and flavored malt beverages (FMBs), saw triple digit sales growth year-over-year. Canned wine also continues to be popular, though it is a small portion of the wine market. According to Forbes, “The overall category of ready-to-drinks, from malt-based flavored drinks to hard seltzers to canned cocktails made with spirits has grown tremendously from April 2019 to April 2020, growing at a rate of about 80%.”

The success of canned cocktails and wine, also known as “ready to drink” cocktails (RTDs), can be attributed to a variety of factors including convenience, healthfulness, creative marketing strategies and shifting consumer behaviors during the pandemic.

Bacardi Launches Line Of Rum Cocktails With Hashtag Campaign Focused On Convenience

Recently launched by Bacardi, their RTD rum cocktails leverage the brand’s summer-focused reputation and fresh ingredients to promote the new canned cocktail option. A range of simple, creative commercials that focus on freshness and the hashtag #BacardiToGo, reminds audiences that this is not the typical canned cocktail (often made with malt), and that it’s easy to grab and go. Bacardi reinforced that messagi
ng via a series of Tweets capitalizing on their partnership with The Governor’s Ball, which was virtual this year, but usually has a prominent Bacardi-sponsored stage and on-site “casa.” 

The rum cocktails have been very successful for Bacardi, with the rum brand doubling its estimated forecast for the product in 2020. “Our biggest challenge is keeping them on the shelves,” he says. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’ve had to ramp up production, which is always a good thing,” said Ned Duggan, Global Sales SVP for Bacardi.

Ready-To-Drink Brands That Boast Fresh Ingredients In Beautiful Packages Gain Popularity


One of the reasons that RTDs are seeing increased popularity is the attractiveness of the product, the innovative slim can and the Instagrammable quality of the newer RTD products. “Visual identity is key. Bright, eye-catching colours, simple designs and slender cans fit neatly into the curated and perfectly filtered aesthetic that social media influencers and celebrities are promoting,” noted IWSR, a data and analysis firm focused on the global beverage alcohol market.

Brands like Miami Cocktail Co. and White Claw have benefitted from this trend, both creating fun and fresh campaigns across social media that boast the unique ingredients and modern qualities of their signature beverages. “Our focus is on creating authentic cocktails — we don’t produce ‘flavors,’” said Ross Graham, CEO of Miami Cocktail Company. “However, we do add our own twist to the classic cocktails we make, (like) adding just a hint of ginger and elderflower to our margarita spritz.” Online sales of Miami Cocktail Co. during the second quarter of 2020, trended up 2,900% over the same time period last year. And, White Claw is a behemoth in the RTD universe, with the very popular beverage dominating 40.8% of the hard seltzer market. Another advantage the lighter, fresher RTDs have is often a lower alcohol by volume (ABV), making them appealing to people who don’t enjoy strong alcohol or who are less frequent drinkers.

New Canned Wine Companies Are Seizing Their Moment 


The canned wine market has grown $60 million since 2014, and Nielsen predicts it could represent 10% of the wine market by 2025. Many brands are well-known, like Babe, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, but newer brands are also enjoying success in 2020. Bev, a California-based canned wine, has enjoyed a growth rate of 200% per month since March. The brand pivoted to direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales at the beginning of the quarantine out of necessity and the risk paid off. “Once people get used to having something show up at their door without having to think about it, they’re not going to change,” said Alix Peabody, Founder and CEO at Bev. “I don’t think this is going to slow.” Bev also shares some of the features that have made other RTDs successful, including peppy, fun advertising that is attractive and emphasizes healthy, clean drinking options. 

The popularity of RTDs is likely to stick around in the new normal, with cocktails in a can offering convenience, a fun approach to drinking with friends and a more healthful option for people who don’t want to drink their calories. Marketers that are able to differentiate their offerings and create compelling marketing campaigns are likely to gain committed customers and find success beyond 2020. 

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Bev

After disrupting the beverage industry less than a decade ago, canned wine quickly evolved from a trend to an autonomous market with a devoted following. 

“Canned wine exploded for many reasons,” says Alix Peabody, founder and CEO of the direct-to-consumer, canned wine company, Bev. “First, the convenience of the can allows consumers to take the wine virtually anywhere: beaches, boats, parks. Second, [most] canned wines are single serve. This means that one 250ml can is a glass and a half of wine; the single serving allows [portion] control for the consumer.”

Now even more prevalent than ever, as COVID-19 temporarily scrapped open container laws in cities throughout the U.S., canned wines have an opportunity to appeal to a wider audience. But will they? 

“Since canned wines are relatively new to the beverage industry, there is a lot of trial and error in the production methods of canned wines. This has resulted in inconsistent quality across the board,” says Giselle Sigala, Sommelier at Chelsea Wine Vault, the wine store within Chelsea Market, New York City.

This inconsistency is responsible for some of the popularized misconceptions now associated with canned wines—produced from low quality grapes, cheap, sweet, metallic and without longevity—presenting a possible hurdle for extending the product’s reach outside its current demographic.

Debunking The Myths

“All canned wines are not equal,” says Jim Doehring, President and Founder of Source Code Beverage, producers of Backpack Wine. “There are tiers of canned wine just like there are tiers of bottles in terms of quality. It is completely possible to put a high quality product in a can and enjoy it.”

While a high quality product certainly begins with high quality grapes and clean ingredients, quality is also affected during production and canning, with the volatility of the aluminum can as a significant factor in avoiding the metallic taste.

“The canning process is crucial to creating a wine that won’t react to metal negatively. In order to avoid this, winemakers must avoid adopting the ‘one-can-fits-all’ approach,” says Sigala who noticed winemakers using less sulfur and copper—typically used as preservatives and pesticides in the vineyard—with canned wines due to a negative reaction between these chemicals and the aluminium. 

Today, however, the most prevalent solution to avoiding a metallic taste is lining cans to avoid the wine’s direct contact with the aluminum. “At first many producers filled unlined cans and thus made the runway to broad consumer acceptance longer,” says Darren Restivo, principal of Biagio Cru Wines & Spirits, creator of Rosé All Day. “Today, most wines in a can use some type of liner which eliminates the chances of metal contacting the wine and thus the metal taste.” 

Linings can include a BPA-free proprietary ceramic polymer liner like in Backpack Wine or an epoxy liner, used by Love & Exile in Nashville, Tennessee. “The can itself essentially exists to house and maintain the structure of the plastic liner inside, and should never come in contact with the wine,” says Tyler Alkins, founder of Love & Exile. 

Another way to ensure quality of canned wine, is to work with less acidic varieties opposed to heavy, tannic varieties that benefit from aging in a glass bottle. “This gears toward easy drinking, lighter varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines,” says Sigala. 

“Our biggest consideration is who is drinking our wine and where,” says Alkins, recognizing canned wines’ popularity at outdoor events, from concerts to the beach to the golf course. “Generally, there’s less need to consider a food pairing. Subsequently, we tend to use very limited oak, keep tannins to a minimum and emphasize a fruit forward, refreshing structure.”

Using dry varieties also helps to reduce sugar and sweetness, something that canned wine brand, Bev, takes a step further by producing all three of their offerings—Rosé, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc—with zero grams of residual sugar and a slight effervescence. “We know that some people have been wronged by bad experiences with too-sweet canned wines; Bev is personally debunking this myth by offering canned wines that are dry, high quality, and taste amazing,” says Peabody.

As consumers caught onto the convenience, portability and portion control of canned wines, winemakers also recognized its benefits. “Canned wine is significantly cheaper to package (no label, cork, capsule) which allows us to keep the price lower,” says Alkins of Love & Exile. “In addition, cans are not subject to UV damage, they’re a fraction of the weight, and much more convenient to recycle.”

Though cans are less subject to UV damage, winemakers still suggest avoiding direct sunlight as an extreme in temperatures can affect any wine; optimal storage temperature is between 62 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 

“As with all wines, the shelf life varies based on the quality of wine and type of wine,” says Restivo. “Wine in a can has the potential to have a longer shelf life than in a bottle due to the complete lack of oxygen.” 

When wines are canned, the liquid is filled to the brim, before oxygen is removed and the tops are sealed. The final additions in the canning process will vary by brand; Bev adds a slight carbonation due to the psychological familiarity of drinking something fizzy out of a can and Backpack Wine uses a drop of liquid nitrogen as the lid seals for a firmer can and fresher wine. 

“It’s an exciting time for canned wines,” concludes Sigala. “Wine is going through an identity shift from something that was only acceptable to drink in a more formal setting, to being normalized as a casual beverage likened to beer.”

 

9 Canned Wines to Try

Now that the most prevalent misconceptions surrounding canned wines have been explained, here are a few brands to try from a chuggable red to a refreshing wine-based cocktail, that may just convert a bottle snob from glass to can: 

For something light + classic

Bev Gris: a Pinot Gris with hints of elderflower, pear and grapefruit.

For a taste of summer with texture

Crafter’s Union Brut Rosé: a bright, bubbly, slightly floral sip (notes of strawberry and watermelon).

For something chuggable

Indecent Red Blend, Love & Exile: a smooth, sexy blend of 80% Grenache, 20% Rubired (best served slightly chilled).

For a no-fuss sundowner

Rosé All Day Spritz Can: a delicate combination of rosé, bubbles and grapefruit.

For a canned-variety hybrid 

Underwood Riesling Radler: a blend of Oregon Riesling, grapefruit and hops.

For the ultimate afternoon at the beach

Beach Juice: light, elegant, refreshing Provence-style rosé with aromas of berry and melon.

For a mid-hike refreshment  

Backpack Wine Snappy White: a Washington State Chardonnay with a pleasantly dry, acidic finish.

For your go-to spritzer

MOVO Blood Orange Sangria: a mix of red wine, sparkling water and natural juices that take the work out of concocting a wine spritzer.

For when you’re feeling fancy

Tangent Rosé: a rosé blend of Albariño, Pinot Noir, Viognier and Grenache.

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