Story by Dave Eckert | @eatsanddrinkswithdave
Not long ago, I would have considered it a fad-like wine but now, you simply can’t deny that canned alcoholic beverages are having their moment. They permeate virtually every category: wine, hard seltzer, hard lemonade, cocktails-you name it! The latest numbers from April 2019 to April 2020 show the category of ready-to-drink beverages in the U.S. grew by about 80-percent. When the figures are tabulated this past year, I’m betting the increase will be even more dramatic.
Lori Elliott is watching the canned explosion first-hand as a certified sommelier and manager at Bubbles Wine and Spirits on North Oak in Gladstone. “We can’t keep up. They used to be down one aisle of the store. Now, they’re in that aisle, plus in two of our cooler doors, and some of the vodka cocktails have been moved into the vodka aisle. We could have 50 more doors. It’s just impossible to stock everything that’s out there,” Elliott shared. Elliott attributes the canned explosion to several factors: convenience, low calorie/low carb alternatives, and beverages that are easier to understand. “Wine is so intimidating with thousands of choices from countries all over the world. But everyone knows what lime tastes like,” Elliott mused. Elliott adds that weather is also a big factor. When temperatures start to climb so do sales of canned hard seltzers, wine, and cocktails.
Elliott recommended a number of selections from all three categories – from a Weston Riesling available in a single can, to Corona Refreshers, which come in 12-packs with a variety of flavors, to the copper can Moscow Mule four-pack (my personal favorite in the canned cocktail arena). “They’re all really good summer beverages that are light and refreshing. I mean, if you were mowing the lawn and had one after, you’d say ‘This is nice. It really hits the spot.’ I really like the lemon, lime, and grapefruit-flavored beverages. They taste natural,” Elliott said.
Along with all the other factors, Elliott points out there are options not only to match every palate, but also every pocketbook from four bucks for the Weston Riesling to just under $20 for the Pinot Project Rose four-pack. And like me a couple of years ago, she says she would have called this all a fad. But now, Elliott says, she believes canned drinks are here to stay.
I heard a similar story at the Northland Lukas Wine and Spirits Superstore just a little west of Liberty in Kansas City North. Assistant General Manager Helen Baillie-Senger and Wine Manager Grant Hedges told me they are seeing huge sales hikes across the canned adult beverage categories that show no signs of slowing. “Hard seltzer is definitely the biggest driver,” Hodges said. “All of the beer companies have them now, and they sell at a higher profit margin than beer. I mean, to make a million dollars on Bud Light you have to sell a ton of Bud Light. It’s much easier to make a million bucks on a Bud Light Hard Seltzer.”
Like Lukas, you’ll find the canned options spreading out across the store into several aisles and in a number of coolers. Hodges says the flavors and the low-calorie element are having the biggest impact. “I didn’t drink in high school because all you could get was beer and I didn’t like the taste of beer. But these don’t taste like beer, and for a lot of folks, that’s a real positive. Then you add in the low-calorie factor, and it’s a win-win. I see women with shopping carts full of the hard seltzers leaving the store all of the time,” Hodges noted.
Baillie-Senger also brought up a point that had yet to be addressed – the fact that the companies are extremely savvy about getting the word out about their products before they actually launch. “People are so informed about these items. They come up to the desk and ask if we have a very specific brand and product. A lot of times, I have to look it up,” Baillie-Senger stated.
Modern methods of marketing and publicizing combined with new, lower-calorie flavors and options-all in easy to handle and transport and consumer containers. Sounds like a winning combination to me. One that’s here to stay.
D A V E’ S C A N N E D F A V E S
HARD SELTZER ~ Decoy Premium Seltzers
These seltzers, which not surprisingly taste more like wine than seltzer come in four fruit-enhanced flavors: Sauvignon Blanc with Vibrant Lime, Rosé with Black Cherry, Chardonnay with Lemon & Ginger, and Chardonnay with Clementine Orange. They are all crafted by Decoy’s winemaker Dana Epperson, and they are all delicious.
WINE COCTAILS ~ Glaze
With really cool packaging and interesting flavor combos like Kombucha Moscato and Green Tea Moscato, the Glaze Wine Cocktails check all the boxes for me. A little sweet, but not cloying, hand me a Glaze or two by the pool on a hot summer day anytime!
COCKTAILS ~ The Copper Can Moscow Mule
After tasting a number of canned cocktails, this is the one that stood out to me, perhaps because it was the closest to an actual Moscow Mule that I’d be served in one of my favorite watering holes. Dry, refreshing, and delightful. What more can you ask for in a canned cocktail?
HARD LEMONADE SELTZER ~ Mike’s Hard Lemonade
Perhaps because I had it first. Perhaps because they are great marketers. Or perhaps because it just hits the spot, Mike’s is my clear winner in this category. Be careful, though, a few of these in the summer sun will sneak up on you!
WINE ~ Bonterra Rose/Sofia Blanc de Blancs
A sparkling Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir-based Rose-need I say more. As my buddy, and world-famous wine expert, Doug Frost used to say, “Chill it and kill it!”