Can It: Canned Cocktails and Wine Seeing Big Growth

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The days of consumers turning up their noses at canned cocktails and wine are over.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit strong. But according to Mintel survey results released at the end of last year, just 9 percent of respondents indicated that they perceived RTD cocktails as low quality. And it’s not just canned cocktails that are experiencing growth and a favorable shift in perception.

Nielsen data has revealed that canned wine is also drastically increasing in popularity. Just looking at the off-premise space—and remember, what consumers can buy off-premise they expect to find on-premise—canned wine accounted for $70 million in sales from March 2018 to March 2019. That’s growth of $42 million when compared to March 2017 to March 2019.

At first glance, it’s easy to assume all this growth has to do with cost and convenience on the consumer end. After all, while there are aficionados with deep pockets within all age groups, data indicates that the average Millennial isn’t interested in spending $60 or more on a single bottle of wine. Buying a 4- or 6-pack of canned wines is inexpensive and convenient: a can of wine can be tossed into a backpack for as an après-hike sip, for example.

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The above example is important when trying to understand the growth of canned cocktails and wine. An active lifestyle is perceived as healthy, and canned beverage alcohol fits within an active life quite conveniently. This is important to an increasingly large segment of the population, as evidenced by the popularity of spiked sparkling and still waters.

The convenience factor should appeal to operators as well. It may have been cool a few years ago to make a guest wait 10 minutes or more for a craft cocktail but that hasn’t been the case for quite some time (except for a handful of destination craft cocktail bars). The growing popularity of draft cocktails shows that people want high-quality drinks, and they want them fast. Canned cocktails speak to that desire for speed and operators can play with presentation to elevate the experience without slowing down service.

Sticking with the operator side, canned cocktails and wine can be curated much like craft beer lists. Guests are seeking out RTD beverage alcohol in every type of hospitality venue, from independent bars and restaurants to hotels and stadiums. Not having canned cocktails and wines is just as detrimental to not offering cocktails on tap—all are revenue streams worth pursuing. RTDs also cut down on waste. Wine bars and venues that sell wine by the glass know the frustration and cost associated with opening bottles of still and sparkling wine only to half to toss half of it. Making Mimosas, for example, with canned sparkling wine can help with costs and waste.

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Back to the consumer side, expectation is another driver. Many consumers expect the bars, restaurants and nightclubs they visit to carry the products they buy off-premise. This includes the RTD cocktails and wines they purchase via delivery services. When someone develops a preference for specific products, they appreciate finding them at bars, restaurants and nightclubs—it speaks to the desire for familiarity and comfort.

That brings us to a factor arguably as important as health: sustainability. Consumers want to know that brands and operators are taking steps toward being more sustainable. Compared to their glass counterparts, canned RTDs tick several boxes: they’re easier to ship; they require less packing material, so there’s less to toss out; and they’re much easier to recycle. Today’s consumer wants to know that operators are considering the resources used to ship the products they sell and how those products are packaged.

None of those factors would matter if RTD cocktails and wines on offer today weren’t vast improvements over their predecessors. If they don’t taste good, if the list of ingredients doesn’t impress, consumers simply aren’t going to buy them. Brands like Cutwater (canned cocktails) and Wine Society (canned wine) changed the game when they came to market with their high-quality products. They not only convinced more and more consumers to seek out RTDs on- and off-premise, they’ve ensured competing products will have to be of the same or higher quality to succeed.

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