The Great Canned Wine Craze is on.
Canned wine has been on a solid run nationally for a few years and finally, it is gaining traction in NYC.
According to Nielsen, canned wine sales more than doubled from $6.4 million in 2015 to $14 million in 2016. More often than not, Nielsen numbers don’t line up with the New York City beverage scene. We are a special bunch that enjoys our old world flavors and scoffs at the Costco mainstream. But against the odds, canned wine (…and canned wine “products,” stay with me!) are en Fuego, and when NYC starts to gobble up more and more product, it makes national numbers jump steeply skyward. Easy prediction: Sales will more than double again in 2017.
So what’s happening on the street? Canned wine on the buyer brain, rapid brand proliferation and the repeated sound of cans popping open. When a category gets traction like this, new brands start falling from the sky, and the retail facings multiply at a dizzying pace.
The wine store tell
Recently I found myself in a tiny natural wine store in Brooklyn. I was passing by on the way to dinner and popped in. I enjoy checking out these types of stores because they are often just off the radar enough to give insight on the fringe, and what may be next. Walking towards the center of the store I saw a prominently displayed wine in a can. It was well-packaged enough, so I asked about it. The gentleman behind the counter responded:
This is the only organic wine in a can from France.
Those words stopped me in my tracks.
While this may seem like a total Brooklyndia moment: Two bespectacled bros talking about zero-zero wines, etc. This is the instant where I begin to think that a category has moved from a notable outlier into something that will be a real mover. What he said may not even be true, but it is a strong market tell. Every time I have heard the “this is the only….” line about a category and it had nothing to do with South Africa (remember the Swartland revolution?), the category goes on a run.
The Alt Format Arc
For many years, I have watched the slow and steady rise of the alternative format. Boxed wines, Boxed wines with a wooden outside, kegged wine, Tetra Paks, 40 oz. wines (actually it is 33.82 ounces), the list goes on….There is an arc of alternate format interest, and this arc hasn’t climaxed, yet. Cans are not new, but they fit perfectly into this overall trend because they feel comfortable, like a walk in the park. We are as familiar with the canned format as our own childhood. It shouldn’t be surprising that Cans have a more immediate it factor compared to Tetra Paks or larger boxes of wine. If you are accustomed to Tetra Paks, you ain’t from around these parts.
Cans also solve an important issue that most other formats don’t solve: the single serving problem. This has historically been a tricky issue and Cans have this covered in a perfect little package. People like finishing things. Also, everyone keeps telling me that the Can is a strong play for millennials. Now, as a non-millennial wine guy in the big city, my instinct is to call bullshit on this in a giant way. I want to yell back that all this millenial talk is annoying and stupid. But I have seen it first hand on numerous occasions: Young people enjoy drinking wine from a Can. I imagine the Biebs will probably be caught on TMZ sponsoring a wine in the can brand soon enough. The audience is there, and it is a mighty one.
“ ..you will see a lot of sparkling rosé in a can. A couple reasons for this: no vintages, sparkling, and rosé, effectively hitting a home run of category hotness.
What is next?
Right now it is all hands on deck and we are going to get more of everything, and not just wine. More canned cocktails, canned wine coolers, organic wine in a can, sommelier branded canned products, a celebrity endorsed line of canned libations. This is also line extension Prime time for Sofia, Underwood and others, so watch for these bigger players to make some moves.
Also, look for a lot of “sparkling” wines, rosé, and “sparkling rosé.” Ok, you will see A LOT of sparkling rosés. A couple reasons for this: no vintages, sparkling, and rosé, effectively hitting a home run of category hotness.
So who wins the race in NYC? In the short term, almost everyone in the game. Provided the brand work is solid enough and the juice is palatable, canned wine products and extensions will continue on a run until the category gets much more density. Sidenote: Is the Wine Cooler a better play? Maybe. I think back on those Seagrams Golden Wine Cooler commercials and get thirsty.
While I am at it, how does Swartland Revolution sound for a Can brand? Swartland Wine Cooler #liveyourpinotage #pinotagelife ??
Shit. Back to the drawing board.