If 2020 was an earthquake, 2021 is about rebuilding. Below are my predictions for 2021 – hang tight, it’s going to be a wild one that will ultimately reshape the whole beverage business in surprising ways.
Silicon Valley and Wine?
Can the wine world handle the new tech bro entrance? Will we accept hoodies and all birds? I am currently wearing both…DOH.
Tech is going to more strongly enter the wine world. Whether it’s a platform or marketplace like Sevenfifty, AI to learn consumer’s taste, another new product or app trying to “democratize” the wine world, or a platform to make ordering easy. Wine Tech is coming, and I don’t mean the “we want to be the Amazon of wine” people, that’s hogwash. I mean a tech perspective on wine problems.
What’s certain is that a tech hat put on a scalable product works, but it doesn’t match up with the artisan/farmer wine model. In other words, it’s hard to go tech with artisan products coming from the old world where faxes and 80’s pop music are still a thing.
Someone is going to solve the right wine world problem with tech and it will be the beginning of a massive shift in the beverage ecosystem.
As consumption at home and delivery to those at home solidifies as a bigger part of the game, we are going to see a sizeable amount of subscription wine clubs formed – both through existing brick and mortar retail and independent operations. Anyone who wants to scale their subscription into something real is going to realize that it’s hard to move wine around the country. Those who have it grooved and/or figure it out will win big.
The New Retail
If the experience of buying wine and spirits is like going to the gas station, then prepare to watch the retailers offering this experience squirm and struggle. The new retail is going to focus on the digital shopping experience, in-store operations, service, and delivery. From the first interaction to checking out, the experience will be the focus for those that want to win. Quibble with Total Wine or the like all you want, but try shopping online, in-store, and/or taking delivery from them. It’s brilliant. That’s where it is all going in retail.
A Great Reorganization
We are going to see rebirth and reorganization across the board in the beverage distribution and import ecosystem. If the import/distribution game was a chessboard, imagine an empty board that will be reset in a new combination we have never seen before.
There will be new players, consolidation, and a staggering amount of producers up for grabs. Along with this shift, importers with means will go more direct to have more control over their own destiny. It’s not the sort of switch you can just turn on or off and is harder than it looks – but direct is the new direction.
The gangster move is a consolidation of a few mid-size players – who will that be?
Private Labelism Hits New Heights
There is going to be a TON of juice available at a discount. The exhale of inventory of all of this available juice will be through current private labels and a startling number of new private label projects.
New Size Formats
Holy shit, this is huge, especially in the spirits space. New size formats of 700ml, 720ml, 900ml, and 1.8L for spirits will extend the lines of many known spirits brands and even more newcomers. It’s a huge advantage for those working with distilleries in the EU and Japan. This will be a gamechanger in Q3/Q4 and lead to record spirits sales.
On his way out, the Orange Monster is attempting to burn everything down and hand the next guy and his administration, not just a shit sandwich, but a full tasting menu of shit. For the cheese course, we in the wine and spirits business get this: there are more tariffs in play. This new round represents a financial and emotional migraine for the business that is going to take quite a bit to get rid of and is going to cause some casualties. We have to hope for get a new deal with the new administration.
Low and Soft – the Low Alcohol Trend Accelerates
Low alcohol is going to get a lot more attention this year. Brands like Ghia and Seedlip are going to see more competition and more play. Look for well-known distillers to jump into this space with line extensions of low to no alcohol that mimics beer brands that produce low alcohol products.
Big Box Natural
This year we are going to see the solidification of the Big Box Natural phenomenon. Wines that would have never fit into the burgeoning category five years ago because of the size of the producer or their mission will be publicly accepted and will hit more shelves than ever. This is directly related to the ascending demand and price of the en vogue wines and the business sense of the Natural Wine Tribe.