‘What’s Behind Door #2?’

Hint: not beer

Big Beer Isn’t Happy: Seltzers & RTD’s Continue Their March Towards

‘Cold Box’ Dominance

The Cold Box. Our retail customers know how important their reach-in coolers are: over 90% of guests that enter a store purchase something from the cold box, whether a bottle of water for immediate consumption, or a 12-pack to enjoy later. Beer & soft drink companies have fought over the number of ‘doors’ they each control for years, usually ‘granting’ a door or two to the wine companies. Happily, in many stores we wine folks have commandeered more doors in those shops where appropriate, i.e. those with significant wine sales, but something much bigger is taking place now. The coolers are now teaming with seltzer & RTD products, from entry level to super-premium products (even Duckhorn Vineyards has a seltzer!). All of this cold box turf has been taken from the beer guys…and they are worried.

The whole seltzer phenomenon—led by two big brands, White Claw & Truly—has gone bonkers of late; not even COVID could slow it down. Not only are the two leading brands growing triple digits year on year, but there are scores of new players, including several from the major beer brands. The allure is—at least partially—due to their (slightly) ‘healthier’ numbers: much lower in calories & carbs than almost all beer brands, including light beers. And as the new entrants vie to be noticed, all sorts of interesting flavors are coming online, increasing their share of adult beverage consumption by the day. More cold box space, please.

Perhaps the best by-product of this boom is that—along with the increasing acceptance (and quality) of canned wine—is the spillover to RTDs. Ready-to-Drink beverages are typically pre-made cocktails in single-serve cans or bottles. Almost always spirits based, RTDs were generally less available than beer & seltzer products—the spirits base means they have been categorized differently and could only be sold in liquor shops (and Class C accounts) and paid higher taxes. But they are increasingly viewed—by consumers and the trade—as just variation on seltzers. Happily, our regulators are starting to view them that way as well: commencing September 2021, spirits-based RTDs can be sold in beer & wine stores as well. Beer guys: you’re about to lose another door.

So…our best-selling RTD—the delicious, amazingly good High Noon products—will now be widely available. A good thing.

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