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Beverage Alcohol Gets Set to Quench


As summer heats up, consumers’ thoughts inevitably turn to refreshing options all along the beverage alcohol spectrum, but what are they looking for specifically?

Jonathan Simpson, director of shopper marketing at White Plains, N.Y.-based Heineken USA, pinpoints “flavorful beers and the crisp and refreshing taste of hard cider [as] natural choice[s] for warm-weather gatherings and celebrations. Variety packs are also a growing trend for group gatherings, as they appeal to consumers’ desire to try new styles and flavors, and offer something for everybody.”

According to Simpson, “Choosing refreshment and seeking variety are not new trends, but rather trends that continue to develop and evolve as consumers experiment with new categories such as cider and new styles of beer from their favorite brands.”

To that end, Heineken has launched hard-cider brand Strongbow’s latest flavor, Strongbow Cherry Blossom, which, notes Simpson, “delivers a cut-through refreshing taste with cherry blossom and red-fruit aromas, subtle sweetness, and [a] ripe apple finish. Cherry Blossom served over ice is the ultimate way to experience this new flavor’s most refreshing taste, just like all of our delicious hard-cider flavors.”

Also part of the company’s seasonal lineup is what Simpson describes as “a returning fan favorite,” limited-edition Dos Equis Azul, as part of the Beers of Mexico variety pack. The blend of signature golden-wheat lager and blue agave joins Dos Equis Lager, Tecate and Sol. Another summer limited release, Newcastle Caley Amber Ale, will be featured in the “Best of Britain” variety pack, alongside Newcastle Brown Ale and British Pale Ale. Brewed in collaboration with sister Caledonian Brewery, the ale “is made with a blend of whole-flower hops to create a full-bodied brew with a slight, pleasant bitterness that is brought to life by the open-fired solid copper kettles,” enthuses Simpson.

“When it comes to popular beers in the summer, nothing is as popular as the Leinenkugel’s Shandy portfolio,” asserts Martin Maloney, media relations manager at Chicago-based MillerCoors. “Grapefruit Shandy was the No. 1 new craft offering of 2015,” despite having been offered only in 6-packs. Currently back on shelves, with plans for year-round availability going forward, the item will come in 6-pack bottles, 12-pack bottles, 12-pack cans and single 16-ounce cans. Maloney explains that “we’re going bigger on Grapefruit, with more packs to fully optimize the potential of the brand.”

He also singles out “a staple of the season, Leinie’s Summer Shandy. The traditional Weiss beer with refreshing natural lemonade flavor continues to grow year after year, and is the highest-velocity national craft in America.”

A Shandy Sampler pack will include a new Watermelon Shandy, which Maloney characterizes as “a mix of traditional Weiss beer balanced with a hint of watermelon flavor for a taste made for summer.”

Additional seasonal offerings from MillerCoors include Blue Moon’s Belgian Table Pils, a “balanced, easy-drinking pilsner with hints of citrus,” and Redd’s “Limited Pick” Blueberry, which “boasts a delicately balanced apple-and-blueberry aroma, while offering a taste that hits with ripe blueberry tones and a satisfying apple finish,” according to Maloney.

“The trend where we are currently seeing the most growth potential is in the U.S. cider market,” notes Harry Lewis, VP, Stella Artois, the Belgian beer brand owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. “In previous years, cider has been a major player in Europe, with very few options in the U.S., but now we’re starting to see growth in the category stateside. Consumers seek variety and are looking for refreshing, easy-to-drink, revitalizing summer flavors. Stella Artois Cidre, made from handpicked apples from wine-growing regions, offers consumers a [drier], balanced taste — perfect for those hot summer days.”

New this summer is Stella Artois Cidre in cans, providing “a convenient option for consumers looking for an easily portable and packable beverage option for summer outdoor occasions,” adds Lewis. “Stella Artois Cidre is currently available nationwide in both cans and bottles.”

According to Lewis, cider’s time as a major American beverage is finally arriving. “The cider category has doubled within the last three years and grown nearly seven times in the past five years,” he points out. “We continue to see the demand for cider increase due to its ability to be paired with a variety of brunch options and recipes, and believe that the best things for the category have yet to come. Our consumers have responded incredibly well to our newest offering, Stella Artois Cidre, which is the fastest-growing cider in 2016. While most cider options are currently on the sweeter side, Stella Artois Cidre is a drier option, and our consumers have gravitated towards that.”

Mix Masters

It’s not all beer and cider, however. There have been recent developments on the cocktail front as well.

“In the past few years, we’ve seen the growth of beer cocktails, tiki drinks, punch service, kegged cocktails and cocktails on tap, and a trend away from sweet to savory/unusual flavors,” observes Aneesa Moheyuddin, senior manager, innovation at New York-based Pernod Ricard USA. “As consumers become more health-conscious, fresh ingredients, low-calorie and low-A BV offerings are becoming more popular. While the majority of drinkers are reverting to the classics, they expect a higher level of quality and intrigue. And for the particularly savvy, they continue to seek out the latest, most unusual expressions, ingredients and spirits that surprise and challenge.”

To engage these savvy consumers this summer, Pernod Ricard’s Malibu rum brand has introduced Malibu Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Malibu Strawberry-Kiwi Cocktail Cans. “Malibu Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is the newest addition to the Malibu Sensations portfolio,” explains Moheyuddin. “The indulgent treat can be shared over casual connections with friends or during a relaxed night out in shots, mixed with fruit juices or blended with ice cream. The Malibu Strawberry-Kiwi Cocktail combines the juicy flavors of ripe strawberry and kiwi with a hint of Malibu Coconut, and will be available in convenient, single-serve cans perfect for outdoor and on-the-go occasions throughout the spring and summer seasons. Malibu will also be launching two new premixed and ready-to-serve cocktail offerings, Malibu Daiquiri and Malibu Pineapple Twist, in May 2016.”

Among all of its brands, which include such new entries as premium artisanal tequila Olmeca Altos Anejo and American-crafted vodka Smith-works, Malibu “truly owns the summer experience,” asserts Moheyuddin.

Beyond rum, which “serves as the common base for tiki-inspired drinks,” Kelley McDonough, director of public relations for the Washington, D.C.-based Distilled Spirits Council, notes: “We’re seeing mixologists expand to other categories with their cocktail creations. Spirits such as blended scotch, tequila, sherry and others are now frequently used in these festive Polynesian-style drinks.”

Also seemingly made for summer is Smirnoff Sourced flavored vodka from Diageo North America, which the Norwalk, Conn.-based company has positioned as a “new, go-to option for those looking to seize the daytime and inject fresh, fun energy into their weekend daytime drinking occasions.” Made with 10 percent real fruit juice from concentrate and Smirnoff No. 21, the gluten-free item has fewer than 94 calories per serving, contains no high-fructose corn syrup and comes in three fruity flavors: Ruby Red Grapefruit, Pineapple and Cranberry Apple. According to Diageo, “Smirnoff Sourced is best served chilled on the rocks, with soda water or in a simple mixed drink.”

‘Beverage Ominvores’

And what laidback summer social occasion would be complete without a glass (or several) of wine? If you ask Marc Gallo, VP, marketing at St. Helena, Calif.-based Trinchero Family Estates, however, wine, important though it may be, is just part of the larger beverage alcohol continuum.

“The emergence of the ‘beverage omnivore’ is really a fairly recent trend,” he says. “Today, there seems to be a seamless transition between beer, wine, cider and spirits. The same holds true for the summer season; some products we know will be popular this summer … include white wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc. With so many styles present across the globe, we foresee consumers expanding their Sauvignon Blanc style and preference beyond New Zealand and California. Rosé is another category that is going to be very visible this summer. Traditional rosés from France will lead the charge, but domestic offerings continue to grow exponentially. Ciders, sangrías and almost anything considered ‘craft’ will also be prevalent, especially as ‘craft’ is a popular trend and even lifestyle for Millennials.”

To capitalize on the rosé trend, Trinchero will widen the availability of one of the best-selling traditional French rosés, Bieler Pere et Fils, as part of its ongoing partnership with Charles Bieler. Explains Gallo: “Bieler Pere et Fils is currently the No. 1-selling Provence rosé in the U.S. Trinchero Family Estates already sells Charles Bieler’s domestic rosé from Washington, the Charles and Charles Rosé. This is a partnership between Charles Bieler and famed Washington vintner Charles Smith.”

Additionally, since, in Gallo’s estimation, “nothing screams summer like sangría,” Trinchero plans to expand on its successful national launch of Sutter Home Sangria with the introduction next month of a shatterproof 187 PET (plastic) 4-pack with a new screw-top 1.5-liter offering, which he deems “convenient for summer entertaining by the pool or picnicking.” Consumers will also see canned Sancho Libre Red and White Peach Sangria available at local retail stores.

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