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How Retailers Can Help Lift Holiday ‘Spirits’

After 2 restrictive COVID winters, consumers are eager to raise a festive alcoholic glass (or two)
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Alcoholic Beverages 2022
Meeting the seasonal demand for eggnog, single-serve BuzzBallz Eggnog cocktails are decadent and rich in vanilla flavor, with familiar hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Tis the season for at-home entertaining to shine. With COVID-19 restrictions virtually gone, consumers are eager to gather with more friends and family this holiday season. And alcoholic beverages, while popular throughout the year, are among the most in-demand seasonal items that consumers add to their holiday shopping lists. 

New York-based digital shopper marketing platform Chicory recently shared its Holiday Grocery Shopping 2022 guide, detailing how more than 1,300 survey respondents plan to buy alcohol for this year’s celebrations. More than half of those surveyed said that they planned to purchase wine over the holidays, with beer coming in as the second most preferred alcoholic beverage option. 

[Read more: "Holiday Spending Expected to Increase This Year"]

Data from Washington, D.C.-based global decision intelligence company Morning Consult delves even further, revealing that the drinks served to partygoers varies by generation. While Baby Boomers stick with wine — or nothing at all — for holiday gatherings, Millennials are more likely to reach for a range of alcoholic beverages. Although wine is still a top choice for this demographic, they’re just as likely to serve beer. Also, Millennials are roughly three times as likely as Baby Boomers to say that they’ll serve mixed drinks or cocktails at Thanksgiving.

Millennials generally drink more alcohol than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, which provides more opportunities for them to purchase different types of drinks. They’re also more likely to say that they’ve tried new adult beverages in the past month.

alcoholic beverages 2022
Anchor Brewing suggests pairing its 7.2% Christmas Ale with hearty winter fare such as roasted achiote chicken with mole or a sweet treat like chocolate Bundt cake.

Price-Conscious Party Planning

This year’s holiday party hosts are more cost-conscious than ever before as prices skyrocket and the cost of living increases. According to a holiday shopping survey of more than 14,400 American consumers from Shopkick, a Denver-based shopping rewards app, 85% of consumers say that price and budget will influence them the most when building their holiday shopping lists. 

Arlington, Va.-based FMI  — The Food Industry Association  discovered that, to mitigate increased costs, 21% of consumers plan to choose less expensive private label options for winter celebrations. The growing boozy store-brand segment is therefore poised to boost overall sales of adult beverages during the upcoming holidays.  

In fact, store-brand dollar sales in the liquor department increased by 17% to $64 million for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 4 versus the prior year, according to Chicago-based IRI.

Just because store-brand alcohol products are cheaper doesn’t mean they skimp on quality, however. In last year’s Product of the Year USA program, the winner in the wine category wasn’t a recognized-name varietal from a storied vintner, but rather a $10 Quarter Cut Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon sold exclusively at Batavia, Ill.-based discounter Aldi US.

Economical ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails are also experiencing an uptick in popularity. Rather than spending money on handmade cocktails that usually require high-priced liquors and various ingredients, at-home hosts strapped for cash will be attracted to RTD alcohol for their mixed-drink needs. These RTD products can also ease the burden of party cleanup without the need for additional glassware for cocktail mixing and shaking.  

According to data from Chicago-based Mintel, nearly 50% of adults over 22 years old reported drinking RTD cocktails in 2021, up from 40% in 2018. 

Further, as indicated by data from Chicago-based NielsenIQ — which measures malt-based beverages (including hard seltzer), spirits-based options and wine-based products as one large RTD category — spirits-based RTD cocktails led growth across the $9.6-billion RTD category in both 2020 and 2021.  

“American consumers are increasingly prioritizing convenience, taste, variety and quality in their choice of beverages,” says Robert Blizzard, partner at Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies, a national political and public affairs research firm. “Spirits-based RTDs fit squarely in this trend, so it’s no surprise these products are leading the spirits category in both market growth and consumer popularity.”

Alcoholic beverages 2022 holiday
21st Amendment Brewery’s Fireside Chat is a winter warmer that’s full of spices and flavorful cocoa nibs meant to be enjoyed this holiday season with family and friends.

Entertaining With Eggnog 

Nothing says holiday entertaining more than sipping on eggnog, and consumer brands are ready to meet the high demand for this popular beverage. For example, after a successful 2021 launch, BuzzBallz Eggnog is returning for the 2022 holiday season with both wine- and spirit-based variations.

According to the RTD cocktail company, its spirit-based Cocktails and wine-based Chillers embody a classic eggnog taste, decadent and rich in vanilla flavor, with familiar hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Single-serve BuzzBallz Eggnog Chillers are made with an orange wine base, while BuzzBallz Eggnog Cocktails use real rum along with fresh dairy cream and spices.

“We found most of the premade eggnog with alcohol to be somewhat harsh,” notes Charles Irvin, VP of R&D for Carrollton, Texas-based BuzzBallz. “We played around quite a bit with different spice-and-cream ratios, but ultimately came up with cocktails that we thought made eggnog better.” These seasonal flavors join more than a dozen others in the BuzzBallz portfolio.

Meanwhile, breakfast brand Eggo is out to make adulting a little more fun. Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. has created Eggo Nog to elevate parents’ free time and give grownups a unique way to “L’Eggo” of holiday stress this season. Made in partnership with craft distillery Sugarlands Distilling Co., in Gatlinburg, Tenn., 20% ABV Eggo Nog Appalachian Sippin’ Cream is a rich rum-based liqueur with cinnamon and nutmeg flavor notes. 

“The holidays are exhausting for parents — from extra family responsibilities to the pressure of making the holidays perfect, parents rarely have any downtime for themselves,” says Joe Beauprez, marketing director for Eggo. “We created Eggo Nog to give parents a delicious way to indulge in some well-deserved ‘evening me time.’ Paired perfectly with our Eggo Thick & Fluffy Waffles — maybe even topped with a dollop of ice cream — Eggo Nog is sure to help parents L’Eggo during one of the busiest times of the year.”

Adds Greg Eidam, Sugarlands’ master distiller: “We’re very excited to partner with an iconic brand like Eggo to create this fun and festive version of our popular Appalachian Sippin’ Cream. Our team at the distillery worked hard to ensure hints of cinnamon and nutmeg came through in the flavors, making every sip reminiscent of a perfectly toasted Eggo waffle. We’re confident this tasty twist on the classic holiday treat will have parents longing for their ‘evening me time’ all holiday season long.”

Vegan and allergen-sensitive consumers can also partake in eggnog fun. Misunderstood Whiskey Co. is bringing the first RTD dairy-free hard 14% ABV Oat Nog to shelves this holiday season. The limited release, which uses Misunderstood’s Ginger Spiced Whiskey and oat milk as its base, provides a light, flavorful and creamy alternative to traditional eggnog.

“Our goal has always been to change perceptions with products that taste so good, they make you think twice about a category,” explains Chris Buglisi, co-founder of Bardstown, Ky.-based Misunderstood Whiskey. “First, it was bringing together flavored whiskey drinkers and traditional whiskey drinkers with our Ginger Spiced Whiskey, and now bringing together the dairy and nondairy communities with our Oat Nog.”

Much like Misunderstood’s flagship whiskey, which is blended with real ginger, shelf-stable Misunderstood Oat Nog is made with quality ingredients that include sustainably sourced oat milk blended with 100% American whiskey, and is free of neutral grain spirit, high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. 

“We had such a blast working on this innovation, and we couldn’t be more excited to share our first limited release with consumers, especially with traditional eggnog drinkers,” notes JD Recobs, co-founder of Misunderstood Whiskey. “We’ve seen the alternative milk category grow exponentially over the past few years, so we’re thrilled to be a part of the innovation and release something unique and delicious for the fall and winter season. While Misunderstood Oat Nog is best enjoyed simply chilled or over ice, we also think it’s going to be a great base for seasonal cocktails.”

Alcoholic Beverages 2022 Holidays
Kroger recently launched its specially curated Winter Wine Box Celebration Pack featuring reds, whites, rosé and sparkling varieties from around the world.

Retailers Satisfy Thirst for International Wines

With wine being the beverage of choice for so many festive gatherings, food retailers are looking to become wine destinations for this year’s holiday celebrations. Variety packs are a great way for consumers to experiment. For instance, The Kroger Co. recently launched its annual Winter Wine Box Celebration Pack, featuring 24 curated wines exclusive to the retailer. 

“We have specially curated 24 exquisite wines for our customers this season, and we can’t wait for them to be enjoyed,” says Barry Craft, VP of grocery at Cincinnati-based Kroger. “There’s something for everyone — reds, whites, rosé and sparkling varieties from around the world — and as customers try the curation, they can learn more about a prized varietal or world-renowned growing region each day.”

The selection of handpicked wines hails from Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, the Republic of North Macedonia, South Africa and Spain. The Winter Wine Box contains 24 6.3-ounce bottles equaling six full-sized bottles of wine.

Also, don’t forget to stock those boozy advent calendars. These seasonal items are always popular with consumers for holiday gift-giving or as a fun way for the purchasers themselves to count down to the holidays.  

Winn-Dixie, a Southeastern Grocers banner, is stocking shelves with its limited-edition Holiday Wine Advent Calendar in select Alabama, Florida and Louisiana stores. The new Mistletoe Magic Holiday Wine Collection features 24 miniature bottles of hand-selected fine wines from around the world. It touts a unique assortment of red, white and rosé varieties, including selections created by award-winning wineries. 

“From aspiring sommeliers to novice wine lovers, we want to help our customers celebrate the holidays and explore new wine varieties, one glass at a time,” says Raymond Rhee, chief people officer for Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers. “Our wine advent calendars allow us to highlight our award-winning wine partners and give our customers the opportunity to discover new wine selections during the festive holiday season.”

Additionally, wine enthusiasts are encouraged to scan the QR code located on each Mistletoe Magic Holiday Wine Collection calendar to find descriptions of each unique selection, pairing recommendations, and more.

Brewed for the Holidays

Anchor Brewing Co.’s annual Christmas Ale has returned for beer drinkers. Each year, Anchor’s brewmasters craft a new secret recipe and bottle the limited-edition ale with a different festive hand-drawn tree label. Like last year, a portion of all sales benefits One Tree Planted, a nonprofit that’s dedicated to global reforestation and plants millions of trees across 43 countries.

The 48th annual Christmas Ale showcases notes of orange, honeysuckle, toasted malts and eucalyptus. Featuring botanicals and herbaceous hops, the 7.2% rye-forward brew finishes with a touch of spice like the warming bittersweet notes of amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur often enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. 

“Holidays at Anchor Brewing are always a special time to reflect on our history and the pioneering spirit that inspires our innovation,” says newly anointed Brewmaster Dane Volek, of San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing. “Our incredible brewing team crafted a Christmas Ale that truly captures the essence of the holidays. We’re excited for fans to celebrate the season with us.”

This year’s hand-drawn label features a blue gum eucalyptus tree, a nod to Mary Ellen Pleasant — a 19th-century San Francisco entrepreneur, financier, abolitionist and civil rights activist. Pleasant, who is recognized as the “Mother of Civil Rights in California” for her impact during Gold Rush-era San Francisco, planted blue gum eucalyptus trees outside her Pacific Heights mansion shortly before her death in 1904.

Also in San Francisco, 21st Amendment Brewery is ringing in the holiday season with a fresh new look for an old favorite, Fireside Chat Winter Ale. The newer, more elegant packaging depicts two reindeer enjoying a cozy tête-à-tête next to a crackling fireplace, with wistful elves peeking through the windows. 

“Fireside Chat is a beer we’ve been making every holiday season since we opened our pub in 2000,” observes Nico Freccia, COO and co-founder of 21st Amendment. “It’s the very first Great American Beer Festival medal we won, back in 2001. So it was really fun to rethink the design and branding for this beer, really leaning into the holiday season and a sense of fun. While we play with the spices each year for just the right holiday flair, the beer hasn’t changed, and it’s still the best beer out there for your holiday table, as a gift for a friend or just to enjoy by a warm fire.”

Shaun O’Sullivan, co-founder and brewmaster at 21st Amendment, describes Fireside Chat as having “a deep amber color, bright toffee foam-laced head, soft spice profile, and a rich, subtle chocolate layer on the finish that’s wonderfully elegant.” 

According to O’Sullivan, the 7.9% spiced winter ale “really comes together with the new package design. … Be like a reindeer and enjoy this beer with your reindeer friends.” 

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