Summertime Sizzles for Beer, Wine

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Summertime Sizzles for Beer, Wine

By Bridget Goldschmidt, EnsembleIQ - 05/05/2017

When it comes to beverage alcohol, summer is truly sizzling. Suppliers and retailers can leverage the hot season to sell more of the quaffs that consumers love, linking the products to holidays, entertaining and unique events.

Foremost among summer beverage alcohol selections are beer and wine. “Beer sales surge from May through early September, along with sales of rosé and crisp white wines,” notes Jeff Cox, wine buyer at Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets, which operates 11 cooperative grocery stores in Washington state and carries a “thoughtfully chosen” selection of wines, beers and ciders spotlighting Northwest producers. “Reds continue to sell, driven by bright, accessible wines that work well with al fresco and barbecue-oriented dishes.”

In consequence, the company devotes “a greater percentage of ad activity … to beer and cider, while white and pink wines drive the wine side. In storewide promotions, we emphasize items that pair well with seasonal dishes.”

As for which beers are most popular in summer, Cox sees “pale ale and pilsner enjoying a resurgence, while many brewers are now producing lighter-style, traditional ‘lawn-mower’ beers at lower prices than their frontline offerings.”

Whatever the style, when the mercury rises, a frosty beer is especially welcome. In fact, Nuno Teles, chief marketing officer at White Plains, N.Y.-based Heineken USA, goes so far as to assert, “Summertime is beer time!”

Citing Nielsen figures, he notes that the season “represents nearly 36 percent of total category dollars, and six of the top largest-volume weeks of the year. Heineken USA’s portfolio of high-end imported beers enjoys this seasonal spike as consumers flock to cold, refreshing beverages for their warm-weather drinking occasions.”

Among Heineken’s new season-specific beer products is the “Coolerpack,” which Teles describes as “engineered packaging that turns an 18-pack into a cooler for any occasion,” adding that it brings “convenience and occasion-based purchase choice to beer drinkers everywhere.” Designed to enable consumers to pop open the top and fill the pack with ice to keep their beer suitably cold, the Coolerpack promises to “[drive] incremental sales and profits for retailers who stock and display the innovative new item,” says Teles.

Also on tap – in a manner of speaking – is Amstel Xlight, launching in test markets in Arizona, Texas and Boston. With only 90 calories, 2 grams of carbs, 4.2 percent ABV, and 4 IBUs, the brew “sets the new standard for a sessionable premium-quality light beer with a full beer flavor unexpected from a light beer,” observes Teles. The item comes in 6-pack bottles, 12-pack cans and bottles, and a 24-ounce single-serve can.

“Our lager beers, such as Czechvar, Super Bock [and] Tona, do very well in the summer, as well as our Moosehead Radler, which is beer mixed with juice,” observes Georgia Homsany, senior brand director at Stamford, Conn.-based United States Beverage. “We’ve seen more fruit-flavored beers enter the category, and this is a trend I see continuing.”

Among the company’s recent introductions, Malibu Beer, making its U.S. debut this month, is a shoo-in for summer. Characterized by Homsany as “a lager with a hint of natural coconut flavor,” the Caribbean-imported item, an extension of the popular Pernod-Ricard rum brand, was created based on extensive research carried out over the past few years that pinpointed consumers’ desire for a mainstream lighter-bodied beer with flavor. Available in a 6-pack of 330-milliliter bottles in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; San Diego; and Ann Arbor and Lansing, Mich., markets, Malibu Beer will be supported by a mix of in-store displays, sampling, events and digital media, among other elements.

Passport to Adventure

In the realm of marketing, Heineken is ready with a full slate of ambitious programs. The season kicks off with The Cities Project by Heineken, a partnership with the Bruno Mars 24K Magic World Tour that will support community and philanthropic efforts across the country through one of 11 locally relevant Indiegogo campaigns while awarding consumers concert tickets. “The program will be supported at retail with impactful POS materials and a simple text-donate-get opportunity to attract more valuable shoppers, drive conversion and maximize basket ring,” notes Teles.

Meanwhile, the company’s Dos Equis brand is rolling out the Taste Adventure All Summer campaign this month to leverage the overall growth of Mexican Imports and the rising popularity of beer served in cans. Inspired by Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World ads, the beer will help consumers embark on their own summer expeditions through a sweepstakes including Dos Equis Summer Can Buckets for quick cooling and serving outdoors, with a grand-prize sponsored adventure.

“The merchandising materials include colorful can floor standees, and 4-foot dimensional cans and five- to 10-case stackers for floor displays,” says Teles. “Cross-merchandising with On the Border Chips and Salsa provides opportunity for multiple-item purchase. Retailers who support the program and increase Dos Equis’ feature and display to maximize volume and profit can add value to their customers’ shopping experience during the key summer selling season.”

Over at St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, sports are synonymous with summer. Budweiser, long known as the King of Beers, has introduced limited-edition customized specialty Major League Baseball team cans featuring unique designs created by local artists in time for Opening Day on April 2, in celebration of America’s beloved summertime sport.

Additionally, the company’s Michelob Ultra light beer brand has become the Official Beer Sponsor of the World Surf League (WSL) in the United States, Through this partnership, Michelob Ultra is the exclusive beer sponsor of such WSL events as the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, Calif., which attracts 700,000-plus attendees over nine days in late July and early August. Michelob Ultra will also deploy WSL content across social media channels to further drive excitement among surfers and surfing fans alike.

Other beer brands are also making use of digital resources. “We’ve been having success with Text to Win programs at retail,” notes United States Beverage’s Homsany. “They are simple to execute, and the key is localizing it for the retailer. Our Moosehead brand in particular has a tie-in with [cooler manufacturer] Yeti, which is a natural fit for the Moosehead brand, especially over the summer months when people are barbecuing, camping, hiking and spending more time outdoors. As we drive Moosehead can 12-packs at retail, we’re offering consumers the chance to win a Moosehead-branded Yeti Colster. This year Moosehead celebrates their 150th anniversary, so we’ll have 150 celebration cans in marked 12-packs, for a chance to win.”

Wine and Sunshine

Sure, people like to kick back in the summer with a glass of weather-appropriate wine — something “fresh, light, easy, relaxing [and] sociable,” as Kevin Mehra, CEO of Boston-based Latitude Beverage Co., puts it — but how about sipping it from a can? Mehra, for one, is betting that canned wine will become a more common sight at beaches and on picnics.

“The canned-wine trend is certainly one of the frontrunners on our list” of up-and-coming beverage alcohol items, he asserts. “We saw this segment gain a lot of momentum last summer, and we expect to see this continue ramping up throughout summer 2017. Consumers are looking for innovation in product packaging that increases portability and convenience, and that’s exactly what canned wines bring to the market.”

Last April, the company introduced Lila Sparkling, the latest addition to its Lila canned-wine portfolio, which also features Lila Rosé and Lila Pinot Grigio. “Lila Sparkling is an Italian sparkling wine produced using the same method as Prosecco,” explains Mehra. “It offers a fun and convenient way to enjoy premium, varietally correct sparkling wine on the go. Over this past winter, we made some major changes to improve the overall quality of our Lila products, including moving all production and canning to Europe, within close proximity of the source wineries.”

As well as improving the product inside the can, Latitude has invested heavily in the line’s packaging. “Our Lila 4-pack boxes are updated with more metallics and a brighter look on the shelf,” says Mehra.

Then there’s the matter of creating an impact at retail. “Most of our support dollars for Lila are being used to support our in-store POS programs,” notes Mehra. “This summer, we’ll have three-case floor displays, counter units, large-format can replicas and counter can feeders available for Lila.”

Beyond the can, Latitude is introducing premium Mija White Sangria, “made just the way you’d make it at home: white wine and real unfiltered fruit juices,” according to Mehra. Other items out in time for summer include 90+ Cellars Lot 138 Reserve Chardonnay from Chalone AVA and Magic Door Sauvignon Blanc from Oakville, both retailing in the $15–$20 range, as well as new vintages of all of the company’s most popular rosés, among them the flagship 90+ Cellars Lot 33 Languedoc Rosé, Lot 132 Reserve Provence Rosé and Magic Door Sancerre Rosé.

Indeed, in common with PCC’s Cox, Mehra believes rosé’s reign is far from over. “Rosé — especially French rosé — is still incredibly hot,” he enthuses “This trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. There’s a whole culture around rosé now that will continue to drive sales. It’s a versatile wine, it pairs well with almost anything, and it’s just a great wine to drink and enjoy with friends at any summer social gathering.”

Another wine trend Mehra pinpoints is year-round consumption of sparkling wines, particularly during the summer, while Cox notes such alternatives to chardonnay and sauvignon blanc as riesling, gruner veltliner, viura and soave, adding, “We think that vermentino should be on everyone’s summertime list.”

Consider the Can

When consumers crack open a cold one on a scorching afternoon, few will give much thought to their choice of beer packaging, despite its ubiquity.

“Cans have never been more popular,” affirms Nuno Teles, chief marketing officer at White Plains, N.Y.-based Heineken USA, citing data from Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen. “Legitimized by craft beer, now 10 percent of craft volume is sold in cans, up from 2 percent just two years ago. In addition, cans cool faster than bottles, keep the quality taste, and provide a warm nostalgia, with the crisp ‘pop’ on opening. And not surprisingly, warm weather leads to a preference for cold taste, where 42 percent of adults drinking beverage alcohol consider buying their beverages cold highly important.”

He adds, “Import cans are growing two times faster than import bottles, driven primarily by their popularity during the summer.”

The biggest reason for the can’s conquest of summer beverage alcohol packaging is, naturally enough, convenience. “Ninety percent of regular drinkers who plan to drink this summer say they will drink outdoors, and on-the-go, convenient, easy-to-carry packaging is important to 73 percent of adults drinking beverage alcohol,” Teles notes.