Portable Potables

wines in a can on display at WSWA 2017, photo courtesy WSWA
wines in a can on display at WSWA 2017, photo courtesy WSWA

The last thing the New Orleans French Quarter bartender said to Cocktail & Sons co-founder Max Messier as he headed out the door?  “Do you want anything for the walk?”  Ah, New Orleans; home of the go cup, how unique you are.

Or were. Though it's still just a few cities like New Orleans, Memphis, Savannah and Canton, Ohio that allow walking and open drinking on its streets, one of the biggest trends spotted at this year's WSWA was a nod to portability.

More and more suppliers are offering, and distributors know they need to be carrying, these wines, spirits and cocktails now readily available in totable vessels.  As a law-abiding industry, this growth in the take it on-the-go beverage sector is not about flouting open container laws. Rather, the industry is tapping the intersection of convenience and entertaining and finding a newly popular delivery method for the wine and alcohol to take center stage.

At the 74th annual Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention & Exposition (WSWA) 2017, which housed 210 exhibitors across two exhibit halls at Grande Lakes Orlando, a joint JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton property, numerous brands turned up to launch their products and introduce themselves to a wider audience with hopes of gaining a bigger distribution foothold.  The spectrum ranged from canned Bloody Marys to wine in a can, wine in a pouch – dubbed by one industry insider as “Capri Fun!” - and whisky and vodka in a box.

Taking a page out of the boxed wine category, but never stinting on quality, Derek Sisson, CEO of Famous Brands, and his team introduced award winning spirits in a light cardboard box outfitted with a proprietary bladder. Great idea to reduce shipping costs. Will we see more of this as other producers catch on?

And, on the consumer side, whether its bonding in a duck blind, around a campfire, or out on the boat, the Weekend Warrior whiskey and vodka are good to go in a 1.75-liter box. Designed to address those times when glass can be dangerous or not permitted, the Weekend Warrior box just needs to be filled with ice and then a little pressure on the dispenser does the rest.

Mancan at the park, photo by MISI GLOBITS
Mancan at the park, photo by MISI GLOBITS

While the rest of the world is looking at its rosé wine through glass bottles, Electric Rosé, the brainchild of former marketing executive, Rachael Braun, comes in soft pouches. The can’t miss on the shelf fun & light white and hot pink packaging belies the fact that there is quality Chilean wine inside, just waiting to be chilled. Hours spent around the pool, on golf outings, and embracing day drinking will never be the same.

Though those same-old, same-old patio-side brunch menus can benefit from the introduction of Vampire Vineyard’s canned Bloody Mary, and its sweet and natural tomato flavor, it is still the portable wine in a can that takes the cake when comes to a WSWA Convention & Exposition inspired spirited walk around.

The Spanish, as represented by Thomas Bernth of Colección International del Vino, know that their wines are great in bottles, but everywhere you want to go in cans.

And let’s say you’re a soccer dad. Or a millennial. Or a beverage manager with a rooftop space that you would rather not see stemware on? What’s new on the market for you that’s good to go? MANCAN wine. Graham Veysey, co-founder of MANCAN, explains, “It’s so easy to crack open a MANCAN and enjoy awesome California wine. There is no need for stemware, and at 375 ml or 12.6 ounces, it is the perfect amount to enjoy. It should be an everyday go-to.”

Though every day over the last decade carefully crafted cocktails have taken a star turn in cocktail dens around the country, the truly delicious and well balanced ready to go canned cocktail has been mostly elusive. But, after four years of R&D Dragos Axinte, founder of NY International Spirits Competition award winning Novo Fogo Cachaça, is certain they’ve cracked the code with their carbonated cocktail in a can which offers an opportunity to bring large audiences into the world of craft cocktails. He explains, “Historically, there has been a major conflict between shelf stability and freshness in pre-bottled cocktails, so the category has not taken off. After years of work, we believe that we have reached this nirvana intersection of deliciousness and stability that has been elusive to others. Our Sparkling Caipirinha may be someone’s first cocktail and they will likely become loyal to the brand and category for some time.”

courtesy Novo Fogo
courtesy Novo Fogo

Loyal drinkers appreciate vessels like cans, pouches and boxes because they are great to grab and go for entertaining and hostess gifts. And, as the strong traction Veysey has seen in the fast-casual sector proves, there’s also room for lighter packaged products at golf courses and stadiums. Axinte concurs, “The can format offers many portability and convenience benefits and is a great alternative to beer at large gatherings of people in an entertainment context, such as sports games and concert venues.”

After the concert, there’s somewhere else to enjoy the music, and that’s also where canned wine and alcohol sales can benefit -- at home. Statistics from Mango Bottling Inc. show, for instance, that 55% of women 25 to 40 are entertaining at home hosting cookouts, pool parties, etc. which means those opportunities for portable potables are increasing.

Making taking it to go a great idea to run with.