Beverage Alcohol Retailers See New Summertime Trends

Whisk(e)y-based cocktails and RTD wines are attracting consumer attention.

Beverage retailers such as the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (wine display pictured) are seeing rosé wine continue to rise in popularity, especially during the summer.
Beverage retailers such as the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (wine display pictured) are seeing rosé wine continue to rise in popularity, especially during the summer. (Photo by Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board)

The on-the-go summertime lifestyle has beverage alcohol consumers gravitating toward wines packaged in handy sizes, as well as spirits to mix into refreshing cocktails. “Easy two- or three-ingredient cocktails are trending for summer, especially the Highball made with club soda,” says Sandra Spalding, director of marketing and events coordinator at Austin, Texas-based Twin Liquors, which has over 90 stores in the Lone Star State. “Whiskey is still selling strong, and Highballs and light cocktails are a way to enjoy the spirit in the hot summer months. Irish whiskies work well because they are light, and Japanese whiskies like Toki ($38 a 750-ml.) are a fun alternative too.” Jameson ($24 a 750-ml.) is the Irish whiskey leader at Twin Liquors, and local Texas whiskies such as Balcones ($38-$69), Still Austin ($26), and Garrison Brothers ($83) are trending up.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, whisk(e)y sales were up 7%  from May 20 through July 14, with Bourbons such as Jim Beam ($29 a 1.75-liter), Basil Hayden’s ($43 a 750-ml.), and Maker’s Mark ($60 a 1.75-liter) leading the charge with the highest double-digit volume gains, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). The PLCB has been promoting a cocktail of the month with a rotating banner ad on its website. The Brandy Root Beer Float, made with E. & J. Vanilla brandy, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and root beer, was the July cocktail. The campaign also includes a promotional shelf talker at retail.  “Through our consumer relations department and our social media platforms, we’ve received positive feedback from our customers,” says PLCB chairman Tim Holden. “They’ve complimented our online initiatives. They’ve been inquiring about cocktails and asking for recipes. We’re encouraged by this positive online customer reaction.”

The PLCB has been offering free shipping on rum orders of more than $49, and a few standouts this summer are Dogfish Head Barrel Honey rum ($28 a 750-ml.) and Captain Morgan Watermelon Smash rum ($18). Twin Liquors, meanwhile, is experiencing a spike in both rum and Tequila sales this summer thanks to consumer interest in cocktails. “What’s great about Tequila and rum is that folks who typically like to sip Bourbon and Scotch can switch to Tequila and rum in the summer as lighter options for neat pours,” Spalding says.

Wine trends this summer heavily feature alternative RTD packaging—such as cans, small-size singles, and Tetra Paks— with sales increasing by more than 12% over last summer, according to the PLCB. Driven primarily by new offerings, wines sold in Tetra Paks and cans are experiencing the largest dollar volume gains among alternative wine packaging, with the number of canned wines the PLCB stocks growing to 85 the second quarter of 2019, compared to 11 just two years ago. “Shoppers are interested in alternative packages,” Holden says. “They’re looking for bargains and are attracted to new items.”

Among significant wine purchasing trends, rosé wines are still growing and sparkling wines have taken off at Twin Liquors this summer. “Crémant, sparkling rosé, and Cava are performing well, and Prosecco is still strong,” Spalding says. Similarly, sparkling wines are up 9% and rosés are growing at 3% this summer in Pennsylvania. Sweeter white wines—like Malvasia, Moscato, and Riesling—are up by almost 7% in Pennsylvania, and dry white wines such as Pinot Grigio, Roussanne, and Sauvignon Blanc are up about 3%. Red wines are up by more than 3% over last year. While premixed sangria offerings are down about 9% in Pennsylvania from last summer, bright spots include Carlo Rossi Sangria and Pink Moscato Sangria (both $4 a 750-ml.), as well as Yellow Tail Sangria Australia ($15 a 1.5-liter).