New canned wine packaging regulations from the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)—spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer from New York—are expected to speed up production, reduce costs, increase quality offerings, and bolster the segment. The regulations allow canned wines to be sold in popular and readily available 12-ounce (355-ml.) cans and slim, trendy 8.4-ounce (250-ml.) cans can now be sold individually, instead of only in 3- or 4-packs. The emerging segment had been relegated to hard to source and expensive sizes, such as 375-ml., or 12.7 ounces. “The new TTB size rulings will offer manufacturers more strategic choices. The popular 355-ml. size will probably reduce can cost, allowing winemakers to either reduce price and/or increase profits,” says Robert Williams, founder and partner of WICresearch. “The 200-ml. can will permit more imports.”
At Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, Colorado, wine department manager Dave Shierling, estimates that canned wine sales more than doubled last year, with single cans driving sales. Top sellers include Underwood ($6 a 375-ml.), Odell Wine Project ($8 a 375-ml.), and House Wine ($6 a 375-ml.). “I more than doubled the number of can SKUs from 30 in 2019 to 60 in 2020,” Shierling says. “The 375-ml. cans do really well for us.”
Increased numbers of winemakers selling canned wines and available products contributed to the segment’s overall approximate 68% growth to about $200 million in 2020. There are at least 580 winemakers (up 35% from 2019) offering more than 1,450 (up 25% from 2019) canned wine SKUs, according to WICresearch. “The new singles provide an on-ramp to new and younger adults customers by reducing trial risk cost,” Williams says.
He anticipates trends for more diverse and higher quality wines will continue this year with premium wine, complex varietals, and niche segments. “This results in higher scores and more scores over 90 points, and winning more competitions against bottled wine,” he says.
Beer producers are also increasing their presence in the segment. Anheuser-Busch InBev (A-B InBev) acquired Babe Wine ($28 an eight-pack of 250-ml. cans from company website) in 2019. “Babe is having a noticeable impact, most especially on marketing spend, and distribution availability,” Williams says.
Covid-19 influenced buying habits last year and canned wine competition is intensifying. “The only trend we saw in 2020 was the pandemic, and it seems like it will continue for a while,” Shierling says. “People seemed to buy more commodity brands. New products struggled for us. We will bring in more cans, but we’ll discontinue ones not selling.”
Direct-to-consumer and curbside pick-up sales increase sampling, variety, and sales, according to Williams. “This was driven in part by Covid lockdowns, and new single-serve standards of fill,” he says. “Our surveys show that 250-ml. is consumers’ preferred size. Having that in singles will spur the market.”
Shierling anticipates canned wine sales will continue expanding. “I expect suppliers to push the envelope of price and quality, and I hope customers respond,” Shierling says. “Almost all of my cans are priced from $5-$8. I’m curious to see what higher quality wines show up in cans.”