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Hi there

Welcome to the 21st edition of The Look Back. In the past week we’ve seen a lot of FMB-related news, from hard seltzer debuts, to debates about high ABV line extensions (and memes!), all the way to analysis about an overlooked category pioneer. 

Today we’re looking at:

  • Twisted Tea, Boston Beer’s underappreciated FMB that we talked about a bit last week
  • The devastating frost affecting vineyards across France
  • Topo Chico Hard Seltzer’s fast start 

...and more.

Let’s dive in.

- Josh, VinePair Co-Founder

#1 - Twisted Tea ‘Don’t Get No Respect’

The Headline: “Twisted Tea Gears Up for its Biggest Year Yet”
The Source: Beer Business Daily (paywall)
What You Need To Know:
A lot of people don’t realize the sheer size of Boston Beer’s Twisted Tea business. It’s the fourth largest brand in the RTD/FMB space, behind White Claw Seltzer, Truly Seltzer, and the Mike’s Hard Lemonade franchise (in that order). 

And yet, despite its large size, and the fact that it’s old enough to drink itself, Twisted Tea is up almost 50% YTD in IRI multi-outlet and convenience. (This is its 13th year of double-digit growth, mind you.) 

The company tells BBD that, YTD in IRI, “Twisted Tea has added an incremental 1.2 Million CEs; which is roughly 2.5X the incremental volume the Mike’s Brand Family added. In fact, Twisted Tea has added the fifth most cases in total beer YTD.”
Our Take: If you missed last week’s newsletter, the context here is that Twisted Tea was Boston Beer’s FMB growth engine before Truly. And it’s still growing. Hard Seltzer gets all the attention when it comes to FMBs — and rightfully so — but this deep dive is a good reminder that Boston Beer’s top-tier hard seltzer peer Mark Anthony Brands isn’t the only FMB OG.

Previous VinePair Coverage: The BBD article also includes this bit which aligns with the cultural impact of that linked article:
“What we saw last year is that 28% of our new households actually came from non-white [Black or Hispanic] households, which has been awesome for us,” said Erica. “The demographic is changing, becoming more diverse.” 

And its share of urban markets is increasing, too. “In the past, we’ve really been seen as a rural brand – built in markets like Maine to Montana. And that’s really shifting — we’ve actually seen urban households grow last year, over 45%. So … we’re reaching a lot more people.”
 

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#2 - Frost Devastates Vineyards In France & Beyond

The Headline: “French Wine Production Ravaged by a Devastating Frost”
The Source: New York Times
What You Need To Know:
A sudden frost, the worst in decades, has ravaged a French wine industry already reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and what is known among winegrowers as the “Trump tax.”

Candles and small fires glittered across vineyards and orchards last week, their pretty flickering belying the disaster, as winegrowers and farmers tried everything to ward off the frost cutting the life from newly formed shoots and buds. A layer of smog from the fires formed over Lyon and areas of the southeast.

But by the time the cold snap ended, destruction had spread across most of France’s winegrowing regions, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire. Jean-Marie Barillère, the head of a major wine industry association, told the French daily Le Figaro that the frost had hit “80 percent of French vineyards.”
Here’s some more information from Vinex:
The French government has declared the climatic incident an “agricultural disaster” and has pledged to offer financial support to stricken growers, after producers in regions including Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône reported devastating losses.  Last week the country saw temperatures plummet to as low as minus nine degrees centigrade across several thousand hectares resulting in vineyards being gripped by the damaging frosts.  


The Rhône Valley has been particularly hard hit, especially the Côte-Rôtie, according to the president of Inter-Rhône Phillipe Pellaton, who predicted the region was heading for its smallest harvest in 40 years, with some estates likely to lose their entire crop.


It wasn’t only France that was hit by harsh frost last week – Italy too, saw vineyards in Tuscany, Piedmont and as far south as Lazio affected, with up to 80% of some producers’ crops being lost.

Farmers' associations such as Coldiretti in Piedmont and Confagricoltura in Tuscany have called on their regional governments to declare natural disaster status. In many regions of Tuscany, losses of up to 50% are being predicted. Similarly, winegrowers in the Langa (Piedmont) fear they will lose up to half of their Nebbiolo production, while in the province of Alessandria up to 80% of vines are said to be affected. In the Veneto, vineyards for the production of Prosecco, Chardonnay and Pinot grigio were reported as being particularly impacted by the frost. The full extent of the damage, however, will only become apparent in the coming weeks, though could be as high as almost 150 million litres, around a quarter of the total Italian wine production.
See additional coverage at Wine Enthusiast and Decanter.

#3 - Topo Chico Hard Seltzer Finally Debuts To A Fast Start

The Headline: “Topo Seltzer Off Like a Rocketship; Inventory Thin”
The Source: Beer Business Daily (paywall)
What You Need To Know:
The brand gained a near fifth of seltzer share (19.8%) in Texas off-premise in its first week, and snagged 3.2 share points nationally, Molson Coors tells BBD citing IRI multi-outlet and convenience scans.

So it appears Molson Coors and Coke have a real winner with Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, even outside of Texas. The question is if they can keep it in stock.

“We always believed this brand would be a hit with consumers, but the demand has blown away anyone’s wildest expectations,” Molson Coors’ Marty Maloney tells BBD. 
Our Take: Maybe we’re just big Topo Chico fans here at VinePair, but what has ‘blown away’ our expectations has been how long it took to launch the brand, the fact that when it did finally launch that it was in limited markets, and only then with apparently serious inventory problems 🤷

On a more serious note, someone on Twitter shared the IRI data that BBD referenced, with some useful context. First the entire chart (click through to Twitter for a full size version):
Here’s our own crop, showing the most recent four weeks:
🌵CACTI’s declining numbers are of particular interest. Was supply artificially limited early on to create a flurry of headlines? That prompts the next question — is AB InBev really having trouble restocking the brand or did pitch man Travis Scott deliver a viral pop that’s quickly deflating? Reviews — professional and of the TikTok variety — are all over the place, but as a friend of the newsletter pointed out, the target audience for CACTI probably skews 18 21 to 24 so take that into account when judging flavor profile and delivery.

Finally, ICYMI, we published our third annual roundup of the best hard seltzers you can buy right now (sadly none of Topo Chico’s flavors made the cut).

Bonus Reads:

  • White Claw's higher-alcohol Surge means Millennials can stop pretending hard seltzer was ever 'healthy' (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • We All Want to Party — New, Higher-ABV White Claw Exposes Myth of Hard Seltzer’s Wellness Lifestyle (Good Beer Hunting)
  • Diageo acquires vodka RTD brand Loyal 9 Cocktails (Beverage Daily)
  • Champagne and Cognac sales grow for LVMH in 2021 (Decanter)

And that’s a wrap. We hope you found this newsletter informative and useful. Whether you did or didn’t, we’d love to know why at vppro@vinepair.com.

Cheers! 
 
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