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Welcome to the 70th edition of The Look Back. This week we’re looking at summer 2022 drink trends, the state of wine globally, and more.

Last week’s most popular link was: VinePair Podcast: Who Is Hard Soda For? (VinePair) … which sets up nicely the dive into summer 2022 drink trends.

Let’s dive in. 

- Josh, VinePair co-founder

#1 - The Drink Of Summer 2022 Is…

The Headline: “From Hard MTN Dew to High Noon: here are the top 8 summer beverages”
The Source: The Drum (possible paywall)
What You Need To Know:
What drink will you be sipping on as the days turn warmer? The Drum interviewed leading beverage analysts to determine the top alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages that will end up in your hand this summer.
Our Take: As we’re just a week away from Cinco de Mayo, now seems like the perfect time to make some educated guesses about which drink(s) will dominate this summer. I’m going to excerpt The Drum’s picks, provide my own commentary, and then I’ll wrap things up with the collective thoughts of the VinePair team.

First up we have High Noon:
You know a beverage is selling well when it is causing US state officials to rethink their laws. High Noon is a hard seltzer made with real vodka and juice (traditional hard seltzers do not include spirits). The brand, which “believes in always living like the sun’s out,” saw sales grow 199.5% last year, per Impact Databank. “Hard seltzer is declining, yet High Noon is still growing triple digits,” says David Steinman, executive editor, Beer Marketer’s Insights.

High Noon is part of the larger trend of consumers increasingly looking to ‘trade up’ to canned cocktails and ready-to-drink spirits. Yet it’s a bit tricky to find depending on where you live because it is considered a distilled spirit. This means in New York, for example, it can only be sold where wine and liquor are sold. “High Noon is challenging the status quo,” says Sadowsky. “It’s fascinating to watch the states bend.”
This is about as uncontroversial a prediction as you can get, and one the VinePair team agrees with (more on that later). As the excerpt above makes clear, High Noon — despite distribution disadvantages in states like New York — has been putting up tremendous growth on an increasingly large base, “coming from behind” to transition from the initial hard seltzer boom to the current RTD surge.

Next up is Finnish Long Drink (the brand, specifically):
An actor, a DJ and a golfer walk into a bar... kind of sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. Actor Miles Teller, DJ Kygo and pro golfer Rickie Fowler are the force behind the US success of Finnish Long Drink. Created after World War II, Long Drink is the top-selling category in Finland. Its traditional recipe is gin and grapefruit soda.

Finnish Long Drink, which soft launched in 2018 and has since exploded, is “capturing the attention of college students and consumers who are bored with hard seltzers and looking for the next thing to post on Instagram,” says Beverage Digest’s Stanford. Dubbed a “refreshing citrus soda with a premium liquor kick,” it has proven so popular that it already has a copycat in the form of Bevy Long Drink. Boston Beer rolled out its challenger brand late last year. This is good news for Finnish Long Drink, says Sadowsky. “Once you get a foil, you have a category because you now have two people investing in it ... I’m a fan.”
Boston Beer’s Bevy is a malt-based Long Drink in the same way that Lone River (and many big brand copycats) is a malt-based Ranch Water: a product that reproduces the flavor while ditching the cocktail’s defining spirit. But this prediction is about the OG U.S. celeb-backed brand. To me, this is still very much a niche product, though the momentum at Google Trends is undeniable. That said, comparing Long Drinks to Ranch Water at Google Trends — caveats aplenty — does hint at the relative opportunities.

If you want to learn more about the Finnish Long Drink, check out our interview from September 2021 with two of the co-founders.

For the third pick we have Hard MTN Dew:
Consumers are dying to do the alcohol version of the Dew. The problem, again, is state regulations. You can only currently buy Hard MTN Dew in Florida, Iowa and Tennessee. Yet the PepsiCo/Boston Beer-created product is already a top-100-selling beer brand (hard seltzers are included in the beer category). “It jumped out of the gate,” says Steinman. It had $4.3m in sales last month alone, per Beer Marketer’s Insights. Next month, its availability will be expanded to 15 states – so expect sales numbers to surge.

The allure is simple. “People who love Dew want to try it. You don’t have to educate consumers about it,” says Stanford. The scarcity of Hard MTN Dew is only working in its favor. “I get calls, constantly, from convenience and liquor store owners who are trying to get their hands on it,” says Stanford.
This is actually my pick for ‘drink of the summer’ though I am going to place a big asterisk next to it in the form of a prediction of what will happen. I fully expect High Noon, for example, to outsell Hard MTN Dew. In terms of attention, that’s a different story. Regular readers of this newsletter might remember that VinePair has seen the buzz around this product first-hand:
VinePair has written one brief article about Hard MTN DEW. In the last few weeks that article has appeared in well over 1 million Google searches.
That was a little over a month ago, and the attention hasn’t really subsided. When Hard MTN Dew goes wider to 15 states, expect another wave of news coverage, gaudy early sales numbers (R.I.P. CACTI), and viral buzz. The product line should be in a very good place, attention-wise, as we pass Memorial Day and the summer drinking season kicks into high gear. Here’s where I expect things to go a bit off the rails. A photo of a Hard MTN Dew supermarket end cap has been bouncing around Twitter for a week or two now, and you can probably guess where this is going:
I’m not predicting a Summer of Loko repeat, but a mini-moral panic over Hard MTN Dew just seems like the dumbest possible outcome here*, and if the last few years have taught us anything, that’s the outcome we should expect. Yesterday’s Beer Business Daily featured a deep dive into Big Soda’s different approaches to alcohol, which also entertained this possibility:
One distributor shared a pic showing both NA Mountain Dew and Hard MTN Dew together on the same display, and others have reported seeing the same out in the wild. While technically not illegal, this distributor pointed out that the first time a confused mother inevitably buys Hard MTN Dew and serves it to her kids and it ends up on the news, regulators and state AGs tend to wake up fast (as A-B found out with Spyke’s in 2007, and of course Four Loko in 2010). So the risk is not in selling too little, the risk is selling too much and getting noticed. 
For the record, the VinePair podcast team didn’t love this product, though they aren’t exactly in the target audience, which per all of the above, skews young, but not too young (officially).

* To be clear, I am not saying that it’s dumb to find fault in marketing that steps up to, blurs, and in a reasonable if not universally shared interpretation crosses the line into appealing to non-LDA audiences. What would be the dumbest possible outcome, to be specific, would be soda brands, after decades of caution, to score own-goals like the end cap above, leading to an as cynical-as-possible class action lawsuit driven mini-moral panic. The irony here is that Mountain Dew has origins as a moonshine mixer.

And that leaves us at The Drum’s fourth pick, White Claw Surf:
And then there is the brand that started the entire hard seltzer craze: White Claw. Although the category is leveling off after years of dynamic growth, there is still immense interest in new products. White Claw Surf, in particular, will end up at plenty of beaches and barbecues this summer. This premium version of White Claw features “a collision of complex flavors for sensational refreshment.” They are Citrus Yuzu, Tropical Pomelo, Wildberry Acai and Watermelon Lime.

To get the hype machine rolling, the brand rolled out a national TV spot called ‘Surf like no other’ starring top professional surfers. “It will be everywhere for sure,” says Steinman. “No one’s given up on hard seltzer. It’s too big of a category at this point with too many big brands.”
This one is a bit of a head scratcher to be honest. Back on March 29, Beer Marketer’s Insights shared this early read on the line extension: “Higher-priced White Claw Surf introduced in recent weeks and distribs say it’s selling in, but gotta wait to see how it sells thru. (Perhaps they are reluctant to sing praises early, after getting burned on Mike’s Hard Lemonade Seltzer last yr.)” There’s a couple of ways that I look at Surf, and upside seems limited in both ways:
  • As hard seltzer flavor/product innovation: Compared to Boston Beer with (relatively) sustaining extensions like Truly Lemonade and Iced Tea, or AB-I’s Bud Light with endless, mostly short-lived full-flavored experiments, Mark Anthony hasn’t been leading the way.
  • As a “premium” hard seltzer: We’ve talked enough about High Noon in this newsletter already for it to be clear that success in the “high end” here is much more likely to be found in spirits-based hard seltzers and other spirits-based RTDs.

I’ll wrap this up with a very unscientific Drink of the Summer™ poll from the VinePair Slack:
Options that didn’t receive any votes were Finish Long Drink (And Bevy), Martinis, Espresso Martinis, and sparkling rosé. Think we overlooked another contender? Let us know at vppro@vinepair.com!

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#2 - The Best & Worst of Times for Wine

The Headline: “Wine trade faces supply chain, war fallout after record year -OIV”
The Source: Reuters
What You Need To Know:
Supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine could curb global wine trade after it rebounded last year to a record level as countries eased coronavirus-related restrictions, international wine body OIV said on Wednesday.

World wine trade, as measured by total exports, increased by 16% in value to 34.3 billion euros ($36.15 billion) and by 4% in volume to 111.6 million hectolitres (mhl), with both indicators marking all-time highs, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said.

One hectolitre is the equivalent of 133 standard bottles.


Last year's growth was driven by the world's top three wine exporters Spain, Italy and France, which accounted for just over half of total exports, OIV said.

France's wine industry has already reported record export sales for 2021.

Among importers, the United States remained the top destination in value terms, with imports rising 21% to 6.2 billion euros last year, OIV said.



Total world wine consumption grew by 1% in volume, stemming a decline seen since 2018 linked to a sharp drop in Chinese demand following an earlier wine boom, OIV said.
Our Take: I don’t really have a lot to add here other than to note that, if anything, this piece perhaps undersells the uncertainty surrounding the back half of the year. As recent extreme lockdowns in China are a grim reminder, just because countries may have “eased coronavirus-related restrictions” doesn’t mean the pandemic is behind us (in the national and global definition of us).

#3 - One Good (Malt-Based Ranch Water) Quote

Via Beer Business Daily (paywall)

Bonus Reads:

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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