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Hi there

Welcome to the 63rd edition of The Look Back. This week we’re looking at Truly and other FMBs at Boston Beer, the broader RTD outlook, and more.

Last week’s most popular link was: A wealthy family’s plans for a Napa vineyard have exploded into controversy. The outcome could define the valley’s future. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Let’s dive in. 

- Josh, VinePair co-founder

#1 - Boston Beer Keeps Extending Truly, With a Sizzling Side of Hard MTN DEW

The Headline: “You Dew You — Hard MTN DEW Twirls On Its Haters in Launch Markets”
The Source: Good Beer Hunting
What You Need To Know:
Follow along on your own string board: Hard MTN DEW is a 5% ABV, 100-calorie, non-caffeinated flavored malt beverage that begins with PepsiCo trucking Mountain Dew concentrate to The Boston Beer Company’s production facilities, where it is combined with a malt-derived alcohol base, packaged, and sold back to Pepsi for sale through the soft drink company’s distribution network. 

Capiche?

Hard MTN DEW’s development, production, and distribution are convoluted. But in the 11 days since its Feb. 22 debut, one thing has become clear from retailer reports: Drinkers are more than ready to get all jacked up on boozy Mountain Dew. 

“Unfortunately it sold out [in our store] before I could force myself to try it,” says Lauren Reardon, assistant store manager of a Kroger grocery store in La Verne, Tennessee. She says her Kroger sold out of its first delivery of 18 cases of Hard MTN DEW within four days. “That’s unusual.”



Currently available in three states—Iowa, Florida, and Tennessee—Hard MTN DEW has come out of the gates swinging. According to accounts from retailers in those states, drinkers are buying the four flavors of Hard MTN DEW (Original, Baja Blast, Black Cherry and Watermelon) at rates far beyond other recent hard seltzer and FMB launches.
Our Take: I’ll return to the Hard MTN Dew Launch in a moment. The narrative around Boston Beer since late last summer has been:  slashed Truly sales forecasts, the literal destruction of millions of cases, sliding stock, and the inevitable shareholder lawsuit. Since the summer, the narrative has only gotten worse, leading to the recent departure of their supply chain head.

None of this is news to even casual readers of this newsletter, but it's worth recapping if only to set the stage for whatever comes next. That there is a next is a bet we’ll make, given Boston Beer’s undeniable knack for innovation, including the seemingly perpetually overlooked Twisted Tea. I’ll also set aside their not-actually-a-long-drink Bevy Long Drink which we haven’t heard much about since the fall announcement.

This week’s launch of Truly-branded flavored vodkas is as good a time as any to take stock of the Truly product line, which now consists of:
  • Classic flavored hard seltzers (Berry, Citrus, and Tropical packs)
  • Lemonade flavored hard seltzers (a major innovation win)
  • Iced Tea flavored hard seltzers
  • Punch flavored hard seltzers
  • Margarita flavored hard seltzers
  • Limited editions like the ‘holiday’ flavored season hard seltzer variety pack
  • Hard seltzer freeze pops (the last available variant we saw was derived from the Lemonade flavors)
  • 30 percent ABV flavored vodkas

That’s a lot! Looking at that list, it would almost be surprising if the brand doesn’t launch a ‘seltzer hard soda’ if Bud Light’s early sales hold up longer than those of CACTI. But Boston Beer probably doesn’t have to go down that increasingly confusing extension route, because it has an actual soda brand to extend through its partnership with Pepsi. And while the excerpt above is only based on anecdotal reports, from three states, I’ll back it up with some internal anecdotal data of our own: 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.

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#2 - Premiumization Drives Spirit-Based Canned Cocktail Growth

The Headline: “Premium potential: ‘The RTD alcohol category will unshackle itself from the bright, sticky and cheap concoctions that defined its birth”
The Source: Beverage Daily
What You Need To Know:
The growth of RTD alcohol is well documented. According to the Bacardi Consumer Survey 2021, 14% of consumers tried RTDs for the first time during the last 12 months, with Nielsen revealing that the spirit-based RTD market alone surged 132% over the same period.

IWSR Drinks Market Analysis estimates the RTD category will increase its market share to 8% of the total alcohol sector by 2025 across 10 key markets, up from a 4% market share in 2020.

What’s notable about this new wave of RTDs, however, is that it is increasingly bringing a host of more upmarket options to the table: mirroring wider trends across the spirits and alcohol category. That could mean the choice of flavors, packaging designs, choice of ingredients, calorie count and emphasis on the quality or brand of the base spirit. 

“It isn’t just spirits in bottles undergoing a premium revolution,”​ notes Bacardi in its 2022 Cocktail Trends Report.

“Ready-to-drink (RTD) options have moved on from those available in the 1980s and 1990s. A focus on natural, low-calorie, and sophisticatedly flavored RTD options is emerging to meet the needs of discerning drinkers, who also want a great-tasting cocktail wherever they would like to have it. ​

“People are gravitating toward premium prepared cocktails because they desire quality spirits, convenience, and portability. These latter characteristics proved integral to RTD growth in 2021 as the world became used to drinking outside or at home, and social occasions evolved.​

“The RTD phenomenon is set to grow further as offerings become increasingly focused on spirit-based prepared cocktails, moving beyond the initial popularity of malt-based and hard options.”
Our Take: If you needed any confirmation of the innovation happening here, just look to products announced in the last few days:
  • Jameson Irish Whiskey Is Releasing Its First Canned Cocktail For The U.S. (VinePair)
  • Jack Daniel’s Debuts Canned Cocktails Nationally (VinePair)
  • Bulleit Debuts Two Ready to Serve Bottled Cocktails (VinePair)

#3 - One Good (Wine vs. Spirit On Premise Recovery) Chart

Via SipSource

#4 - One Good (Beer at Home Inflation) Tweet

Via @BrewersStats

#5 - One Good (Reminder That Stone Is Still Suing Molson Coors) Quote

Via Courthouse News Service

Bonus Reads:

  • Pritzker Private Capital Acquires Bardstown Bourbon Company (press release)
  • Chilean Wines Register Impressive Performance in 2021 Becoming Third Largest Source of Imported Wines in U.S. (Wine Industry Insight)
  • ‘It Just Wasn’t Getting Any Better’ — How Sexism, Assault Pushed One Woman Out of the Beer Industry (Good Beer Hunting)
  • Juice Force Hazy Imperial IPA on Pace to be Top 4 Voodoo Ranger Brand in 2022; New Belgium Invests $1 Million in Launch (Brewbound) (paywall)
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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