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Canned Wine Comes Into Its Own

April 4, 2018

California-based The Family Coppola was the first American winery to launch its wine in cans, debuting Minis—187-ml. aluminum cans sold with small straws attached—for its Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine in 2003. The cans were initially slow to catch on, according to Sofia winemaker Tondi Bolkan, but The Family Coppola persevered, and has since released a rosé sparkler in cans and introduced 250-ml. cans for its Diamond Collection white wines as well. Since then, the entire canned wine category has taken off.

One of the earliest validations of canned wine’s meteoric rise came in 2016, when Nielsen channels reported a 125% increase in canned wine sales during the 52 weeks ending June 18, 2016, bringing the category’s total sales up to $14.5 million. While that’s still a small base, total sales had hovered just below $2 million four years earlier. Last year, canned wine’s dollar growth surged at a rate of 54% in the 52 weeks ending December 30, 2017, the highest of any alternative wine packaging. Today, canned wine is a $28 million industry.

Such strong growth can be attributed in part to Oregon’s Union Wine Co., which recaptured consumer interest in canned wine after launching its Underwood label in 375-ml. cans—the equivalent of roughly 2.5 glasses of wine—in 2014. Though the brand’s canned range initially consisted of only Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, it has since expanded to include canned rosé, white and rosé sparkling wines, a white blend, and wine coolers (all ranging from $6-$7 a can). Today, 55% of the company’s 448,000-case business—which in 2014 was just over 100,000 cases—is in cans.

A number of other producers have followed in Union Wine Co.’s footsteps. Last spring, Precept Wine’s House Wine label debuted 375-ml. cans for its Red Blend, Chardonnay, and Rosé expressions (all around $6 a can). House Wine, which depleted 269,000 cases across all formats in 2017, is currently rolling out canned Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and plans to release a limited-edition sparkling rosé in a can later this spring. By the end of this year, Precept Wine chief sales and marketing officer Alex Evans estimates that 51% of overall depletions for the brand will come from its canned business.

Winesellers Ltd. also jumped into the wine-in-a-can category last year with its organic Italian brand, Tiamo. Alternative packaging had long been a part of the brand’s identity—it was among the first to launch in kegs. “Putting Tiamo into a can was a natural fit for us,” says Winesellers Ltd. vice president Jordan Sager. “We noticed that the canned wine category lacked organic wines, so it made sense as a way to differentiate Tiamo from the rest of the pack.” Though cans represent just 7% of Tiamo’s overall mix, Sager expects that number to grow into the double digits in the future. The brand’s canned lineup includes red, white, and rosé wines, with rosé comprising roughly half of the 3,500-case canned production.

While the segment is showing solid growth, Whole Foods Market global wine buyer Doug Bell sees potential pitfalls on the horizon. “The biggest challenge for us over the next 12 months is that we’re going to see so many new canned wine brands come out, there’s not going to be enough room on the shelf,” he says. “And we haven’t even had an extremely large producer, like E.&J. Gallo or Constellation Brands, come to the table with a branded can yet. That’s going to change the industry.” Market Watch has more on the rise of the canned wine category.—Julia Higgins

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