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Widow Jane Releases 10 Year-Old Bourbon, Decadence

Widow Jane Distillery's Decadence, a 10-year-old blended bourbon, finished in barrels that previously contained Crown Maple maple syrup.

After selling through its initial, limited run of product, Widow Jane Distillery today announced an expanded release of Decadence, the distillery’s 10-year bourbon.

Widow Jane Decadence is a blended bourbon finished in American oak barrels that previously held Upstate New York’s Crown Maple maple syrup.

The maple syrup barrel finish delivers a creamy-smooth and slightly sweet mouthful of whiskey, the company reports, including a faint maple note. On the nose, Decadence displays sugared pecans, maple, birch beer and charred oak, before a palate of vanilla, burnt sugar, cinnamon and bark. The finish is of brown sugar, shortbread, mellow tobacco and old whiskey, the company says.

“Richness is a quality that most people associate with Widow Jane bourbon. But with Decadence, we really enhanced that particular characteristic,” says Lisa Wicker, Widow Jane president and head distiller/blender. “We’ve provided whiskey for Crown Maple’s bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup since 2014. This time their maple syrup is complementing our beautiful bourbon just as our bourbon compliments their beautiful maple syrup.”
 
Each batch release of Widow Jane Decadence Bourbon represents around 550 cases (3300 bottles). The fall and winter 2020 batches will be available in AZ, CA, CO, FL, MA, NJ, NY, SC and TX, beginning this month.

Widow Jane Decadence is bottled at 45.5% ABV (91 proof). The suggested retail price is $79.99 per 750-ml. bottle.

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Beau Joie Squire

Beau Joie Squire Champagne.

Toast Spirits, the brand owner and marketer of Beau Joie Champagne, has announced the launch of Beau Joie Squire.

This is a zero-dosage champagne decorated with a 3D copper shrink sleeve that mirrors the look and aesthetic of the Beau Joie flagship copper line. The new Squire bottle, with a suggested retail price of $44.99 per 750-ml., begins rolling out this month to retailers nationwide. It is also available for consumer purchase on Beau Joie’s online store.

“Building on the strong brand equity we established with our flagship Beau Joie line, we have proudly continued to innovate to deliver the same unique brand experience to a broader sales channel,” says Jon Deitelbaum, CEO and co-founder of Las Vegas-based Toast Spirits. “Beau Joie offers an alternative for consumers, especially Millennials, who are tired of unimaginative and staid champagne brands. And because Beau is a zero-dosage, no sugar added champagne, it also appeals to people who are conscience about health and wellness, and have embraced the trend of drinking better.”

Available in 24 markets around the world, Beau Joie is a zero-dosage (no sugar added) champagne, derived from grapes of Epernay, France. The bottle is encased in a handcrafted copper suit, and developed with 100% recyclable materials.

In the U.S., Beau Joie is the official champagne partner of the Vegas Golden Knights National Hockey League team, and also a sponsor of the Breeders’ Cup thoroughbred racing. The brand’s Global Creative Director and investor Tiësto is an internationally recognized DJ and Grammy-winning producer. Beau Joie has also recently collaborated with the fashion house Marchesa to design a limited-edition, hand-beaded, embroidered couture bottle featuring over 10,000 beads and crystals.

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Tussock Jumper 2020 Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc

Tussock Jumper 2020 Chenin Blanc.

Tussock Jumper has announced two new wines: a 2020 Chenin Blanc from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, and a 2020 vintage of their Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. Both of these wines are available via Tri-Vin Imports in New York and distributors nationwide.

Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2020 is off dry in style, 100% chenin blanc, with flavors and aromas of lime zest, guava and tropical fruit, the company says, along with a crisp minerality and finish. The wine is made with minimal cellar intervention, with the grapes coming from vineyards in the Helderberg and Paarl regions, as well as bushvine and trellised vines from the high slopes of the Du Toitskloof mountains. Each parcel was vinified separately. After brief skin contact, free-run juice was transferred to the tank for cool temperature fermentation using select yeast strains. The wine spent an additional 120 days on the lees prior to final blending.

Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2020, 13.5% ABV, goes well with Caribbean fare like shrimp pasta, poultry, grilled pork chops or vegetable dishes.

Tussock Jumper Sauvignon Blanc 2020 is a costally sourced wine, 100% sauvignon blanc, with aromas of citrus and passion fruit, the company says, as well as grassy aromas and blackcurrant leaf. The palate has tropical fruit flavors of pineapple, melon and grapefruit. This vintage is a blend of three vineyards: two in Wairau Valley, and one in Waihopai Valley. Cold fermentation was used, with the wine aged on the lees for approximately four weeks, and then filtered.

Tussock Jumper Sauvignon Blanc 2020, 13% ABV, is an ideal accompaniment to dishes like shrimp and seafood, poultry, grilled vegetables and lighter fare.

The suggested retail price for both wines is $11.99 per 750-ml. bottle.

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BeatBox Peach Punch

BeatBox Peach Punch.

BeatBox Beverages, makers of Party Punch, announced this week the launch of their newest flavor, Peach Punch.

This is the sixth in BeatBox’s lineup of party-ready wine punches, including Blue Razzberry, Pink Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Fresh Watermelon and Tropical Punch.

“As we are in the middle of finalizing our annual business plan for 2021, Peach Punch will add yet another opportunity for both wholesalers and retailers to grow their revenue and margin, while also giving consumers another great choice in this dynamic category,” says VP of Sales, Tony Zangara.

Peach Punch Punch is rolling out on shelves now and will be available to purchase online early next month. The punch comes in a 500-ml. single-serve resealable Tetra Pak.

Each Party Punch tetra has 11.1% ABV, 130 calories, and 8 g of sugar per 5.6-oz serving, and is offered at a suggested retail price of $3.99 per pack.

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Why Single Barrel Store Pick Whiskeys are Gaining Popularity

A selection of single barrel Four Roses whiskeys at Tippins Market in Michigan.

Something interesting happened with store pick whiskeys in 2020.

Retailers and clubs have been selected and bottled their own single barrel whiskeys for some time. About a decade ago, pioneers like Lincoln Road Package Store in Mississippi, and Tippins Market in Michigan, started visiting distilleries, tasting through product and packaging their choices under store branding.

Consumers have caught on to the quality of these whiskeys. Single barrel store picks offer exclusive takes on well-known brands. Flavors you can only find on shelves at specific retailers.

Most retailers now offer store picks. And the array of distilleries with single barrel programs has never been higher — from industry leaders to littler outfits. Store picks were poised as a primary whiskey trend in 2020.

Then the pandemic hit.

Distilleries closed their doors to outside visitors. Retailers with scheduled trips canceled their plans. Suddenly, it seemed that store picks would take a year off, and decline significantly as a category.

Except — that did not happen.

Lincoln Road Package Store in Mississippi has become a destination store for customers seeking unique single barrel products.

“These bottles are still moving,” reports Jamie Farris, owner of Lincoln Road. “And we’re on pace as a store to do 60 picks this year.”

Farris is a trailblazer in the category. “In 2011, when single barrel programs started coming into their own, I bought an Elijah Craig barrel,” he recalls. “I sold through it in six weeks. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m onto something here’. Next I brought in Four Roses and Willet, and those also did well. I thought, ‘Who else can I get?’”

Today, Lincoln Road stocks nearly 100 different store picks that span the world of whiskey, as well as rum, tequila, Armagnac, bandy, gin and absinthe. Customers continue to seek out these bottles, even amidst the pandemic.

“On March 14, when everything was shutting down, we called every single retailer who had purchased single barrels from us and gave them the ability to cancel,” recalls Andy Mansinne, VP of brands at MGP Ingredients. The company launched their single barrel program earlier this year. “We only had one cancellation,” Mansinne says. “Two weeks later, that retailer called back and said they still wanted it.”

Other distilleries report similarly.

“It hasn’t slowed down,” says Alex Elrod, key accounts and national single barrel manager at Balcones Distilling. “This has been our most busy year for the single barrel program.”

Why is that?

New Whiskey, Available

Part of the reason that store picks have become so popular is that they answer a major problem for the industry.

Brown spirits have become so trendy that many top whiskeys are impossible to find — and terribly price-gouged. Even common bottles from leading brands now fly off of shelves, despite rising prices.

“With a single barrel, I can get 150 bottles of something really good,” Farris says. “That can supply a decent number of customers, as opposed to allocated bourbons, of which I get only three-to-twelve bottles.”

“I always want to have something special for people who stop in,” he adds. “I pick stuff that rivals the best whiskeys out there. People fall in love with a single barrel and then all those bottles are gone. These bottles are still moving.”

Store picks also appeal to whiskey collectors. For someone who has tasted nearly everything, these bottles bring something new.

“I’m still chasing stuff and bunkering bottles,” says Jared Himstedt, head distiller for Balcones. “But I’m wondering, ‘What else is out there?’ Whenever I’m traveling and I’m in a store and they have their own bottles, I grab one, sight unseen.”

“Barrel variations are so huge,” Himstedt adds. “Flavors can show in a million different ways. It’s so idiosyncratic. Maybe you want to see what an Islay tastes like at three years old as opposed to 10. Is it as nuanced? Maybe not, but it’s still unlike any bottle you’ve ever had before. There’s such a saturation of what we’ve all had before. So what’s next?”

“Barrel variations are so huge,” says Jared Himstedt, head distiller for Balcones. “Flavors can show in a million different ways. It’s so idiosyncratic.”

These bottles allow retailers to differentiate with unique offerings. By stocking single barrels with distinct flavors, stores can “build equity with clientele,” says Mansinne of MGP. “It really does set you apart.”

Agreeing with him is Dominic Aprea, owner of Tippins Market, another store pick pioneer. “As a store in a control state [Michigan], everyone can sell the same spirits at the same prices,” Aprea says. “So I’m looking for things that people haven’t done before, something unique. A different flavor profile, something individualized just to us.”

Aprea collaborates with other retailers on smaller picks that produce unique products. Recently he worked with Farris on a maple syrup cask-finished rye, splitting the bottles between the participating businesses.

After all, rarity sells.

“The first question we get asked every time is, ‘What’s the rarest whiskey you have?’” says Jane Bowie, director of innovation at Maker’s Mark, which launched their single barrel program in 2016. “Bottles from these barrels are the rarest thing you’re ever going to buy, because they’re one of only 240 bottles.”

“Store picks are basically affordable rare bourbon for people who are exhausted from the secondary market,” she adds. “Instead of hunting for hard-to-find whiskey, you’re letting liquor stores do the work for you. This is great whiskey that’s accessible.”

These whiskeys look and taste different. They help stores differentiate, and stand out in consumers’ collections. That’s important, because even during the pandemic, “the level of people looking for unique stories to share has not changed,” says Elrod of Balcones.

Distilleries and retailers have also reported an uptick in digital sales for single barrels in areas of the country that allow DTC spirits shipping.

Tasting During a Pandemic

Normally retailers would visit distilleries and taste through barrels. Covid-19 complicated this for many months, but distilleries have begun reopening for picks.

“We did one this weekend with people onsite,” says Himstedt of Balcones. “In our rickhouse we have lots of space. People could stand 15, 20 feet apart. And we’ve known this group of people really well. Everyone wore masks, and we made the tasting process as touchless as possible. These people were the guinea pigs for the new way that this process happens.”

Distillery employees would typically draw samples directly from barrels with a whiskey thief. Everybody would crowd around this employee, holding out glasses for squirts of whiskey. Now, Balcones pre-poured their product, filling 36 Glencairn glasses on a cart for the visitors. Plenty of hand sanitizer was also available.

“We wanted to minimize closeness and the risk of cross-contamination,” Himstedt explains.

Many distilleries have sent out sampling kits in 2020, with recipients tasting on Zoom along with distillery staff.

The rockhouses at Balcones offer space for pickers to spread out safely.

The Zoom tastings have also allowed retailers to connect with consumers.

“Some stores have really been creative with engaging customers in this experience,” says Bowie of Maker’s Mark. “Because we’re doing this virtually, some retailers are inviting their customers onto the virtual call. There have been some real positives from this. I’ve probably never spent this much personal time with consumers.”

Maker’s Mark reopened for visitors several weeks ago.

Ferris of Lincoln Road has begun visiting distilleries where possible. “I’m a firm believer in always going to the distillery if I can, even though I’m in Mississippi and a smaller market,” he says. “I want to show my commitment to that distillery so that they feel committed to me. One major distillery told me that they do not ship out their best samples for kits.”

Aprea of Tippins has only visited distilleries for seven of his 50 picks this year. He has also canceled store events that release new single barrels for fundraising. “I need to protect my safety and my customers’ safety,” he says.

Getting Creative

“It’s an immersive experience,” says Alex Elrod of Balcones. “As a grain-to-glass distillery, we like to show off the variety of different expressions that we offer.”

Stores like Lincoln Road and Tippins have cultivated reputations as destinations for single barrels. Whiskey enthusiasts across the country have checked in bottles from both businesses on whiskey rating websites.

To achieve that level of recognition — and offer such unique SKUs — requires creativity on the part of the barrel picker.

“Picking is more of an artisan process for me,” says Aprea of Tippins. “It’s not just a machine putting out whiskey. I look at each of these single barrels as a perishable art project. We put it out in the world and then it’s never repeated.”

“It helps that we retailers have such a role in the creative process, especially with the onslaught of DTC shipping and Big Box stores,” he adds.

Single barrel programs at distilleries are designed to draw out this level of creativity.

“It’s an immersive experience,” says Elrod of Balcones. “As a grain-to-glass distillery, we like to show off the variety of different expressions that we offer. Blue corn vs. white corn; how it works in single barrels; corn, rye, rum, single malt, Rumble [a rum/brandy hybrid], 100%-Texas-grown barley. We can showcase a wide birth of innovation through multiple profiles.”

Savvy retailers have keyed into what profiles their customer base prefers, picking selections to match their clientele.

“I love the customization piece of our program,” says Bowie of Maker’s Mark. “The people from Lincoln Road can come in with a vision for what works for their customer, and we can work with them to accomplish that.”

Store picks have also become a creative avenue for retailers like Tippins Market to fundraise.

Bowie has also noticed regional trends: What parts of America and the world prefer what taste profiles or stave types. The time of year also factors into picks. Liquor Barn creates two Maker’s Mark whiskeys per year based on seasonality: a brighter store pick for summer, and heavier come winter.

Store picks have also become a creative avenue for producers and retailers to fundraise. Tippins hosts Four Roses Friday: proceeds from Four Roses single barrels will benefit charities like Great Lakes Burn Camp For Kids. The last of these events in 2019 raised $6,625 from just one barrel.

What’s Next for Store Picks?

As more consumers become fluent with these products, look for retailers to expand their offerings. The relationship between Lincoln Road and Tippins is one example.

“If a distillery is up to it, you can work out a collaboration with other stores or bars,” says Farris. Typically this requires a smaller, more-flexible distillery, or a hyper-innovative producer like Copper & Kings, which bottled a gin, absinthe and pear brandy for the collaborative retailers. 

Stores have also begun working with boutique distilleries, allowing for even more nuanced takes.

Tippins Market has had success with smaller projects from Mammoth Distillery in Central Lake, Michigan. Recently, Mammoth bottled a 15-year-old Canadian rye finished in Alsatian French oak pinot gris barrels.

“We try to push the envelope doing new things,” says Aprea. “I think small, artisan distilleries like Mammoth will be the next wave in single barrels, because they offer a lot of flexibility for people like me who like to work with creative freedom.”

Recently, Mammoth Distillery bottled a 15-year-old Canadian rye finished in Alsatian French oak pinot gris barrels, available at Tippins Market.

To provide flexibility, Mammoth constantly experiments with differently aged spirits. The one common trait is highlighting selected grains. Otherwise, “We have a wide variety of things, not a huge amount of anything, but a lot of options,” says Founder and President Chad Munger. “We’re probably doing too many things, but that’s what’s kept us fresh.”

Recent small-lot experiments include an eight-year-old Jamaican rum finished in maple barrels. Mammoth sources a wide range of Canadian whisky, and finishes it in all sorts of new and used oak.

“Our philosophy is that if a retailer comes into our space and finds something they like and has ideas about how to barrel it, they can buy it,” Munger says. “That’s a big differentiator between us and the big boys.”

As seen nationwide, interest in Mammoth’s single barrel program has not waned during the pandemic.

“In early 2020 we slowed down for three or four months,” Munger says. “Then when things opened up a little and people could travel again, we immediately picked back up. We’re now on track to sell as many single barrels as last year, and that’s despite the three-to-four month gap. So really, we’re doing even better than last year.”

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece 5 Trends in Beer and Hard Seltzer in 2020-21.

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Ron Izalco 15 Year Cask Strength Rum

Ron Izalco 15 Year Cask Strength rum.

Following the release of Ron Izalco 10 Year Old Rum, Phenomenal Spirits has announced the debut of Ron Izalco 15 Year Cask Strength.

This rum is 110.6 proof with no sugar or additives added. It’s a blend of Central American rums aged for a mimimim of 15 years in ex-bourbon barrels.

“High-end spirits and rum connoisseurs are eager for new expressions that are complex yet beautifully balanced, full-bodied and made with no sugar and no additives,” says Phenomenal Spirits Founder and CEO, Karthik Sudhir. “We developed Ron Izalco 15 Year Old Cask Strength to provide a more pure and authentic drinking experience specifically with these consumers in mind.”

Ron Izalco 15 Year Old Cask Strength has a nose of fruity aromas, the company reports, before a palate of soft tannins, baked pineapple and several layers of spices.

Ron Izalco 15 Year Cask Strength sells for a suggested retail price of $79.99 per 750-ml. bottle, and is allocated based on limited production.

Ron Izalco 10 Year Old ($55 per 750-ml.) is currently available in Connecticut through Brescome Barton, in Washington DC, Maryland and Delaware through Lanterna Distributors, in California through Liberation Distribution (LibDib), Mississippi through Mad Vines and Spirits, Illinois through SpiritHub and shipped to 28 states through Curiada’s e-commerce platform.

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Dos Equis Cans Lime & Salt Beer

Dos Equis Lime & Salt

Dos Equis has long been consumed with lime and salt. The brand now puts this classic combination into a can for Dos Equis Lime & Salt.

This new product, inspired by the on-premise drinking ritual, is Dos Equis Lager with a hint of natural fruit flavors and a touch of lime and salt.

Lime & Salt will be available in 24-oz. cans in select markets starting this November, followed by 12-oz. 6-packs beginning in spring of 2021.

The new brew is line-priced with Dos Equis Lager.

This latest innovation from Dos Equis is a huge opportunity within Mexican Imports,” says Ligia Patrocinio, senior brand director, Dos Equis. “Lime flavored beer attracts different shoppers than traditional beer, and lime is the second largest flavor in beer behind chelada. Lime & Salt will bring new users into the Dos Equis franchise and new shoppers into stores.”

“Mexican flavored beer represents only 2.7% of Mexican beer sales versus the 21.2% that all other flavored beer represents of all other beer sales,” Patrocinio adds. “To us and our retailer partners, this represents a huge opportunity gap that Lime & Salt is aiming to fill. With a perfect match of aroma and flavor, the lime comes across without a lingering aftertaste and with just a touch of salt. We have a winner!” 

The launch in seven U.S. markets (TX, NM, AZ, CA, OK, FL, LA) is supported with digital and social media, outdoor advertising and DJ radio reads to provide local endorsement. A full suite retail tools for large- and small-store formats are available, including pole toppers, tuck cards, shelf wobblers and cooler decals. 

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Barrell Craft Spirits Introduces Newest BCS Bourbon

The latest bourbon release from the Barrell Craft Spirits Line.

Barrell Craft Spirits has unveiled the most recent release from its Barrell Craft Spirits Line, a blend of straight bourbon whiskeys matured for 15 years.

Distilled in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, this limited release was crafted and bottled in Kentucky at 104.9 proof.

This year’s annual release includes minerals, tart fruits, woodsy spices and nutty notes, the company reports. The addition of water brings out a creaminess which transforms the nose into an experience reminiscent of a hazy IPA.

“We’re thrilled to introduce the third release of bourbon within the Barrell Craft Spirits Line,” says Founder Joe Beatrice. “For this annual release, we identified and blended some exceptional barrels to taste that are defined by absolute balance and deep flavor layering.”

Founded in 2013 in Louisville, KY, BCS selects and blends products that explore different distillation methods, barrels and aging environments, and bottles them at cask strength. Every batch is produced as a limited release, and has a distinct flavor profile.

Beginning this month, Barrell Craft Spirits will make available 12,000 750-ml. bottles of BCS Bourbon at select retailers within the brand’s current 45 U.S. markets and, online via the BCS website at barrellbourbon.com. The suggested retail price is $250, which includes a black storage case.

In addition to bourbon, the Barrell Craft Spirits Line also includes whiskey and rum.

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The 2020 Beer Growth Brands Awards: The Best of the Industry

While beer sales have seen a lift this year due to consumers stocking up, the category has faced significant challenges as more consumers turn to spirits, and cocktails and wine encroach on traditional beer-drinking occasions. The proliferation of craft and regional styles has also led to a head-spinning array of choices for consumers. 

Our annual Beer Growth Brands Award winners indicate what’s trending, from new IPA iterations and ales to the ever-popular hard seltzers, Mexican imports and good old domestic light beer.

How did we calculate our annual Beer Growth Brands Awards this year? As we did in 2019, we polled our pool of beverage alcohol retailers, bar and restaurant operators and other industry professionals about what beer brands and companies sold best for them in the past year. Their responses helped shed light on what brews consumers most prefer now, and provided context in defining the current beer category as a whole.

IPAs still A-OK

Interest in the red-hot IPA beer subcategory has cooled a bit, but India pale ales remain favorites of beer enthusiasts. Just one brand — All Day IPA from Grand Rapids, MI-based Founders — made the list of Top Sales Drivers. But two of the Best New Products are IPAs: 4 Giants IPA, also from Founders, and Dogfish Head Perfect Disguise Double IPA.

The key to All Day IPA’s growth is the brand’s core benefits, says Sandy Anaokar, vice president of marketing at Founders. “It’s a low-alcohol, full-flavored IPA sold at an accessible value,” he says.

“In 2019, we flighted two online video campaigns on Hulu and YouTube: our ‘Session Boldly’ videos (which first ran in 2018), which celebrates how All Day IPA helps augment life’s little adventures, and our new brewery equity message, ‘Chase Your What If’, which touts how our brewery helped change the craft brewing landscape with brands like All Day IPA,” Anaokar says. And knowing that the adventurous All Day consumers love traveling, “we augmented this message of innovation and adventure with on- and off premise campaigns like the All Day Getaway contest, which gave consumers the opportunity to win a dream trip to Spain.”

Good for What Ales You

New Belgium Brewing Co., known for its Fat Tire Amber Ale, picked up a win this year for Best Activation Programs, as did Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which is known for its flagship Pale Ale.

Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Co. had two winners: Kona Big Wave Golden Ale, as a Top Sales Driver, and Island Colada Cream Ale, a Best New Product. 2019 was a big year for Kona, says senior brand manager Ashley Picerno, “with our first national TV commercials running during March Madness – bringing Kona to more consumers than ever before.” 

In Kona’s “Dear Mainland’ advertising campaign, which has been running since 2014, “the lovable Bruddahs share their sage island wisdom with Mainlanders, gently and humorously pointing out how get more balance in their lives,” Picerno says. “This was further amplified in programming both on-premise and at retail to reinforce the message.”

Fast-moving Mexican brews

Beer brands from Mexico nabbed a few awards this year. Corona won for Best Activations and Promotions, while Modelo Especial also won for Best Advertising and Promotions as well as Top Sales Driver. 

Corona Premier and Modelo Especial, both owned by Constellation Brands, had stellar marketing programs in 2019 “that were rooted in deep consumer insights and what our brands stand for,” says John Alvarado, Constellation’s senior vice president brand marketing. “These programs led to us effectively engaging consumers and continuing to build Corona Premier and Modelo Especial.”

For Corona Premier, “our multi-year partnership with the U.S. Open of Golf and our focus on wellness-specific initiatives propelled the brand forward in 2019,” says Ann Legan, vice president brand marketing for Corona. The brand also developed a fully integrated platform with year-round support and tools focused on healthy grilling and fitness, she says.

Modelo Especial focused on a strong philanthropic platform with programs such as the Modelo Fighting Chance Project Concert Series with the artist Anderson .Paak, and the Leave No Veteran behind activation, says Greg Gallagher, vice president brand marketing for Modelo. The brand also introduced a 32-oz.-bottle format, “which enabled greater feature and display and differentiation in C-stores amid a single-serve heavy market,” he says.

Modelo celebrated its Hispanic heritage with programming around Cinco de Mayo with retail activation and Día de los Muertos, and reached its core Hispanic consumer with programming around the Gold Cup, Gallagher says. The brand also continued its strong activation with UFC, “including our first ever UFC watch party activation, which brought the fight to life in four core markets — Los Angeles, New York City, Denver and Phoenix — as well as developed robust tools to support on- and off-premise,” he adds.

Hard Seltzer Sizzles

It’s no surprise that a number of flavored malt beverages — namely hard seltzers — made the list of Top Sales Drivers. These include Spiked Seltzer, Truly Spiked & Sparkling and White Claw, as well as the new Corona Seltzer, which also won Best New Product. Other winning new entries to the category include Vizzy by MillerCoors for Best New Product, and Bud Light Seltzer, which won Best New Product as well as Best Activation Programs.

“Seltzer is a huge trend that has impacted the beer industry in the past year, and we don’t see that stopping anytime soon,” says Corona’s Legan. While the brand was just being introduced into the market in March 2020 — as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold — Corona Hard Seltzer made adjustments to television and point-of-sale to address the change in consumer behavior, she says. “As we enter the back half of the year, we have incorporated Corona Hard Seltzer into our sports buy,” representing an incremental $10 million behind the brand during the August to October time frame.

Kona this past spring launched Kona Spiked Island Seltzer, available in four Hawaii-inspired flavors: Tropical Punch, Starfruit Lime, Strawberry Guava and Passion fruit Orange Guava. “Hard seltzers have disrupted the beer market in a substantial way, as consumers look for lighter, better-for-you alcohol options,” Picerno says. 

“This trend has also impacted beer, with light beers and lighter styles such as lagers and blondes growing in popularity,” she notes. Kona this year unveiled Kona Light, which Picerno describes as an easy-drinking, 99-calorie island blonde brewed with tropical mango. 

The low-calorie beverage trend that seltzer has tapped into deserves special attention, says Anaokar at Founders. “We’d be foolish to not understand the impact that hard seltzer has had on the entire alcohol category. While it’s easy to say that 1) this is a fad; and 2) this does not impact craft beer drinkers, this point of view would be incredibly shortsighted and would overlook the roles these brands play in consumers lives,” he says. 

“We have to not think all low-calorie drinkers and all traditional craft beer drinkers are mutually exclusive consumers,” Anaokar adds, “but rather, could work hand-in-hand to provide a solution across a number of consumer occasions.”

The Covid effect

Most brands are experiencing new consumer behaviors due to Covid-19. The pandemic “has forced us to adjust our marketing plans for the year, as much of what we had planned was unrealistic in our new environment,” says Constellation’s Alvarado. Modelo Especial adapted quickly to focus efforts on a campaign with #FirstRespondersFirst that supported front-line workers during the pandemic, Gallagher says.

While Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the beer industry, Kona has pivoted where needed “to support our bars and restaurants through the reopening process and to ensure retailers are stocked with plenty of everyone’s favorite Kona brews,” Picerno says. What’s more, “our spring launch of Spiked Island Seltzer was perfectly timed with the explosion of hard seltzer consumption during Covid-19.”

The aluminum can shortage has had an impact on the entire beer and beverage industry. “As craft beer in cans has reached a point of ubiquity coupled with the increased demand in overall beer, the emergence of seltzers and the organic increase in at-home drinking due to Covid-19, there will be a pinch that all brewers will have to plan for,” Anaokar says. “Much like everything that this health crisis is impacting, we are all in this together — the vessel suppliers, the brewers and, in an indirect way, the consumers.”

While the team at Founders doesn’t have all of the answers now, Anaokar notes, “we are actively planning and preparing for how we can give consumers the liquids and brands they need, balanced with the supply of cans and bottles we are able to procure.”

Feature photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash.

Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine, our on-premise sister publication. Read her recent piece, Mixed Bubbles — Sparkling Wine Trends in 2020.

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Mijenta Tequila

Mijenta Tequila.

Mijenta is a new tequila made with a focus on environmental sustainability and supporting the local community.

Mijenta is inspired by “Mi Gente” meaning “My People,” and refers to a collective mindset, the company says. The tequila is made from fully mature certified Blue Weber Agave from Mexico’s Maguey plants.

Mexico-based Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero, designed and oversaw the entire creation process, from harvest to bottle. Romero brings over 25 years of experience in the tequila industry. Mike Dolan, former CEO of Bacardi, joins Romero as co-founder and lead investor to help pave the way for Mijenta.

The tequila features flavors of honey, vanilla, caramel and floral notes, the company reports, along with flashes of tropical fruits such as peach, melon, pineapple and light touches of soursop.

All paper-related components (label and box) are made of agave waste, and the brand supports local businesses and communities by purchasing all packaging elements from Mexico, the company says.

The Mijenta Foundation was created to support local members of the community. Mijenta works with local businesses and communities, directly re-investing a portion of profits, offering healthcare assistance and providing assistance for team members and their families.

Blanco, the first expression from Mijenta, is the brand’s core offering. The suggested retail price is $50 per 750-ml. bottle.

The Reposado, scheduled to launch at the end of 2020, aged up to 6 months in oak casks, and will offer a softer and fuller expression of Mijenta, the company says.

Two more expressions will be announced in the future.

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