Cans lifting spirits in the alcohol sector

Cans, pouches, boxes and plastic bottles are commonly viewed as alternatives to glass within the wine and spirits sector. However, cans in particular are emerging as an attractive alternative adopted for leading brands such as Pernod Ricard’s Kahlúa Liqueur Iced Coffee Cans and Fabulous Brands’ Winestar.
Innovative variations of the standard can such as Rexam’s Fusion aluminium bottle and the Slim Can have been introduced to boost appeal to brand owners, particularly those seeking creative ways of reaching new demographics, to expand their appeal to younger adult drinkers and increase potential consumption occasions. This is essential to reverse the declining sales volumes witnessed in certain alcoholic drinks sectors.

Wine and spirits feels the pinch
Total alcohol sales in the UK continue to fall, according to the latest Wine and Spirit Trade Association market report, released in June 2013, which showed the British Government’s duty escalator continuing to impact negatively on the sector. The quarterly report showed volume sales in the off trade were down three per cent for the year and three per cent in the last 12 weeks, while on trade sales were down three per cent and two per cent respectively.
Despite the fall in volume growth, total alcohol prices were up by two per cent in the off trade and four per cent in the on trade for the year. This was largely down to the duty escalator, which increased duty on wines and spirits by a further 5.3 per cent in this year’s UK Budget.

Off trade
• Once again sparkling wine was the only major category to show positive volume growth in both the short and long term, up 10 per cent for the year and seven per cent for the last 12 weeks.
• Volume sales of gin and vodka were down by two per cent for the year, however gin sales did increase by one per cent in the last 12 weeks and vodka finished the quarter steadily.
• Rum was the only spirits category with annual growth, up four per cent.

On trade
• Champagne and sparkling wine enjoyed strong volume growth in the last quarter, up by seven per cent and nine per cent respectively.
• Within the spirits category – malt whisky, liqueurs, and brandy all enjoyed annual volume growth at the expense of vodka and whisky.
Bottle Green has been pushing innovation in the wine category since its inception in 1990. Richard Hitchcock, marketing and operations director at Bottle Green, says the company is at the forefront of bringing innovation in branded canned products to the UK wine aisle in its partnership with Vinovation International. “It is early days and the UK wine trade and wine consumers are notoriously conservative, but we’re making a start,” explains Hitchcock. “A can, of course, suits many consumer needs and occasions and is easily recyclable.”
Vinovation International, based in the Netherlands, owns and distributes the Wild Pelican wine brand and Bottle Green now has two products listed in supermarket chain Asda in the UK: a French white blend (12% abv) and a Spanish red blend (13% abv) retailing at £1.98 for 187ml.
Also in a partnership between Vinovation and Bottle Green’s winemaker Nick Butler, two wine-based spritzers in a can have been created under the Via Vecchio brand, owned by Bottle Green. With full distribution, also in Asda, they retail at £1.50 per can and sometimes feature in a multi-buy deal at three for £4. These products are both 4% abv, containing just one unit of alcohol per 250ml can.
Glass packaging producers are responding with innovations too, of course. Easy to open cork and glass wine packs were launched in June 2013 by Amorim and Owens-Illinois (O-I). Known as ‘Helix’, the big names in their respective industries are touting the product as a “breakthrough innovation”. The Helix cork and accompanying bottle have a thread finish to allow drinkers to twist the stopper open and closed again, creating an airtight barrier. The design took four years to complete and will be available in the premium wine market in 2015.
“Wine in a can wants to be the new wine in a box” according to a Bloomberg Business Week article from June 2013, but some investors in the canned wine and spirits market have even bigger ambitions.
In the US, Friends Wine In A Can, a Miami-based group, made an impressive start selling more than US$1 million worth of canned wine (in 187ml and 250ml) in its first year of business and recently announced a partnership with Spirits Airlines, setting it up for an even bigger second year. There are two varieties of its canned wine and the white moscato and strawberry moscato are priced at $7. The cans are also available in selected 7-Eleven and Kroger stores in the US southeast and sales are forecast to reach $12 to $14 million by the end of 2013.
Winestar, owned by Fabulous Brands, is perhaps the boldest wine in a can project, as they are embarking on a campaign to change wine drinkers’ perceptions of canned wine by appealing to the French market.
The winemakers introduced colour-coded appellation-controlled wine in cans. The three cans, with the colour of the rim representing the type of wine inside, were first introduced at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in June 2013 (pink for rosé, white and red).
Winestar wants to be the ‘Nespresso of wine’ and plans to do this by targeting younger generations of potential wine drinkers. Retailing at €2.50 per can, the wine is made by Pol Flandroy and the packaging is produced by Ball Packaging Europe with an extra layer on the inside to protect the quality of the wine. There are plans to expand the range to include wines from renowned wine-producing regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Côtes du Rhône before the end of this year.

Fusing old and new
Providing an original alternative to the glass bottle is Rexam’s new Fusion aluminium bottle (250ml). Mixed Ape Drinks selected this novel packaging earlier this year for its pre-mixed, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails including Tequila Sunrise, Sex On The Beach, Pina Colada and Caipirinha. They are lightweight, shatterproof and have a resealable roll on pilfer proof (ROPP) closure for its bottle. According to Kym Hamer, marketing manager new product development at Rexam, “One of the things that attracted Mixed Ape to the Fusion bottle was its aesthetic qualities. Mixed Ape already had a really strong image and the 360 branding capability of the bottle, combined with our high definition illustration impact printing technique, offered superior graphic capability to enhance the brand’s design to its full potential. Ensuring on-shelf impact at the point of sale is vital for a new brand like Mixed Ape, and the Fusion bottle helps highlight all of the great qualities of the product.” Mixed Ape is available in Austria, Germany, England, Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands.
“One of the fastest growing new beverage segments is lifestyle drinks,” says Hamer. “Our Fusion bottle gives customers the opportunity to combine the functional elements and superior design potential that makes the traditional can so popular, with the premium look and feel associated with bottles.
“In a competitive market, our customers are aware of the need to stand out from the competition and show the difference in what their product offers through sleek or innovative design and packaging. Identifying consumers’ needs and engaging with them from the point of purchase right through to consumption is more important than ever. Innovative packaging plays a key part in this, and Rexam continues to work closely with our customers on packaging that engages our customers’ consumers with their brands.”
Rexam Beverage Can partnered with Accolade Wines to create cans for the launch of four drinks from the Hardys, Banrock Station and Stone’s brands, known as The Sparkling Collection. The 250ml slim cans, being produced at Rexam’s Gelsenkirchen plant, are targeted at current wine drinkers as well as 25 to 35 year old women who are new to the wine market.
The range includes two Hardys Bellinis, in Strawberry and White Peach flavours, and Banrock Infusions a blend of wine and summer berries. Stone’s Ginger Punch, a mixture of ginger wine and lemonade, is also available in a limited edition Union Jack can.
“Our Slim can range gives products a sleek and luxurious feel and may be greatly enhanced by a range of special finishes, like Rexam’s Tactile and Matt varnishes, creating a sense of understated sophistication,” says Hamer.

Learning from spirits
Dr Benjamin Punchard, global packaging insights director at Mintel, believes there are expectations of a lower quality product when it comes to wine in a can. A problem that does not impact cocktail drinkers as much. “Perceptions of tradition and quality are bound up in the glass bottle and bottle shape and this hasn’t been helped by the fact that the first wines in cans really were of generally low quality. So although there have been efforts to introduce higher quality this hasn’t reached through into consumer awareness. It is for this reason that we have seen smaller single serve bottles take off to a good degree but wine in cans has never really captured the public’s imagination.”
However, Punchard predicts greater take-up by consumers for wine cocktails in cans. “Lately there have been launches of wine cocktails, usually sparkling wine with fruit juice. For cocktails, as such, there is no packaging heuristic that consumers are specifically expecting, so there are no barriers for uptake of cocktails in cans. Indeed, beverage cans are becoming the known pack type for ready-made cocktails following the very successful introduction of spirit-based cocktails in cans several years ago. The success of the ready-made cocktail may in part have been supported by a move to at-home entertainment such that ready made cocktails offered buyers a cost solution, as it avoided the high cost of buying a full bottle of the named spirits as well as convenience of readily recognisable brand.
“For unmixed spirits I have seen a few examples of these being sold in beverage cans but these have been rare and niche and I have seen no evidence that these have performed well.” ❑

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