Time to ditch your corkscrew: After decades of being the laughingstock of wine and spirit drinkers alike, cans are suddenly having a moment. The canned wine phenomenon went from novelty to normal in 2018, and 2019 is looking brighter for aluminum than ever. As quality producers and brands continue to commit to cans, consumers are taking notice of the portability, freshness, and casual experience found when drinking good wine from a can. With sales growing 43% from June 2017 to June 2018, canned wine has already burgeoned into a $45 million business, according to Nielsen.
While canned wine is still just a tiny slice of the industry as a whole (0.2% of market share vs bottled wine's nearly 90% share), it's one of the fastest growing segments of the overall category thanks to the millennial drinker. No bottle openers, a compact size, and lighter packaging combine to make canned wine easy to open, easy to transport, and easy on the environment. Plus, cans can be brought where glasses cannot go, like the park, the beach, or your favorite campsite.
The smaller form factor also means that booze-conscious millennials are no longer burdened with having to drink a full bottle, offering an easy, convenient entry into the industry. And it's not just millennials benefitting: according to research by E. & J. Gallo Winery, one in four wine consumers said they would be more open to trying new wines if they didn't have to buy a full-sized bottle. Canned wine isn't necessarily fancy, but then again, it's not meant to be. So which wines work best in a can? Whole Foods' master sommelier says: "Wines with flavors that are slightly lighter and designed to be drunk cold."
Convenience, sustainability, and portion control are just a few of the reasons this trend is going down so smooth. Another? Label design.
Nielsen's Beverage Alcohol Category Shopping Fundamentals study reported that only 29% of consumers know which brand they intend to buy before entering a store. The other 71% of consumers are making their decisions as they're perusing the options on the shelf and canned wine is capitalizing, shifting label design away from the traditionalist practices of wine bottles in favor of brighter, more adventurous designs meant to capture the attention of these aisle-wanderers.
So what compels us to pick one label over another? Good design evokes emotion and produces memory recall; we choose a specific label because of how it makes us feel, what we think it says about us, and what it says about the brand. Unique packaging draws attention and is memorable; often (especially with wine) a consumer is more apt to remember your brand by your label than your taste. Plus—whether quirky or clean-cut—a well-thought-out package design typically denotes a craft quality of the libation itself.
In the words of 214 Designer (and resident wine-expert) Cassie Clusman, "I think a goofy bottle of wine says ‘low quality’ whereas a goofy can of wine is just fun. Wine bottles seem to need to retain some semblance of classiness to retain value perception."
Featuring lower distribution and production costs than bottles, canned wine offers brands the freedom to push into new design territory with less risk. Beer has already been playing in this fun, quirky label space for a while, fueled by the millennial drinker's love for craft beer. Now, with the can as their new canvas, wine is catching up, as seen with brands such as Underwood, Ava Grace, and Nomadica.
With eye-catching labels and innovative, high-quality flavors, canned wine is moving beyond its status as a summer-only sipper. These easy-to-glug libations are poised to explode in 2019, and we're all for it.
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