Let's rethink spirits
The marked shift of socialising to outdoor spaces has continued during the summer of 2022, as legions take it upon themselves to get soaked in a field, eat overpriced noodles, and listen to mediocre music. Festivals, how we’ve missed them. Brands taking a gamble that outdoor socialising is here to stay, are continuing to invest in products that take their brands, from behind the bar, out of the home, and into the wilderness. Beyond RTDs, spirits producers have begun to put neat spirits into double shot formats. But has the concept got legs?
We’ve all done it. And if you haven’t, you should have. Every summer when it’s time to pack the tent, the wellies, and a month’s supply of cereal bars, it’s also time to divvy out your bottle of spirits into plastic bottles. With ‘no glass’ policies in place, it’s a lot easier than stashing a bottle of vodka in your rolled-up tent to get it through security. Also an option.
But fear not. A few savvy spirits makers claim to have found a new opportunity; welcome to the era of neat spirits in cans. First up, there’s Skrewball, purveyors of peanut butter whiskey. The company has just launched mini 100ml cans, which claim to offer two serves of its neat spirits range, sans the mixer, and aims to give consumers “new lifestyle options”.
Let’s go outside
According to Carl Carlson, President of Skrewball Whiskey, despite the full re-opening on the on-trade, “industry trends continue to indicate that consumers are gravitating towards portable canned options. We want to offer Skrewball Whiskey's premium taste and versatility to our community in an offering that meets their needs and consumption occasions”. As well as festivals, the format is intended to target occasions by the pool, back garden barbecues, and on the beach, among others. The cans are available in select US states.
Skrewball isn’t the first spirits brand to eye aluminium as key to accessing the outdoors. US brand Stillhouse has long done so, selling its whiskey, flavoured whiskey, and vodka in full-size, 750ml cans only. Under the banner “Good times go where glass can’t follow” the brand primarily markets its products are being suitable for the expeditions into the “great outdoors”; think week-long mountain treks rather than days in the local park.
Nor is Skrewball the first to identify the need for smaller aluminium formats that allow consumers to take their spirits to events and occasions, where lugging a full glass bottle around feels prohibitive. Recognising that cost is also a deterrent, Nashville’s Corsair Distillery has launched its range of spirits in 100ml cans to help make them more affordable.
According to the brand, awareness that many consumers won’t have tried spirits with taste profiles quite like theirs before, the brand wanted to make it easier to access its range. Its double shot cans of Triple Smoke American Single Malt Whiskey, Dark Rye American Rye Malt Whiskey, American Gin and Barreled Gin, aim to make sampling the range more affordable, prompting a later purchase of a full-size bottle.
In fact, it may be this latter purpose that carries this new format beyond the season out outdoor meet-ups, and gives it longevity. Because when it comes to portable formats and their continued flurry to market…. has the moment passed?
Are RTDs cooling off?
As ever more RTDs and canned packs continue to come to market, it can’t help but feel like the speed of the innovation pipeline of most drinks makers is, in this respect, a little off. The enthusiasm and willingness of consumers to meet and socialise outdoors en masse was a very specific and short-lived period, unlikely to be repeated. And though summer 2022 marks the first time many major large-scale outdoor summer events – from sporting events to festivals – have been able to return, what really is the lifecycle for canned, RTD formats in an increasingly crowded, and for consumers slightly confusing, market?
The move of neat spirits into cans however, seems to have numerous likely applications beyond giving brands the ability to access outdoor moments. As the cost of living squeezes finances, they also offer the opportunity for consumers to still have affordable access to premium spirits when buying a full bottle isn’t possible. Side note: Is this the start of a beautiful new dawn for house parties, where the dilemma of whether to swipe back your barely drunk bottle of gin at the end of the night or not, has now been solved?
Beyond affordability, the packs also offer – and could potentially tap into – eco concerns. And it’s here that drinks packaging at the moment offers the most interesting opportunities and possibilities for innovation, and development alongside a creative branding agency. From paper bottles, to bag-in-box multi-litre packs, spirits are popping up in increasingly interesting eco formats.
And from refill pouches, or spirits refill stations and services (take a peek at what the East London Liquor Company are up to here), consumers are increasingly being encouraged to purchase full-size products once, and top them up from smaller packs once empty. Lighter options, that use less carbon to not only produce but transport, are finally after many false starts, starting to come to market.
Are neat spirits in cans then, the most eco option out there, swerving the need in the first place to ever buy a glass bottle? Maybe, maybe not.
What is actually better for the environment – a glass bottle or an aluminium can – seems to be a topic of great debate. Glass takes much less resources to produce from raw materials; making a tonne of new aluminium from bauxite, uses ten times more electricity than making the same amount of glass from its raw material, sand, and is less invasive to the earth in terms of mining. However, aluminium is lighter to transport, and more widely recyclable. And when it is recycled, takes 90% less energy than recycling glass. There’s no easy answer, and they’re stats that call the eco-credentials of the whole RTD market into question, where recycled aluminium is not being used. Single serve spirits in cans then, are only an eco-option if the cans are recycled and recyclable.
So, will neat spirits in the cans last the length of the summer, or find purpose beyond the long days and warm weather? That will depend on marketing, and how brand owners choose to spin them once the music stops.
Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?
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