By Barbara Barrielle
This article is part of the Bold Predictions series.
Nielsen data started tracking canned wine in 2014, only five years ago when canned wines represented less than $10 million of the total market. In 2018, this number was close to $70 million and, by mid-2019, Nielsen showed growth to be on track for at least $70 million if not more. Year over year, wine in cans is on track to grow at least ten percent, and the most remarkable development is the variety of high-end wineries getting into this simple, cost-effective and environmentally responsible packaging; it is not unusual to see a single can selling for $20.
The trend in canned wines is not slowing down, asserts Rich Bouwer, president of Free Flow Wines, the leader in alternative wine packaging. And he predicts that wine in cans will continue to grow and represent 10% of the wine market in 2025.
Bouwer spent ten years with Gallo and another seven at Beringer before getting into the packaging game with Saxco for ten years. In 2018 he joined Free Flow Wines, a company started by Jordan Kivelstadt ten years ago, and in 2019 Bouwer took over as president. He points out the extraordinary changes in beverage packaging during his time citing craft beers as an example. When craft beer exploded in popularity in the early 2000s, all were packaged in bottles because of the inferred premium quality. In 2019, over 60 percent of craft beers are packaged in cans with 40% remaining in bottles. Now more and more premium wines are exploring cans, and Bouwer says some of the big Napa players with their $100+ bottles are considering cans.
The growth of wine in cans has been explosive, 70-80% year over year, affecting everything from still to sparkling wines, both domestic and imported. Furthermore, cans are becoming the container of choice for beverages like water, coffee, energy drinks, beer, cider, CBD drinks, as well as soda. In fact, Bouwer points out that the big soda companies have left the plastics lobby as cans are becoming more popular across the board.
The benefits of wine in cans, like portability, serving size, and sustainability, appeal especially to the younger consumer, and they are leading the market migration towards cans, which is a good indicator of the trend’s sustaining power. “Cans are either 250 or 375 ml., a third or a half of a traditional 750 ml. bottle,” says Bouwer. “Cans offer portability and you can drink out of the can or pour into a glass. No corkscrew is needed and there is no cork taint, and younger consumers are now perceiving cans as premium packaging.”
Cans also have benefits that make sense in the slowing growth of the wine industry, which is why cans are seeing double digit growth while the wine sector is slowing. Cans are lighter and easily recyclable, and less weight means lower shipping costs.
Free Flow doesn’t produce wine but the company is responsible for packaging in both cans and kegs for over 300 wineries. This year they opened a brand new facility in Sonoma with a major investment in a high-speed canning line for their booming list of clients, and they are betting big that wine in cans continues to grow.
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