The annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of American conference gives opportunity for producers to show their lineups and innovations to wholesalers and distributors. Walking around the exhibition halls on day 2 of the WSWA2017, here are a dozen innovative products that caught our eye:
This wine is designed for cannabis users, but does not contain THC (which would be illegal) or the legal CBD. Rather, it’s a white wine infused with herbs and fruits intended to complement the flavor of marijuana.
“It’s a pairing item,” explains Henry O. Santos, VP of Premium Blend. “Our focus groups have said that they like this flavor with cannabis. And it’s refreshing when you have cottonmouth from smoking.”
At 14% ABV, this is a line of boozy whipped creams, with 13 flavors. The demo is women between 25-45, explains Bill Zeiler, Michigan Territory Sales Manager for Temperance Brands.
Liquor Whipped (pictured atop) is ideal for cocktails, like a sweet garnish on a hard root beer. For many shoppers it’s an impulse buy.
Liquor Whipped is available in markets including Denver, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Florida. Temperance Brands continues to look for additional distributors.
Yolo Rum boasted some of the more eye-catching booth branding at WSWA 2017. Social media photos covered their booth, which was to the point of their marketing, explains brand manager Eric Swanson.
“Rum is always thought to be for the older demo. We’re a rum trying to be more youthful,” he says. “We’re the fun rum.”
A Panama rum that’s free of sugar or gluten, the Yolo line runs from a white to a 10-year old. As its primary form of exposure, Yolo relies on social media. “We hire social media brand managers. We’re trying to latch onto a culture,” Swanson explains. “Right off the bat we invested in two SOITs. We have live-streaming, targeted social media posting.”
And there’s the name of the brand itself. Yolo is an acronym for You Only Live Once, which has become a carpe diem for younger generations. “These words are being added into the dictionary,” Swanson says.
This is a top seller in Florida markets, says John “JT” Thatch, manager, Superior Wine & Spirits. “Each shipment we do five to twenty five cases per retailer,” he says.
Popular off-premise among Millennials, VodQuila came about because Chander Aora “needed a new category.” He warms tequila, opening up its molecules, before blending in vodka in a process not unlike dipping a teabag into hot water.
The result is an “easier tequila, with a vodka aftertaste,” he says.
The company is about to launch RumQuila, wherein rum is added to tequila like a finishing spice.
Produced by Latitude Beverages, these come in 250-ml. cans.
“That’s a single serving of wine,” explains Kevin Mehra, president, Latitude Beverages. “Our research shows that’s the preferred size. Any bigger and it’s more than one serving. And larger sizes will get warm by the time you’re finishing it.”
Lila currently offers Pinot Grigio, Rosé and Sparkling wines, all produced in Europe.
“It’s an emerging category,” Mehra adds. “People today like to consumer wine and beverages wherever they go. And it’s also about portion control. With one can being one drink, you don’t have to open a whole bottle if you want one glass of wine.
Packaged in 375-ml. cans with craft beer-inspired labels, this brand comes in three flavors of 100% Californian wine: red, white, and fizz.
“We’re purposely non-vintage, non-varietal,” says Fisk Biggar, Mancan co-founder. “We want to make it as easy as possible.” The product is geared towards males as a “response to the hyper-feminized industry.”
A filament lining prevents the wine from touching the metal side of the can and acquiring a metal taste. Mancan retails for $4.99 per can or $16.99 per 4-pack. Each pack contains two full bottles worth of wine.
This New Jersey-based candy company makes chocolate sidecar garnishes. These go on the side of your glass and come in different flavors to pair with the drink. Chocolate Text can also print just about any design or branding imaginable to match the candies with the occasion.
Since launching last year the brand has continued to evolve and innovate. A new line of chocolates spells out right on the candies what wines they’re meant to pair with. These include chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, cabernet, merlot, and pinot noir.
The handmade Belgian candies retail for about $2 each, and come in boxes of 10 or 15. Chocolate Text has also developed little spoon-shaped candies for stirring whiskey, whiskey cocktails, and coffees.
This brand of Brazilian spirit has invented a new strategy to educate consumers about its category: cachaça in a can.
Novo Fogo CEO Dragos Axinte has come out with numerous ways to encourage consumers to make cocktails with Brazil’s national spirit. (Cachaça is distilled from fermented sugarcane juice.) He’s launched mixing kits. He has a line of little cocktail kits that require no more than a few steps.
But those required work, and Axinte wanted another option that immediately brought cachaça to consumers’ lips. Hence his new pre-made cocktails in a can: Novo Fogo Sparkling Caipirinha.
“It’s an opportunity to let anyone come into the category. It takes the work and the jitters away from them,” he explains. “If consumers start here then they might work their way up the chain.”
A recent gin trend is for producers to promote craft tecniques as regional-specific styles.
For example: Seersucker gin. Made by Azar Family Brands, Seersucker labels itself a “southern style gin,” a phrase the company has trademarked. What this means for the spirit is a shift from juniper towards additional flavors of citrus, honey and mint.
“We wanted a taste profile where people would not be intimidated by the juniper,” explains Richard N. Azar III, company founder and master distiller.
Though the juniper is still present, as a moderate backbone upon the mid-palate, rather than being the focus of the gin.
The mezcal movement was in full bloom. Among these was Scorpion Mezcals, pouring premium varietals like tobala and barril.
Although mezcal is seemingly having its moment, French believes the category still has far to go. “90% of the public still do not know what ‘mezcal’ means,” says Scorpion Mezcals distiller Douglas French. “Though people are becoming more aware of it in the sophisticated markets.”
“Hipster bartenders are leading the movement,” he adds. “They understand and are stocking the different varietals. Tequila bats have begun putting in mezcal sections, but it’s still just 2% of the market.”
French also says that it’s a myth that tobala cannot grow commercially, explaining that he raises the rare agaves at his facility.
Organic wines remained a trendy product. This line is from south Australia. In this area the dry weather is ideal for organic harvests, which avoid pesticides and artificial pesticides. Wetter climates run greater risk of disease because of damp conditions.
Organic drinkers are far from the hippie stereotype, explains Bob Franchitto, Salena Estate Wines managing director. “We see a lot of young women, well educated and well dressed. People who look at what they eat.
Salena Estate Wines is still seeking suppliers in America. Their Twisted Stick wines retail for around $20 per 750-ml. bottle.
This six-generation cognac producer brought a lineup that included blends and 100% Grande Champagne cognacs. Alexandre Leclercq points out that their VS is cheaper ($25-28) in many markets than Hennessy.
The family business also distills for other brands at their facility that boasts 22 stills and five aging warehouses, he adds.
Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Cheers magazine. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece The 2017 Wine Growth Brands: The Top Trends And Brands.