Will canned wine solve all of the wine business’ problems?

canned wineProbably not, but canned wine could find acceptance and a profitable niche — just like 3-liter boxes like Black and Bota

Canned wine is supposed to be the next big thing. Sales were up 52 percent last year and its growth far out-paced every other part of the wine business. To hear its supporters talk, we’ll all be sipping from cans soon – not just around the pool or at a picnic, but at the dinner table and in restaurants.

Which seems difficult to believe, and not just because I’ve tasted canned wine and found much of it lacking (and, truth be told, so have many of its supporters, but usually off the record). Rather, it’s because cans are such a small part of the market, about 0.2 percent according to Nielsen. How can cans take over the world starting from there?

So the Wine Curmudgeon looked for statistics and facts and talked to people who research that stuff. The full story will appear in the Beverage Media trade magazine in a month or so, and I’ll link to it here.

Until then, a few thoughts about cans:

• Consumers don’t think much of quality. A recent Mintel survey found that consumers see cans as significantly inferior to screwcap wine, and they’ve been bashing screwcaps for 20 years. Only 13 percent said wine in cans was as good as wine in bottles, compared to 23 percent for premium boxes (like Black and Bota) and 31 percent for screwcaps.

• Supporters say cans will help younger consumers switch to wine from beer and spirits. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of this, says Christan Miller of Full Glass Research, who is one of the smartest people in his field. Yes, says Miller, younger consumers are more willing to try cans, but they already drink wine. They’re just not as stuffy as the Baby Boomers, who overwhelmingly prefer a bottle with some kind of cork.

• Speaking of which, the traditional glass bottle closed with some kind of cork is still about 75 percent of the market. That’s an amazing figure, given how long we’ve had screwcaps and quality wine in boxes.

Miller says – and his argument makes sense – that he doesn’t think “cans are going to be a large category, but I think they will be a permanent one.” In this, he expects cans to eventually become as popular as 3-liter boxes like Black and Bota. They have about three percent of the market, according to Nielsen.

So no, not the next big thing. But a profitable one for producers who understand the niche.

More on canned wine:
Wine in a can
The future of wine packaging