2022: The Year of Convergence?

We headed out to the Beer Business Daily and Wine & Spirits Daily summits in San Diego a little while back (nice respite for us frigid Gothamites), and the big storylines out of the Del Coronado remain very top of mind. Maybe that’s because they were can’t-miss at both conferences, all the talk of premiumization, of people drinking across categories like never before, and of whether the dance between Big Bev and Big Alc (looking at you, Coke and Constellation…can’t wait for that Grown Up Fresca) will be more sprint or marathon.

You basically heard the beer people and the wine and spirits people reading (to their distributors) from the same playbook, give or take. That was pretty fascinating on its own. It came to an even sharper point for us in another oft-cited trend: convergence. Perhaps the best evidence is in the Millennials and LDA Gen Z’ers, who drive trends and make categories, and their relationship with seltzers and such. They essentially don’t care what gives their slim cans some kick (malt, wine, vodka…absinthe…whatever), as long as it has some fizz, clocks in at around 100 calories, packs a flavor punch and goes down easy. All that talk mimicked a finding from our consumer survey for Drizly last year, when we asked what hard seltzers and RTDs (and FMBs, for that matter) had in them, and few got it right.

This is admittedly some gross generalizing, but it all boils down to what more than one expert presenter dubbed, “The Battle for the Cold Box” – who carries what and gets to put it where. Hey, who doesn’t love a good street fight? Nothing new for beverage alcohol, but now, with admittedly much higher stakes.

Among it all, the specter of Walmart moving all of alcohol under one buyer – no more co-equal chieftains, one of beer, the other atop wine and spirits – looms large. At the summit, Walmart’s Jason Fremstad left no doubt about the growth prospects his company sees in alcohol, with the value of its cold box real estate, and the sheer square footage the biggest brick-and-mortar retailer has for alcohol of all stripes, no matter who brings it into the store.

State legislatures ultimately will determine how high is high, but even still, Walmart has lots of running room in the current environment, and physical access to more consumers than any other retailer.

Enjoy, sports fans. It’s gonna be one heck of year. Hard Dew, anyone?