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    Beverage Alcohol Gets Set to Quench

    Warm-weather quaffs beckon with quality, convenience

    By Bridget Goldschmidt, Stagnito Business Information
    Smirnoff Sourced Flavored Vodka

    As summer heats up, consumers’ thoughts inevitably turn to refreshing options all along the beverage alcohol spectrum, but what are they looking for specifically?

    Jonathan Simpson, director of shopper marketing at White Plains, N.Y.-based Heineken USA, pinpoints “flavorful beers and the crisp and refreshing taste of hard cider [as] natural choice[s] for warm-weather gatherings and celebrations. Variety packs are also a growing trend for group gatherings, as they appeal to consumers’ desire to try new styles and flavors, and offer something for everybody.”

    According to Simpson, “Choosing refreshment and seeking variety are not new trends, but rather trends that continue to develop and evolve as consumers experiment with new categories such as cider and new styles of beer from their favorite brands.”

    To that end, Heineken has launched hard-cider brand Strongbow’s latest flavor, Strongbow Cherry Blossom, which, notes Simpson, “delivers a cut-through refreshing taste with cherry blossom and red-fruit aromas, subtle sweetness, and [a] ripe apple finish. Cherry Blossom served over ice is the ultimate way to experience this new flavor’s most refreshing taste, just like all of our delicious hard-cider flavors.”

    Also part of the company’s seasonal lineup is what Simpson describes as “a returning fan favorite,” limited-edition Dos Equis Azul, as part of the Beers of Mexico variety pack. The blend of signature golden-wheat lager and blue agave joins Dos Equis Lager, Tecate and Sol. Another summer limited release, Newcastle Caley Amber Ale, will be featured in the “Best of Britain” variety pack, alongside Newcastle Brown Ale and British Pale Ale. Brewed in collaboration with sister Caledonian Brewery, the ale “is made with a blend of whole-flower hops to create a full-bodied brew with a slight, pleasant bitterness that is brought to life by the open-fired solid copper kettles,” enthuses Simpson.

    “When it comes to popular beers in the summer, nothing is as popular as the Leinenkugel’s Shandy portfolio,” asserts Martin Maloney, media relations manager at Chicago-based MillerCoors. “Grapefruit Shandy was the No. 1 new craft offering of 2015,” despite having been offered only in 6-packs. Currently back on shelves, with plans for year-round availability going forward, the item will come in 6-pack bottles, 12-pack bottles, 12-pack cans and single 16-ounce cans. Maloney explains that “we’re going bigger on Grapefruit, with more packs to fully optimize the potential of the brand.”

    He also singles out “a staple of the season, Leinie’s Summer Shandy. The traditional Weiss beer with refreshing natural lemonade flavor continues to grow year after year, and is the highest-velocity national craft in America.”

    A Shandy Sampler pack will include a new Watermelon Shandy, which Maloney characterizes as “a mix of traditional Weiss beer balanced with a hint of watermelon flavor for a taste made for summer.”

    Additional seasonal offerings from MillerCoors include Blue Moon’s Belgian Table Pils, a “balanced, easy-drinking pilsner with hints of citrus,” and Redd’s “Limited Pick” Blueberry, which “boasts a delicately balanced apple-and-blueberry aroma, while offering a taste that hits with ripe blueberry tones and a satisfying apple finish,” according to Maloney.

    “The trend where we are currently seeing the most growth potential is in the U.S. cider market,” notes Harry Lewis, VP, Stella Artois, the Belgian beer brand owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. “In previous years, cider has been a major player in Europe, with very few options in the U.S., but now we’re starting to see growth in the category stateside. Consumers seek variety and are looking for refreshing, easy-to-drink, revitalizing summer flavors. Stella Artois Cidre, made from handpicked apples from wine-growing regions, offers consumers a [drier], balanced taste — perfect for those hot summer days.”

    New this summer is Stella Artois Cidre in cans, providing “a convenient option for consumers looking for an easily portable and packable beverage option for summer outdoor occasions,” adds Lewis. “Stella Artois Cidre is currently available nationwide in both cans and bottles.”

    According to Lewis, cider’s time as a major American beverage is finally arriving. “The cider category has doubled within the last three years and grown nearly seven times in the past five years,” he points out. “We continue to see the demand for cider increase due to its ability to be paired with a variety of brunch options and recipes, and believe that the best things for the category have yet to come. Our consumers have responded incredibly well to our newest offering, Stella Artois Cidre, which is the fastest-growing cider in 2016. While most cider options are currently on the sweeter side, Stella Artois Cidre is a drier option, and our consumers have gravitated towards that.”

    By Bridget Goldschmidt, Stagnito Business Information
    • About Bridget Goldschmidt In addition to serving as Progressive Grocer’s Managing Editor, Bridget writes many print and digital features encompassing a range of grocery and fresh categories across the store. Bridget also enjoys on-site reporting assignments at such key industry events as the New York Fancy Food Show and the International Boston Seafood Show, in addition to visiting stores for PG’s prestigious Store of the Month feature. In her years with the magazine, she has developed into a knowledgeable voice on grocery industry trends, sought by such distinguished publications as The New York Times.

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