The RTD (ready to drink) market segment is booming. According to the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) sales for RTD products nationwide increased by 42.3 percent in 2021, to a whopping $1.6 billion. And while the category remains loosely defined, 55 percent of those sales are to spirits based products. But the other 45 percent is expanding as products like hard seltzers and canned wine increase their profiles. Covid has certainly helped the market. According to Nielsen Holdings (an American information, data and marketing measuring firm) sales for RTD wines alone increased 3,800 percent between 2017 and 2021. And many Marin County entrepreneurs are getting into the mix.
“The RTD explosion certainly was enhanced with Covid” says Sammy Hagar, who launched a RTD version of his already established Beach Bar Rum in cans (sbbcco.com)
“People not being able to go out to bars and drink out of glasses has led to less contact with the Mixologist,” says the Red Rocker. “And you just needed something you could just bring home and put in the refrigerator, like a beer but with more exotic flavors.”
Hagar says that he can offer premium products at a lower cost because “It’s not what I have to do for a living.” And his four flavors: Tangerine Dream, Island Pop, Pineapple Splash and Cherry Kola, do come in at under $6 a can, which is the least expensive offering here.
Marin has also birthed two women founded canned wine companies: Maker Wines (featured in a Marin IJ story: Novato’s Maker Wine shakes up wine industry one can at a time) and Just Enough Wines (justenoughwines.com), founded by San Anselman Kaitlin Lo, who went to Stanford on a Water Polo Scholarship earned at then Drake and now Archie Williams High School.
“After a long day at work it would be great to come home and have a glass of wine, but if you are living alone, or your partner doesn’t drink wine, or whatever that is, it’s hard to open a full bottle of wine. You either drink too much, or you end up wasting that bottle because wine doesn’t stay good in the bottle longer than 3 to 5 days, depending on the varietal,” says Lo.
The former communications major (Lo interned on Good Morning America and Nightline) switched to entrepreneur when she met her partner, Jessica Hershfield, at Stanford and together, they realized, “We aren’t loving what we are doing.”
“The traditional bottle format was just not in alignment with how we are living our lives,” says Lo. “Really the can size was – that perfect glass and a half – and it’s also high quality wine, the type of wine you’d expect coming out of a bottle.”
A corked bottle has never been the ideal format for a perishable product, be it wine or beer. Corks themselves are permeable and the material itself is prone to microbial contaminations. And what about the size? What other product comes almost exclusively in a 750ml bottle?
Just Enough Wines launched in September 2020 and now features six varietals in their signature 250ml cans (a pinot noir, a red blend, sparkling Rosé, sparkling brut, chardonnay and a still Rosé.
Not to be outdone, Sir Francis Drake/Archie Williams alums and siblings, Lyda, Spencer and Wyatt Hanson, launched Suntide Mimosas (drinksuntide.com) last year in the Midwest and their two flavors, a traditional mimosa, and a Bellini, have just recently become available in California.
Lo contends that part of the original problem with canned RTD’s (which have been around since the 1980’s) was the lower quality ingredients used in their production.
“You go to any premier market now and look on the aisle and all these producers are in cans,” says Lo. “It’s not just the beer, it’s the kombucha, the Blue Bottle coffees. Real high quality beverage products are all leaning towards cans, not just because of quality, but sustainability too.”
St. Hildie’s Botanica of Mill Valley (sthildies.com) is another one of those premium offerings. “We like to think we appeal to wellness minded imbibers,” says founder Meghan DeRoma. “People who are seeking out alternative ingredients, paying attention to things like ‘Where do the ingredients come from.’”
DeRoma and her partners Christine Peck and Alexi Cashen founded St. Hildie’s nearly a year ago, for “people who actually read the labels.”
“[St. Hildie’s] sips like a cocktail,” says DeRoma. “All the ingredients come from the ground. We include real fruit and a light effervesce, alcohol, and botanical tinctures, which are roots and herbs steeped in alcohol and added as concentrated versions of those elements.”
St. Hildie’s flavors include elderberry hibiscus, lemon turmeric and guava ginger, and include no added sugar, yet still provide 5% alcohol.
The RTD market remains still relatively undefined. But consumers can be assured that whether they are seeking value, convenience, quality, or wellness, and in many cases all of them, there is a Marin County product out there for them in the RTD format.
“Why not celebrate things on a weekday?” says Lo of the smaller portion sizes RTD’s typically come in. “Why not celebrate that you were able to fold your laundry and put it away today?”
For more information, or to locate purveyors see the above weblinks. In addition, many RTD’s are available to purchase directly online.