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Hard seltzers an easy sell for wholesalers

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Mickey’s Steve Mason (left) chats up industry trends with a couple wholesalers at the MBWA conference in St. Paul.

The growth in hard seltzer beverage brands and the shortage of qualified CDL drivers were two of the central topics discussed on the floor of the 2020 Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association (MBWA) annual conference last month in Saint Paul. In light of those two trendlines, another common conversation heard around the hall was the rising popularity of non-CDL bodies, like Mickey’s 8.5-bay unit, a smaller sideload (total weight of less than 8,000 lbs) that many wholesalers are using to deliver their hard seltzers into tight urban markets.

“Many of the customers at our booth wanted to talk about the emergence of hard seltzers and what that new segment has done for their bottom lines,” says Steve Mason, Mickey’s Midwest Regional Sales Manager. “One of our customers in the upper Midwest just took delivery on his third 8.5-bay Mickey body under CDL. And we’ve probably refurbished 70% of his fleet in the last four years, many with new graphics depicting his hard seltzer brand. The under CDL chassis are so popular because of a lack of qualified CDL drivers, and they’re also much easier to deliver in city markets.” It’s not just the smaller units that are capturing the attention of hard seltzer wholesalers, adds Steve. “One of my major Miller/Coors customers said the new hard seltzer market has increased his business to the point where he will be ordering additional Mickey 18-bay trailers this year.”

In 2019, hard seltzer’s share of total beverage alcohol in the U.S. grew to 2.6%, up from a little less than 1% in 2018, according to London-based IWSR, the leading source of data and intelligence on the alcoholic beverage market. The company reports that hard seltzer volume in the U.S. hit around 82.5 million cases in 2019, and volumes are expected to more than triple, to 281 million cases, by 2023. More than half of U.S. alcohol consumers drink hard seltzer at least once a week, with an average of 2.83 cans per occasion.
Moreover, consumers are increasingly gravitating towards convenient shopping channels such as liquor, convenience and drug stores for their alcoholic beverage purchases, while trips to grocery and mass market retailers have declined. Tighter parking and less maneuverability make smaller trucks a more viable delivery option.

“The MBWA convention is well supported by a great group of wholesalers throughout the entire state,” says Mike Parker, General Manager for Mickey’s Midwest Fleet Services Center. “They are a very service-oriented group – they deliver great service to their retail and on-premise customers and they expect the same from their suppliers. That’s why we have such strong relationships in this market. It’s all about service and we strive to meet or exceed their standards. We get a lot of word-of-mouth business from these companies.”

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