By now, you’re well aware of the canned cocktail trend. Or at least you should be: sales of ready-to-drink (RTD) adult beverages are up nearly 100% over this time last year. And in the continued absence of on-premise consumption, those numbers are expected to climb even higher as the year moves on. But aluminum cans aren’t the only way in which to enjoy the category. A new format is emerging and it requires drinkers to think outside the box—or more accurately, within it.
In July, St. Agrestis became the first major American brand to launch a boxed negroni. The Brooklyn-based company specializing in aperitif and digestif combined its own Campari alternative (Inferno Bitter) with a house-made vermouth and a gin from Greenhook Ginsmiths to land on the 24% ABV formula. It is sold in a self-dispensing 1.75 liter bag encased in a slender, fuchsia-hued cardboard box. A perfect fit for a fridge shelf.
Retailing at $60 for 20 servings worth of cocktails, the company is positioning the product as a value proposition during lockdown. It’s already become a popular item across New York City, where it can even be delivered to your door free of charge. And it’s now being distributed to retailers across the country. Once refrigerated it will stay fresh for up to three months.
While St. Agrestis is the first brand to ‘up-market’ boxed drinks for cocktails, the concept has been around for years in the world of wine. Companies like Franzia and Black Box package the liquid as a more convenient and approachable variation on a drink that is notoriously viewed by some as stodgy. But the format has never been associated with quality. Indeed, many millennial drinkers purchase the stuff ironically—giving birth to rituals such as ‘slap the bag’, which are more about having a good laugh than having a good drink.
In 2014 BeatBox Beverages looked to tap into this playfulness, launching a line of neon-colored ‘party punches’ available in both 500ml as well as 5-liter bag-in-a-box packaging. The brand went onto the show Shark Tank, and received a million dollar infusion of capital from Mark Cuban, in exchange for a 33% stake in the company. Today it maintains a strong social media presence conspicuously geared to a young-t0-mid 20s audience.
And that appeal has been widely embraced by the early adopters of boxed cocktails. Last year UK-based Global Brands debuted All Shook Up in two flavors: Passionfruit Martini and Flamingo Colada. The 2.25-liter boxes are sold in supermarket chains across Great Britain for around $15. At the time of release, a spokesperson for the company openly admitted that they were designed with Instagram in mind.
Just because something is simple—and, yes, novel—doesn’t mean it’s necessarily facile. And it’s difficult to deny the underlying practicality of the subcategory. An element that’s in particularly high-demand at the moment. By combining that with a taste of high-end mixology, St. Agrestis might very well be tapping into the next phase of RTD. One that is particularly well-suited to your next socially-distant gathering.