A California-based, canned wine company has been growing at a rate of 200 percent per month since March.
“Oh, my gosh, it’s been growing like crazy,” says Alix Peabody, who owns Bev. “I think there are a bunch of different things at play in this moment.”
Amidst the stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic and now the re-opening phases, this Los Angeles-based canned wine brand has experienced a 200 percent sales increase, and they recently launched, for their Los Angeles customers, a direct-to-doorstep delivery via text messaging.
Taking big risks is something this founder is familiar with. In 2017, Peabody used her life savings to buy 300 gallons of rosé to create her canned wine company. Peabody purchased those initial 300 gallons of wine to use in a guerilla marketing campaign. She took the cans to events throughout southern California, and then she had friends take them to events, and then later, she would approach clients about purchasing and investing in the brand.
“My initial plan was to sell direct to consumer to drum up enough interest so a distributor would have to talk to us,” she says.
That decision also likely has helped her company not only survive the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, but it has also helped her company thrive. “At the beginning of COVID, I was really nervous,” Peabody says. “We’d just been accepted into all of these different grocery stores, Target, etc., but all of our rollouts between March and May got pushed back so we immediately pivoted.”
The company switched their marketing campaigns to direct-to-consumer, and that new focus helped. Peabody says she found that while consumers are often hesitant to order new products, if the process is hassle-free, they will try something. “Once they started trying our products, they liked them, and then they started adding them to their grocery lists,” Peabody says. “There’s been a shift in how people are buying things.”
This change, Peabody says, is seismic. “Once people get used to having something show up at their door without having to think about it, they’re not going to change,” she says. “I don’t think this is going to slow.”
There’s also the “delight factor,” Peabody says. “It’s when you forgot you ordered something, and then you’re excited that it’s here,” she says.
Another part of the delight factor is to add in some free stickers or coupons for friends and other small freebies. “That gets people excited about the brand,” Peabody says.
Peabody also has made sure that if there have been snafus – like a seven-day delivery delay – that she has personally called her customers. Peabody also says that by focusing on direct-to-consumer delivery, she gets to know her customers – where they are located, what they’re most excited about, and where more of them are so she can grow her base. “This data shows where our product is most wanted,” Peabody says. “We can see that Denver is a hot city for us, Seattle is a hot city for us, and New York as well.”
But while direct-to-consumer tells part of Bev’s expansion story, it’s not the only factor driving the growth. Another big factor is that restaurants that do takeout are often able to deliver wine, and it’s easier to sell a single can of wine rather than to package a serving in a plastic-wrapped cup.
Additional growth is coming from restaurants and bars that are reopening, which are also starting to carry Bev’s line of three canned wines: the original rosé, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. “Something really fascinating is happening,” Peabody says. “Places that would not have given us the time of day, like the Ritz in Santa Barbara, are selling it on premise because they’re doing entirely away with glasses. It’s a sanitary, single serving option.”
While canned wines are more prevalent on the coasts, they’re not as popular in some of the places where Bev is distributed. Bev is distributed in California, Texas, Tennessee, and it will be launched in Arizona, Colrado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas and Massachusetts. “The trend of cans was growing at record speeds before this, and this has been a catalyst for it to grow more,” she says.
Later this year, her company, which boasts the tagline “Break the Glass” on every can, will expand its product line, and she expects to hire beyond her current workforce of 14 employees. “The most important thing is to create jobs for people,” Peabody says. “That’s something I take very seriously.”
Peabody points out that many startups were formed in 2008, in response to the recession, and she believes that more businesses will eventually grow in response to the pandemic.
“This is a very difficult time for the country, but I think the silver lining is that people are going to be forced to get creative and build new things,” she says. “That’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch as we come back from this because we will.”
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