In January, New York-based Nielsen published an Insights titled “Heard it Through the Grapevine: Wine Trends to Watch for in 2018.” In the Insights, the market research firm highlights that wines packaged in alternative formats are a key trend to expect this year. In fact, the article highlights that canned wine dollar sales saw the most growth year-over-year, with 59.5 percent growth for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 30, 2017.

In 2016, seeing the potential within the canned wine market, wine industry veteran Jim Doehring was ready to take his knowledge and start a brand that would cater to this consumer need state. Understanding the demands of the millennial demographic, Doehring created Backpack Wine, a brand of Oak Brook, Ill.-based Source Code Beverage.

“After decades of being in the wine business, I wanted to take what I’ve learned about the consumer and what they want and create a business that solves a lot of the challenges in the industry,” explains Doehring, founder and president of Backpack Wine. “I knew the canned wine concept wasn’t new, but I saw an opportunity to create a brand that could deliver consistent, high-quality wine in a 250-ml take-anywhere can.”

Since its debut, the company has expanded its portfolio as well as its distribution, Doehring says. Currently, Backpack Wine is available at leading beverage and grocery retailers in 23 states, as well as online via Vino Shopper. Yet, the company continually is forging new partnerships to expand distribution nationwide.

For instance, Backpack Wine recently signed a distribution deal with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, which will expand the brand’s distribution to 10 additional states by the end of the year, starting with 10 additional states by summer, starting with Washington, D.C.; Delaware; Maryland; Ohio; and Pennsylvania, Doehring explains.

“We expand to more markets on a regular basis and this continues to be one of our primary focuses for 2018. We see major growth in Backpack’s retail distribution and distributor footprint this year,” he says. “Our future is exciting as the canned wine industry continues to thrive. We hope to release more varieties and create an even stronger footprint, finishing 2018 with distribution in 40 states and expanding to those final 10 in 2019.”


The Backpack brand

Backpack Wine made its debut with two wine varietals, its top-seller, Cheeky Rosé, and Snappy White, a white wine blend. At 11.5 percent alcohol by volume, Backpack Wines are made with grapes from the Columbia Valley in Washington state, the company says.

Last year, the company introduced Rowdy Red, a red wine blend. Rowdy Red is a blend of Washington state Merlot and Syrah grapes, and offers velvety dark cherry and plum notes, the company says. Since Rowdy Red launched, the product has been well-received by consumers, Doehring says.

“We were determined to bring a high-quality red wine in a can. We knew it was missing in the current canned wine marketplace and there’s so much opportunity to bring red wine fans a variety they can enjoy on-the-go as well,” he explains.

The company also has plans to introduce sparkling varietals in 2019, Doehring says.

All Backpack Wine varietals are packaged in 250-ml slim cans, which are available in four-packs. The aluminum can packaging is core to the brand, which emphasizes its on-the-go convenience.

“We wanted to offer a single-serve, recyclable can that wine lovers could take on-the-go, so they can skip the cork. Our cans are portable, shareable and easy to drink so our consumers can enjoy premium wine wherever life takes them,” Doehring says.

However, Doehring recognized that millennials would not be drawn to just any canned wine brand, so the company’s marketing team worked with artists for several months to develop branding that would appeal to consumers and be fresh and innovative to match the wine within the can.

“We know our millennial demographic is drawn to creative and unique branding, thus our packaging is very important to us and something we continue to focus on as we expand our product offering. We know the ‘war is in the store’ and we’ll continue to keep a consistent brand look and feel for Backpack,” he explains.

Yet, captivating packaging only is one part of Backpack Wine’s marketing efforts. The company also utilizes in-person events as well as social media and sponsorships to gain attention from its target consumers.

“Backpack Wine has created a strong brand presence, and we continue to find new ways to reach our consumers through events coast to coast and through social media integration,” Doehring explains.

Backpack Wine has sponsored several events that include Chicago Sports Social, Winter Film Awards NYC and Yelp events across the country. Backpack also is a partner of the Chicago Bears. Chicago football fans can find Backpack available at Soldier Field.

“We’re always thinking outside of the box to get our product in the hands of our consumers,” he adds. BI