Press Clips: A-B Accused of Misleading Marketing for Cacti Seltzer; California Creates RTD Merchandising Parity

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (A-B) Cacti Agave Spiked Seltzer is facing a proposed class action complaint that claims the brand misled consumers to believe Cacti contained agave spirits, rather than agave sweetener.

An Illinois consumer, Rebecca Read, claimed in the lawsuit that she bought Cacti — priced at $20 for a 9-pack — in June and July of 2021, believing the product contained agave spirits, according to All Hip Hop.

“Whether a product contains agave spirits is basic front label information consumers rely on when making quick decisions at the store,” the complaint states. “The product lacks any agave spirits, and instead, uses ‘agave syrup,’ a sweetener derived from the agave plant, as shown in the fine print ingredient list on the back of the product.”

In its initial product announcement, A-B stated that Cacti is “made with 100% premium blue agave from Mexico,” and emphasized Scott’s love for tequila. The brand also lists the statement in its product details. However, a March press release clarified that Cacti is made with agave syrup, and “does not contain tequila.”

“In the context of an alcoholic beverage, consumers will expect that ‘Agave Spiked Seltzer’ means the seltzer is ‘spiked’ with agave spirits,” the complaint states. “Consumers buying alcoholic beverages are more aware of agave spirits than agave sweetener and are not looking for alternatives to sugar.

“The defendant sold more of the product and at higher prices than it would have done without this wrongdoing, resulting in additional profits at the expense of consumers. Had the plaintiff and proposed group members known the truth, they would not have bought the product or paid less for it.”

The lawsuit seeks to represent consumers in Illinois and Arkansas, according to ClassAction.Org. Illinois follows federal guidance by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regarding labeling regulations for spirits, which states that only agave spirits that “meet the standard of identity for ‘Tequila or ‘Mezcal’ may be designated as ‘agave spirits,’” according to the complaint.

California Governor Signs RTD Merchandising Legislation

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation last week that will allow distributors to merchandise all ready-to-drink (RTD) alcoholic beverages in the state.

Sponsored by trade association the California Beer and Beverage Distributors (CBBD), Assembly Bill No. 1149 amends the Business and Professions Code, extending merchandising exceptions to “any winegrower, wine blender, beer manufacturer, brandy manufacturer, distilled spirits manufacturer, distilled spirits manufacturer’s agent, rectifier, distilled spirits wholesaler, and beer and wine wholesaler,” to distribute RTD spirits and wine in single-serve containers.

“Recognizing RTD beverages as one of the fastest growing segments in the alcohol beverage market, CBBD successfully passed this urgently needed fix in state law to allow California distributors to merchandise all RTD products in addition to beer and malt-based beverages,” CBBD president and CEO Victoria Horton said in a press release. “AB 1149 eliminates the compliance confusion that existed in state law and allows our brewer partners to maximize their existing network of distributors for all the RTD beverages they produce.”

Included in the legislation is an urgency clause, making the law effective immediately.

“In order to allow alcoholic beverages to be stocked and serviced in the most effective and compliant manner that preserves the public health and safety during the current economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary that this bill take effect immediately,” the clause states.

Gopuff CEO: Company Opens 40-50 Fulfillment Centers Each Month

The e-commerce convenience delivery platform Gopuff has opened 40 to 50 micro-fulfillment centers a month, reported CNBC.

Gopuff co-founder and co-CEO Yakir Gola announced the platform’s expansion rate while speaking at the Groceryshop conference in Las Vegas last week.

Gola added that the company has expanded its categories of product offerings during the pandemic to include household items and hot food to its delivery options. Additionally, the platform added the option to order at-home COVID-19 tests, according to Convenience Store News.

As of July, Gopuff was valued at $15 billion, operating in more than 1,000 cities. Last December, the company acquired 161 BevMo stores in a $350 million deal, and earlier this year, it acquired the Louisville, Kentucky-based brick-and-mortar alcohol retailer Liquor Barn, and the UK-based convenience platform Fancy.

BI: Beer State Shipments For August Remain Flat Compared to 2019

State shipments of beer in August 2021 were estimated to be on-par with shipments in August 2019, according to Danelle Kosmal, VP of research at the Beer Institute (BI), a national trade association.

Beer shipments were estimated at 18,479,552 barrels, down -1.4% from August 2020. However, Kosmal emphasized the importance of comparing 2021 shipments to 2019, a “more normalized time period,” as 2020 dealt with various COVID-19-related impacts.

Beer shipments were essentially flat last month compared to August 2019, down -0.1%. Year-to-date (YTD), shipments are up +0.8% compared to 2019, and up +2.1% YTD compared to 2020.

The BI estimates that shipments will trend downward in September 2021, as shipments in September 2020 were strong.

Notch Brewing To Release Non-Alc Pilsner

Salem, Massachusetts-based Notch Brewing will release a non-alcoholic pilsner this week, according to Notch founder Christopher Lohring’s Instagram profile.

Lohring posted a sneak peek of the new product on his Instagram Thursday. The NA Craft Pils is a “bright pils with a crisp refreshing flavor,” according to the can image.

NA beers have gained popularity with consumers’ desire for “better-for-you” brands. NA beer holds a 0.53 dollar share of beer category off-premise sales in multi-outlet and convenience stores, according to IRI. However, non-alcoholic beer has recorded the highest percentage growth in dollar sales year-to-date (YTD), up +25.9% YTD as of September 5, 2021.

SweetWater Launches Oasis Lemonade and Golden Isles Hard Tea

Atlanta-based, Tilray-owned SweetWater Brewing Co. has launched a pair of new products last week: Hard Lemonade and Hard Tea.

Oasis Lemonade is an addition to SweetWater’s Oasis Premium Hard Seltzer line (launched in January), and is made with real lemon juice, according to the company. The 5% ABV beverage is 100 calories, with one gram of sugar and one gram of carbs, and is available in a variety 12 oz. 12-pack featuring four flavors: Original Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Peach Lemonade, and Strawberry Lemonade.

Golden Isles Hard Tea is a non-carbonated FMB available in two flavors: Half Iced Tea/Half Lemonade, and Georgia Peach. Made with fresh brewers Yingde black tea, each 12 oz. can is 100 calories and contains electrolytes and vitamin C. SweetWater trademarked Golden Isles in the category of hard tea beverages in July.

Simonne Stigall

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