Minibar CEO on Handling Demand Surge
We’ve previously reported that containment measures have driven consumers to e-commerce, with bev alc online sales up triple digits.
Your editor got Minibar Delivery co-founder and ceo Lindsey Andrews on the horn to find out what they’re seeing on the platform and how they’re handling the surge in demand.
Minibar currently operates in about 50 cities across the US and ships to 41 states. The company predominantly works with liquor stores for on-demand delivery, but also works with vineyards for direct-to-consumer shipping. You may recall, in 2017, Minibar expanded into the direct wine shipping game with the launch of Vineyard Select, a nationwide DTC wine shipping service specializing in independent wineries not typically available on store shelves [see WSD 09-12-2017].
First, here’s a quick look at the kind of increases Minibar has seen, comparing the average per day before COVID-19 compared to an average day after COVID-19: sales are up 143%, new buyers are up 547% and orders are up 100%, with an average order size up 22%.
The number of new buyers is “going up every day,” Lindsey tells WSD. And they’re not just ordering once. “People are not just placing one big order, they’re placing orders and consistently coming back to use Minibar,” she says.
When asked how Minibar is keeping up with increased demand, Lindsey said: “It was a lot because we weren’t staffed appropriately. We’ve now hired more people, given people more hours, and we’ve also diverted a lot of our tech resources to building more tools for our customer service team.”
Typically, Minibar orders are fulfilled within 30-60 minutes, but stores are so inundated with orders that delivery time is closer to the 2-4 hour range. “So we’ve tried to put more messaging on our site to alert customers that orders are running behind, so hopefully that decreases the amount of calls to our customer service team asking for a status update when their order isn’t there within an hour,” she says.
ONBOARDING RETAILERS “AS FAST AS WE CAN.” Minibar currently has about 500 partners.
When asked whether they’ve experienced an increase in partner inquiries from retailers and/or vineyards, Lindsey said, “Yes, we’ve gotten a massive amount of inbound retail requests to be on the platform, and we’re on boarding them as fast we can…We’re happy to have them. The vast majority of the stores on our platform are mom and pop shops, so we’re really happy to be able to partner with them and help them during this time.”
WHAT PEOPLE ARE BUYING. We also asked about the most popular brands and categories on the platform. Wine is still the most popular category, says Lindsey, representing about 50%-51% of sales.
They’ve also seen an increase in spirits’ share of sales, and a decrease in beer’s share.
“But our top items haven’t changed that much,” says Lindsey. Tito’s, Bulleit and Jameson top the list. “Tito’s has always been number one and it remains number one, so we do see mainly major brands at the top, that’s not changed a ton.”
DENSE, URBAN AREAS REPORTING SLOWER GROWTH. Manhattan is Minibar’s biggest market, but “it’s actually grown the least,” says Lindsey, “because I think people are leaving the city.”
“We’ve seen kind of dense urban areas actually grow less than other areas,” she says. Chicago, D.C. and Manhattan have grown less, whereas Brooklyn, Queens, Houston, Los Angeles, Jersey City, West Chester, Denver and Staten Island have shown “huge growth.”
Lindsey clarifies those cities are not down, they’re just not growing as fast. Almost every area they operate is up triple digits, while those mentioned are up double digits.
“I think this was the inflection point for alcohol e-commerce,” says Lindsey. Growth “won’t remain at the insane levels they’re at for April because hopefully people can go out to bars and restaurants safely at some point in the near future, which we hope for everyone. But I do think many more people will now use e-commerce for wine, spirits, and beer, since now they know they can and know that they can get it from their local stores for the same price and get it easily delivered.”
IRI: 4 KEY SHOPPING BEHAVIOR SHIFTS
A few key consumer bev alc shifts have emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to IRI principal – client insights Patrick Livingston, those are:
1) shift to large packs
2) shift to value
3) shift to trusted brands
4) shift to unpromoted (i.e. full price)
1.75L SPIRITS SALES UP OVER 50%. The shift to large pack sizes is happening across all three bev alc categories, but especially in beer and spirits. Across IRI-measured total multi outlets, wine dollar share above 750ml was up 24.3%, spirits above 750ml dollar share were up 43.7% and beer (12 pack+) dollar share was up nearly 72% for the three weeks ended March 22.
1.75L spirits sales were up 52% compared to YTD sales through March 1, taking the top growth spot by pack size. Pre-COVID, 1.75L was one of the slowest growing pack sizes. Meanwhile, 50ml spirits sizes dropped from No.2 by dollar sales growth pre-COVID to the slowest in the three weeks to March 22.
SHIFT TO VALUE, BUT PREMIUM STILL GROWING. Consumers may be shifting to more valuable packages and price points, but IRI notes that the high end is still driving growth.
For instance, wine overall was up 31.2% for the three weeks through March 22. Wine above $11 was up nearly 40%, while wine below $11 was up 27.5% for the same period.
BIG BRANDS AND BOX WINE RISE IN RANKINGS. Consumers are also gravitating towards big, well known brands. The top 10 brands for the three weeks ended March 22 were:
2. Jack Daniel’s
4. Jim Beam
6. Crown Royal
8. Captain Morgan
9. Jose Cuervo
Comparatively, pre-COVID-19 the top 10 brands were:
4. Jose Cuervo
5. New Amsterdam
6. 99 Schnapps
7. High Noon premixed cocktails
8. Crown Royal
9. Don Julio
For wine, consumers are favoring boxes. Three of the top five growth brands were box wines; Bota Box (No.1), Franzia (No. 4) and Black Box (No. 5).
“750ml is still the leading wine package and the 1.5L is the second leading, but then, box wine 3L and box wine 5L, are the third and fourth, so consumers are finding value in box wine,” says Patrick.
Barefoot Popular also jumped up in the rankings.
We’ve seen these shifts also take shape in Nielsen data as well as on the Drizly platform.
BARDSTOWN BOURBON CO. COLLABORATES WITH CHATEAU DE LAUBADE FOR NEW BOURBON. Bardstown Bourbon Company has announced a new bourbon in collaboration with Chateau de Laubade. The 12-year-old Indiana bourbon is finished in Chateau de Laubade’s Armagnac barrels made with Gascony “black” oak tree for 18 months, and is bottled at 118.4 proof. The bourbon will be available as a limited release in select markets starting May 1 for approximately $125 a 750 ml.
GREENBAR DISTILLERY RELEASES TWO LINES OF RTDS. Los Angeles-based Greenbar Distillery released two canned cocktail lines this week, launching in twenty states with plans to expand late this summer. The cocktail line includes a Single Malt Whiskey+Soda, made with three-year old single malt whiskey, ginger liqueur and apple bitters (7% ABV); Coastal Rum+Cola, a combination of Greenbar’s silver and spiced rums and in-house cola (7% ABV); and City Gin+Tonic, made with Greenbar Bright gin and in-house tonic (8% ABV). The cocktails are available for $15 per 4-pack. The distillery also launched a line of non-alcoholic drinks, which includes Lavender Bitters+Soda and Orange Bitters+Soda, which are available for $10 per 4-pack.
PROPER NO. TWELVE IRISH WHISKEY DONATES TO COVID-19 RELIEF EFFORTS. Conor McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey has donated $100,000 to Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s newly formed COVID-19 Heroes Fund. The fund supports frontline health care workers by providing meals, personal protective equipment and, should tragedy strike, financial relief through temporary mortgage payments on homes of health care workers who lose their lives to COVID-19 and leave behind young children, per a release. In addition to their donation, Proper No. Twelve is raising additional funds by selling “One For All” T-shirts at Properwhiskey.com and donating 100% of the profits to Tunnel to Towers COVID-19 Heroes Fund.
JOSE CUERVO DONATES $1 MILLION TO COVID-19 RELIEF EFFORTS. On Friday, Cuervo announced a donation of $1 million as part of its ongoing effort to help individuals and families who have been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, including Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE) and World Central Kitchen (WCK) #ChefsforAmerica movement.
“All the art of living lies in the fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” – Havelock Ellis
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