The biggest drinks trend this year, to my mind, has not been any specific bevvy (though adult soft drinks run it close), but the continued rise in popularity of cans – the latest being still water, which surprisingly overtook cola last year, according to figures from the admittedly partial industry association Can Makers.
Obviously, cans have an advantage in terms of transportability, and are ideal to take on a picnic or to festivals, where glass is banned. Being lighter than glass, they leave less of a carbon footprint, plus seven out of every 10 cans are now recycled; they’re popular with retailers, too, because they take up less shelf space.
Craft beer, it seems to me, suits canning best both from the point of view that it helps to preserve the bright flavours of today’s most used hops, protecting them from light damage, and offers a great backdrop for millennial-friendly designs. London brewery Beavertown has been particularly successful at exploiting the branding opportunities with beers such as its unfiltered unpasteurised 8 Ball Rye IPA (£2.69 for a 330ml can at thepipstop.co.uk, or £36 for a case of 12 at Oddbins; 6.2% abv), which retains all its big, ballsy (well, obvs) flavours
Cider works well in cans, too. Would we reach out to grab Friels First Press Vintage Cider (£2 for a 330ml can or three for £5.25 at Tesco;) if it didn’t have that retro label? I suspect not, though it is a good, strong (7.4%), medium-dry cider that wouldn’t be out of place in a cider pub.
Cans can also add an element of cool (and profit) to a soft drink, as many manufacturers are discovering. I can’t say I’m overimpressed with Sparkling Can-O-Water (£1 a 330ml can from Ocado) – give me Perrier any day – but Dalston’s Honestly Made Lemonade (£1.19 a 330ml can, or £3.99 for four, also from Ocado) is both more natural-tasting and lower in sugar (6.1g per 100ml) than better-known equivalents such as San Pellegrino Limonata (8.9g). And few are going to feel short-changed by the fact that their stylish Nix And Kix Cucumber Mint (£1.25 for a 250ml can from Ocado), with its spicy dash of chilli, doesn’t feature any alcohol.
Will wine follow suit? I doubt it, even though there are apparently people out there who will drink prosecco out of anything, even an old boot. People still like to pour from a bottle, though the innovative Most Wanted Wines recently brought out a couple of one-portion pouches that are on sale for £2.49 at the Co-op. Having tasted the malbec, I wouldn’t rush to load up.