Session wine: US wine brand Saturday Session taps into the casual wine revolution

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Saturday Session is made from the same French grapes as table wine with half the alcohol, 90 calories and 4g of sugar.
Saturday Session is made from the same French grapes as table wine with half the alcohol, 90 calories and 4g of sugar.

Related tags Wine canned wine low ABV Alcohol rose wine

The low alcohol movement is spurring a new category: session wine. Saturday Session’s 5.5% ABV cans hope to make wine more accessible in daytime drinking occasions.

The brand - which is backed by AB InBev's global growth and innovation group ZX Ventures - believes the evolution of the US wine industry towards cans and more casual drinking occasions has opened the door for sessionable wine. 

A drink made for Saturday afternoons

The low alcohol movement is heating up around the world​. CPG brands marketing to the low-and-no alcohol consumer make up 1.3% of the UK's beverage alcohol market and 0.5% of that in the US. And from alcohol-free beer to low-ABV spirits and zero-proof mocktails​, the number of alternatives are growing.

In conjunction with this renaissance has been a move toward accessibility and convenience: with simpler packaging and beverages that can adapt to different occasions.

Saturday Session saw a gap in this new market it could fill: low ABV wine. The 5.5% product comes in 8.4oz cans, available in Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. Founder Louis Aronne told BeverageDaily that the casual wine revolution has taken over in the US over the last few years, opening the industry to new opportunities.

“So much like the shift from corks to screw caps, this started shifting American consumers’ minds about the places where you can drink wine and the formats from which you can drink them,”​ Aronne said.

But while the canning of wine has allowed it to move into more of these beer-like, daytime occasions, traditional wine is still too high in alcohol, sugar and calories to compete with the easy drinking of other canned alcohol.

Aronne said it was clear to him that there was a need for session-able alternative in wine, which he developed with ZX Ventures. The innovation group is an offshoot of AB InBev, and Aronne participated in its 11-week summer accelerator program in the summer of 2017.

The brand is more focused on attracting existing wine consumers than converting beer drinkers, but knows the product could resonate with a wide range of people looking for new session alcohol options.

“Session drinks may be inspired by moderation, but that doesn’t mean they’re about deprivation--they are crisp enough in character and modest enough in ABV to accommodate prolonged periods of enjoyment,”​ Saturday Session said.

Social media lifestyles of moderation

Aronne doesn’t anticipate competing with traditional bottled wine, but rather other canned wine coolers and spritzers that already have a foothold in the market. Stella Spritzer (3.5% ABV), Ramona (7%) and Hoxie (5%) are just a few names making waves in canned alcohol similar to Saturday Session.

But Aronne wanted to deliver a true wine, made from the same French grapes as table wine with half the alcohol. Each can contains 90 calories, 4g of sugar and is gluten free. And though he expected female millennials to be the brand’s core target, since launching some of its most engaged consumers have been older members of Gen X.

He credits social media for helping usher the low-and-no alcohol trend into the mainstream, as people now have an accessible platform “to understand that it’s OK not to drink or drink lower alcohol alternatives.”

“What’s more in vogue is celebrating a lifestyle of moderation and of responsibility, and being able to showcase that and have other people get behind it,”​ Aronne said.

The can packaging makes it all the more convenient, bringing wine into new places and simplifying storage and serving. It also aids in portion control, which is important for at-home consumption of any canned beverage.

In 2018, Saturday Session launched in about 10 wine shops in the Washington DC area, and has since grown to more than 100 locations. The cans are also sold in select retailers in New York, Delaware and Maryland, as well as some Whole Foods locations and the Washington Nationals Park.

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