The lockdowns early last year were like a cruel reversal of “a guy walks into a bar” jokes for the alcohol industry. Instead of fun scenarios where anything could happen, people were stuck at home, bars were closed, and in the U.S. most consumers had no idea how to buy booze online. Financial results for alcohol companies were constrained, and their supply chains had to be redirected away from bars, sporting events, and concerts to whatever homebound consumers they could reach. There was even a shortage of the aluminum cans needed for some beers as they scrambled to adjust.
Then, something funny did happen: Alcohol producers, held back from the e-commerce revolution in the U.S. by laws that date to the 1930s, suddenly saw online sales skyrocket. Beverage makers started to open up to technology platforms rolled out by startups such as Thirstie Inc. and Speakeasy Co., and consumers began to catch on that they could get alcohol without venturing out of lockdown. On Feb. 2 one of those upstarts, Drizly Inc., agreed to sell itself to Uber Technologies Inc.—the ride- hailing company that’s ventured into food delivery—for $1.1 billion.
After years of lagging behind other countries in adopting online liquor sales, the U.S. is now expected to overtake China as the largest alcohol e- commerce market in the world by the end of 2021, according to analyst IWSR. Boston-based Drizly predicts that the online share of the $120 billion U.S. market for alcohol will climb to 20% within five years, from about 5% today. “There’s nothing holding this category back now,” Drizly Chief Executive Officer Cory Rellas says. “We know what the interaction of technology and regulation looks like for this industry. Figuring that out was the hardest part.”
For new or little-known liquor brands, online sales provide an opportunity to get in front of consumers in a year when corporate events and bars can’t be marketing vehicles. And for familiar players such as Molson Coors Beverage Co., it’s a chance to get products to consumers at a time when many are still skittish about even going to grocery stores.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The Hyperinflation Hype
Talk that the U.S. is going the way of Zimbabwe or Venezuela is bunk but bunk can move markets and influence policy
The Sheriff Wants a Word With Robinhood
Massachusetts regulator William Galvin says the free app is encouraging novice investors to trade themselves into trouble
The Geopolitics Of Chips
Taiwan and South Korea have amassed an uncomfortable degree of market power
THE SUPERCAR SPECIAL
Electrification is redefining what it means for a car to be extraordinary.
Tech's Latest Perk: Never See the Office
Silicon Valley companies are wooing executives with the promise of remote work forever
Pfizer deserves every bit of the credit it’s receiving. But should a drug company decide who gets a shot?
GOD SAVE MY PUBS
Tim Martin is fighting to keep Wetherspoons, his working-class British chain, alive. His detractors would bid it good riddance
WHO GUARDS THE SECURITY GUARDS?
THE PEOPLE ASKED TO ENFORCE COVID SAFETY RULES PUT UP WITH LOW PAY, MINIMAL TRAINING, AND SOME DANGEROUSLY ANGRY CUSTOMERS
Can Clubhouse Keep The Party Going?
Silicon Valley’s hottest app is getting more than just money from its prominent investors
After a Grim Limbo, Hope
A migrant camp empties as Biden undoes Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy