It was a fitting end for the summer of White Claw.
No, not Labor Day.
After a summer of wild growth, gaudy sales figures and social media infamy, CNN Business reported “a nationwide shortage” of White Claw recently, and, of course, media in all directions picked up the story as if White Claw was suddenly the Ark of the Covenant (now in refreshing black cherry flavor!).
Dire headlines included CNN’s own “America is running out of White Claw hard seltzer,” “There’s a White Claw National Shortage” and, my favorite, “White Claw Hard Seltzer Shortage Ravages Nation.”
While White Claw has been an industry-rattling sensation this year, declaring a Popeye’s chicken sandwich-style “shortage” of White Claw is a bit hyperbolic. Here’s what’s happening:
There is indeed more demand for White Claw than there is supply, especially its variety 12-pack that features the lime, raspberry, grapefruit and black cherry flavors. The result is White Claw being put “on allocation” with its distributors — which it has been for a year. That means there is a measured flow of White Claw moving through the system rather than the limitless supply we’re used to for the nation’s largest brands.
Being “on allocation” is common in the craft beer and whiskey worlds, where volumes are smaller and the most popular brands can’t keep up with demand. (Hence people standing in line for craft beer releases, but not for, say, Miller Lite.)
It is truly phenomenal to see White Claw become a top 20 brand in the U.S. beer industry — which is how flavored malt beverages are typically tracked — while still experiencing shortages enjoyed by the boutique craft beer and whiskey brands. Yet here we are.
Sales of those White Claw variety packs are up a staggering 271% year to date according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. And just think: the White Claw brand only recently turned 3 years old.
“We are working around the clock to increase supply given the rapid growth in consumer demand,” Sanjiv Gajiwala, White Claw’s senior vice president of marketing, told CNN Business. “White Claw has accelerated faster than anyone could have predicted.”
So do you need to run out and stock up on some White Claw, like the next hurricane is on the way? Not quite — and that’s the point of allocations: to keep a steady incoming flow, even if there’s sometimes less than what the market wants.
While retailers may occasionally run out of White Claw variety packs — as is the case at some Binny’s locations, according to a representative of the Chicagoland chain — more is always arriving in the market.
Binny’s is supplied by a variety of distributors across its 40-store footprint, which means some stores will be more likely to be out of White Claw than others depending on how well-stocked a particular distributor is.
“This stuff is flying, but it hasn’t hit Popeyes status,” Roger Adamson, Binny’s beer marketing manager, said in an email. “We still have plenty of White Claw six packs and (White Claw manufacturer) Mark Anthony Brands assures us distributors will be receiving more variety packs in the next two weeks.”
In a follow up statement, Phil Rosse, president of Mark Anthony Brands, said that the company aims to get the brand off allocation “heading into 2020 so that we can get every consumer White Claw when they want it.”
“We’ve had distributors on allocation since last September to keep all markets in stock as best we can,” Rosse said in the statement. “We expect to continue to do so until we get back to a normalized safety stock position. While not completely eliminating intermittent stock outs we believe this strategy has helped us be in the best position possible on shelf. But with the tremendous response we have had from consumers, understandably, our supply chain has tightened.”
In the meantime, should your favorite store be out of White Claw, well, there’s always Truly.