The grocer says innovative beer styles, low-cal options, sake, and Oregon Pinots have all arrived.

By Mike Pomranz
June 24, 2019

Whole Foods finds itself in an interesting position in the grocery world. The entire brand is predicated on being forward-thinking and innovative. But at the same time, it’s one of America’s largest grocery chains and is now owned by one of the world’s largest companies. As a result, Whole Foods itself is kind of a tipping point: Once a trend has infiltrated Whole Foods, it’s positioned for mainstream prominence.

To wit, the primary buyers for Whole Foods beer, wine, and spirits selection — Master Sommelier Devon Broglie and Doug Bell — have recently identified their “buzziest beverage trends” for this summer. If you follow the alcohol scene closely, all of these cats are already out of their respective bags (some for longer than others), but even if you might consider Oregon Pinots old hat, this Whole Foods list is an interesting reminder of where the edge is cut between the emerging and the established.

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In the beer world, Whole Foods singles out “innovative IPAs” as 2019’s brewing phenomenon: specifically, milkshake IPAs and brut IPAs. Though I sang the praises of Brut IPAs last summer, the style was less than a year old at the time and has certainly matured since. Similarly, the term “milkshake IPA” has been around for years — originally used derisively — but the unusual addition of lactose and flavorings in an IPA has come a long way, and these dessert-like beers have been crossover-ready since day one.

For wine, Whole Foods chooses “Oregon Pinot Noir,” and though any dedicated Food & Wine reader is certainly aware that Oregon has been offering world-class Pinots for quite some time, Whole Foods is prepared with cold, hard stats. “In 2018, Oregon wine grew 16 percent, compared to the total wine category growth of less than 3 percent,” the market writes. That’s a trend in the most mathematical of ways.

A third trend from Whole Foods is “sake.” Again, here, Whole Foods says you don’t have to take their word for it. “[Sake] continues to steadily grow throughout the US, with consumption reaching all-time highs in recent years,” the brand writes. “The growing popularity of ramen, yakitori, soba, udon and izakaya restaurants have given more consumers the opportunity to experiment with the popular Japanese beverage.”

Finally, Whole Foods also highlights “the intersection of beer & wine and fitness.” “Two years ago, shoppers would be hard pressed to find their favorite bottle of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay or rosé in a lower-calorie option,” the grocer explains. “Now, brands like FitVine (less than a gram of sugar per glass) and Cense (85 calories per 5fl/oz) are taking the industry by storm by offering wines catering to consumers trying to live healthy and active lifestyles.” Whole Foods says the same thing is happening in the beer world, and, indeed, I highlighted 2019 as “The Summer Light Beer Got Good” back in May. Clearly, they know what they’re talking about on this one.

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