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Single-Serves Drive Sales as Shoppers Demand Convenience and Flavor  

By: Kate Bernot 

Convenience stores have long been strongholds for beer, and that’s expected to continue. In 2023, convenience stores were the channel that showed the strongest growth for the beer category, according to Circana. But the variety of beer sold in these stores is changing.

Shoppers demand more variety and more premium products, and convenience stores are delivering with more dynamic assortments than ever before. To meet their needs and preferences, shoppers are increasingly reaching for single-serve cans across many subcategories of beer. 

Today, the c-store beer cooler is in flux – domestic beer staples mingle with imported brands, craft IPAs, FMBs, and even premixed cocktails – and premium, flavored products are showing strong growth. It bucks the historic notion that shoppers in the c-store channel wouldn’t be attracted to more expensive products. The “fourth category” set of beverages (which includes RTDs like hard seltzers, FMBs, wine coolers, and canned cocktails) that’s grown fast in c-stores in recent years has done so despite the fact that these products are priced about 28% higher per equivalize case than all other beverage alcohol. 

Amid so much change, there is a clear king when it comes to packaging: the 19.2 or 24-ounce single-serve can. Using National Retail Solutions’ (NRS) point-ofsale systems, in independent convenience stores that carry single-serve cans, singles have grown from 44% of the SKUs to 48% between January 2021 and January 2024. Across all NRS stores, singles – the majority of which are 22-25 ounce cans – now represent more than a third of total beer dollar sales and more than two-thirds of total beer volume.  

Designed for portability and a single occasion, these cans meet what c-store shoppers demand: instant gratification. A National Association of Convenience Stores survey found 83% of items purchased at a c-store are consumed within an hour. With high ABV beers increasing their share of singleserve dollars, it’s clear that shoppers want bang for their buck, and they want it right away.  

“The single-serve consumer’s number one priority is convenience. They want to grab their favorite drink and keep on moving,” says Jenny Odom, Vice President of National Accounts, Convenience, for Constellation Brands. Constellation’s portfolio of Mexican imports, including Modelo, Pacifico, and Corona, are consistently leaders in the c-store, single-serve space. “Single-serve cans are a key driver in the success of the beer division’s portfolio.”  

Sampling Opportunity  

The rise in dollar sales of beer in c-stores is partially attributable to more premium offerings since pre-pandemic years. But it’s also thanks to single-serve cans, which boast a higher price tag per ounce than larger packaging sizes while still delivering value for the shopper. Between fiscal years 2019 and 2023, retail sales of alcohol in convenience stores have increased 22% while volumes increased just 1%, according to NielsenIQ data analyzed by 3 Tier Beverages.  

This is the magic of single-serve cans: They deliver more dollars per ounce for the retailer, but consumers still view them as affordable indulgences and an inexpensive way to test a new brand or flavor. The opportunity for trial is why, when Allagash Brewing launched 19.2 oz cans of its flagship Allagash White witbier in 2022, the brewery was careful to price them competitively with existing craft beer brands.  

“We knew the c-store shopper wasn’t only looking for convenience, but also value. So getting White priced with the rest of the category gives us that ability to create sampling opportunities,” says Allagash Director of Sales Josh Fruchtman. He says that in addition to the on-premise, convenience has emerged as a key channel for introducing new drinkers to Allagash. The fact that Allagash White is typically one of the only Belgian-style witbiers with flavors of citrus and coriander in a c-store cooler makes it appealing to shoppers looking for new flavor experiences.  

“Consumers are really looking for flavor and variety now more than ever, and I think that’s especially true in the convenience channel,” Fruchtman says.  

This has also proven true for Constellation Brands, where the Modelo Chelada family in particular has been a recent star. The single-serve package allows shoppers to take a chance on a new flavor, such as Naranja Picosa or Limón y Sal, at an affordable price point.  

“As we have introduced new flavor profiles within this lineup, the single-serve package supports new trial opportunities and is a great entry point to become a brand fan,” Odom says. 

From Trial to Trust  

While single-serves are a low-risk package for shoppers looking to try a new beverage, they can quickly become part of c-store shoppers’ daily routines. The “afterwork beer” is an occasion where shoppers frequently turn to c-stores. Brands that create loyal fans in the convenience channel have the opportunity to become part of their routine multiple times per week.  

Notably, NRS data shows that singles aren’t always purchased as singles. In a 15-day period ending in mid-February, 45% of single-serve transactions actually included two or more cans. NRS Vice President of Data Sales and Client Success Brandon Thurber attributes this to 2-for-$5 and 2-for-$6 deals typically offered for certain brands. With nearly half of shoppers in those stores purchasing more than one single serve can at a time, these are repeat customers whose two-can purchases can represent significant sales for brands. At a time when beer shoppers have more options than ever, locking in these loyal fans is critical to building sales and brand affinity.  

“Many of our brands have single-serve can formats and we see consumers reaching for them over and over, so this option continues to grow for us,” Odom says. “Single-serve cans continue to play a major role in the Constellation Brands Beer portfolio growth story.”  

Shoppers have always wanted to find their favorite beers as singles in convenience stores; new packages are just meeting that need. Prior to launching 19.2 oz. cans of White, Allagash had seen some independent c-stores break up 16 oz. can packages into singles. The desire for a single-serve had always existed, but more brands have lately catered directly to that with their packaging.  

“Retail partners are very excited to get Allagash into a format that’s more familiar to their consumer,” Fruchtman says. “We’ve learned that people love Allagash White and if we’re not meeting them in the place they want to consume Allagash White, it’s a completely missed opportunity. Going into 19.2s really highlighted what was a complete blind spot previously.”  

Convenience stores are the prime example of meeting consumers where they are. But it’s not only about selling beer there, it’s about putting the right brands in the right packages at the right price to drive trial – and long-term loyalty.  

About the Author: You may know her as the director of the North American Guild of Beer Writers, but Kate Bernot wears many hats. The work of this celebrated journalist and BJCP Certified Beer Judge routinely appears in The New York Times, Washington Post and the online publication Good Beer Hunting – to name a few. Ms. Bernot resides in Missoula, Montana where she enjoys the great outdoors and a good pint of beer made by the area’s skilled local brewers. 

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