Thank Don Draper: The suave fictional character from Mad Men deserves credit for helping to fuel the current cocktail craze, which is boosting sales of barware and glassware across the country. Consumers are buying more specialized glassware than they have in decades. Learn to understand the finer points of barware and stemware to ensure you have the right selection for your store. Here are some starting points when you're shopping AmericasMart:
Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm with too many choices, particularly wine glasses. Most customers will only need a red wine glass and a white wine glass, and perhaps a champagne flute.
Partner with reps or manufacturers for employee education. Your staff should be knowledgeable about everything from the composition and manufacturing processes of the products, to the various shapes of glasses and stems.
Brush up on your beer knowledge. The craft beer movement shows no signs of slowing down, and you can increase your customer base – especially of men –by carrying an assortment of craft beer glasses. If you have a beer shop or a growler shop in your area, consider co-marketing with them to promote both of your businesses.
Offer brochures or other flyers that have facts, information and care instructions about the different materials used for your glassware, whether it’s glass, crystal, lead-free crystal, or acrylic/co-polyester.
Partner with a local restaurant or bar for a cocktail seminar. The mixologist or bartender can teach your customers how to make a cocktail, and you can promote glassware, serving pieces, and other entertaining items.
“It seems everyone’s doing a spin on classic cocktails,” says Price Ketchiff, vice president of retail sales for the U.S. and Canada for Crystal of America. “The push from Mad Men has helped revive the speakeasy, and we’re seeing a lot of craft cocktails in the restaurant and bar scene. People are paying attention to that and replicating it at home.” Crystal of America is the parent company for Riedel, Spiegelau and Nachman.
Some of the most popular glassware shapes include double old fashioneds and highballs, as well as a revival of the coupe shape: a curvier version of a martini glass or champagne saucer.
"When you’re out at a restaurant or a bar, you see a lot more cocktail menus than ever before,” agrees Lara Aldrich, vice president for the consumer products division of Fortessa, parent company for Schott Zwiesel and D&V. Like Ketchiff, Aldrich sees the coup champagne glass as being a strong seller, and also sees growth in whisky glasses of all types, whether for neat pours, double old fashioneds or whisky based cocktails.
And speaking of Mad Men, Waterford scored the trendy show’s license for a barware line. The Mad Men collection helped Waterford expand the already hot barware business with designs inspired by the 1960s, says Rick Fencel, vice president of sales for independent accounts.
In terms of wine glasses, casualization just keeps going to a new level every year, translating into the growing popularity of stemless wine glasses. The other trend is in softer and curvier shapes, and more attention to detail.
Along with cocktails, the craft beer movement is also gaining momentum, and with it, beer glasses that are specially shaped to complement different beer varieties. Spiegelau has several different beer glass shapes, including a recently introduced IPA glass, as well as glasses for stout, pilsner, lager, Belgian ale and hefeweissen (wheat beer). As with wine glasses, “The shape of the [beer] glass plays a role in the transfer of taste and aroma to your palate,” says Ketchiff. Rather than working with designers, Spiegelau develops glass shapes with sensory workshops; in the case of its IPA glass, the company held a workshop with Dogfish Head Brewery.
The Latest about Lead
More and more manufacturers are making lead-free crystal and glass, on the heels of California’s Prop 65, which requires retailers in that state to post warnings to consumers about products with lead content. While manufacturers say that the lead content in crystal was never enough to endanger consumers, the legislation has encouraged them to find other ways to give strength and clarity to their glass formulations.
All crystal glassware has a metal component, so manufacturers seek alternatives that can lend similar properties. For M. Block, this means a new material called Kwarx, which has the clarity and look of lead crystal, but twice the strength of regular glass, and the durability to be washed in commercial dishwashers without clouding over time. Kwarx is used to make stemware including red wine balloons and tulips for white wines, says Don Brown, the recently retired vice president of the Block House division.
And Schott Zwiesel crystal is made of Triton Crystal, which contains titanium oxide in place of lead, for added strength and brilliance. Other manufacturers, similarly, have their own proprietary crystal formulations to take advantage of various minerals and ingredients that will give crystal the look, durability, and enduring clarity of lead crystal.
One word: Plastics
Casualization as another strong trend in barware – mason jars affixed to wine stems, for example – and with that comes acrylic, which is a strong seller for outdoor entertaining, poolside or picnics. LeadingWare Group offers a plastic material created by the Eastman company; Tritan Co-polyester. It is touted as being 90 percent as clear as crystal, unbreakable, dishwasher safe, and BPA-free. This material is being used to make elegant, high-end stemware and barware shapes that have the advantage of being virtually indestructible. It’s reusable (but also recyclable), which makes it a greener option than disposable plastic drinkware that’s often used at outdoor parties.
To educate consumers about this option, Judy Ko, CEO of Leadingware Group, encourages retailers to arrange for wine tastings so consumers can get used to sipping from this type of drinking vessel, and to realize that they are a far cry from cheap disposable stemware. “They can understand that these are ‘real’ wine glasses,” and that drinking from them doesn’t negatively affect the experience of enjoying a glass of wine.
For more information: Fortessa Tableware Solutions - 800.296.7508, fortessa.com; M. Block/Block House – 800.621.8845, mblock.com; Leadingware – 714.965.1616, leadingware.us; Crystal of America – 888.4RIEDEL, riedelusa.net; Lenox – 800.223.4311, lenox.com; Waterford – 877.720.3485, waterford.com.