Beverage Trends: Alcohol Delivery Startups and the Impending War

 

In the Beverage Trends series, I offer observations about developments in the alcoholic beverage industry nationally and in Florida. This installation is related to the proliferation of alcohol delivery services, and the continuation of the trend in Florida.

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There has been proliferation of startups seeking to capitalize on the on-demand lifestyle that consumers have become accustomed to, and the alcoholic beverage industry presents several opportunities. More and more companies are vying to be “the Uber of alcohol,” and Florida will be a key battleground. It makes sense that the state is a prime target – we are ranked third in population, second in tourism, and second in consumption of wine and spirits.

Investors have been quite intrigued by the opportunity – in fact, the single largest round of funding ($61 million!) for an alcohol-related company last year went to China-based Liquor Easy. Other companies such as Drizly, Thirstie, Minibar Delivery, Drink Fly, and Swill have begun to offer the service in select markets. The CEO of Saucey, which has also raised 8 figures, has already announced that the Sunshine State is in his sights.

The elephant in the room, of course, will be the existing food delivery services, ride-sharing firms, and large online retailers that already have the infrastructure and customer base in place to launch a statewide network. Amazon is already doing some tied-house evil housekeeping following its acquisition of Whole Foods, and it seems likely that they will leverage their retail footprint and logistical expertise to become a player in this space. 

This is all in addition to the Florida companies that are firmly planting their flag on their home turf. The home-grown startup Klink was purchased by delivery.com earlier this year in what was surely a lucrative deal. Florida's largest wine and spirits retailer has strategically partnered with Alabama-based Shipt to offer quick delivery services in several metro areas. One startup, Blaze 24x7 in Tallahassee, has even found a niche by offering late-night munchies and tobacco products for people that need such products for whatever reason. That strikes me as a solid marketing strategy and business plan, and at least one major investor agrees.

It will also be interesting to watch the Florida Legislature as it continues to debate a variety of alcohol-related issues. Alcohol delivery was cited as a potential evil in an unrelated debate on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives earlier this year, though no legislation to ban it has been proposed. I will be monitoring the situation, and providing updates here and on social media.

The battlefield is shaping up.


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