If you’ve enjoyed the quality of an Albertsons Companies private brand alcoholic beverage recently, it’s probably thanks to the dynamic duo that’s driving the private brand wine and spirits team: Maryrose Rinella and Jose Rodriguez. They are the experts behind the more than 50 brands and 140 SKUs (and growing) that make up the range.

Part of their secret to success is innovation. They spend a lot of time analyzing shopper and industry data to discover what is driving growth, what is resonating with consumers, and what’s next in emerging trends. This helps them find opportunity gaps in the private brand product range and identify what new items to launch next.

“I spend a lot of time innovating and finding new opportunities for our portfolio,” Jose said. “At any given time, I can have more than 20 new item projects that I’m working on that could really add value to the consumer and our stores.”

Recently, they’ve identified three major industry trends that are driving their innovation: health and wellness, convenience, and premiumization.

First, health and wellness. Think beer, wine, and spirits with lower alcohol, lower calories, and low or no sugar.

“Shoppers are gravitating towards lower alcohol, ‘better for you’ offerings, as they focus more on their own health and wellness,” Maryrose said. “In fact, last year one in five U.S. consumers participated in ‘Dry January.’”

Albertsons stores currently offer Viola Rosa, a semi-sweet, low alcohol wine brand, as well as USDA-certified organic wines launched under the O Organics brand.

“As we see more Gen Z growth in alcohol sales, we expect to see even more growth in ‘better for you’ products,” Jose said.

Second, convenience is key.

“Cans are becoming more popular across all beverage alcohol segments, from hard seltzers in slim cans to canned wine to ready-to-drink cocktails,” Maryrose said.

“One of our biggest growth innovation items for the last year has been our barrel-fermented Creamery Chardonnay,” Jose said. “Due to the item’s success, we recently launched the wine in a 375ml canned wine format to extend use occasions and received a gold medal at the International Canned Wine Competition. We were one of only 10 Chardonnays/Sauvignon Blancs combined to be recognized.”

Albertsons offers a canned wine format (Outspoken, a top ten premium canned wine in the US, and a top-five seller in Albertsons Companies stores) and a box wine format (Box Wize).

“As a third trend, premiumization continues to play a key role in the industry,” Jose said. “Consumers are trading up. They want quality over quantity. Our Signature Reserve line, which we launched about a year ago, is a top-shelf premium brand. We just received some really amazing scores on the wine and spirit items that really highlight the quality behind each item being introduced under the brand.”

The team also launched an exclusive wine Advent calendar for the first time this year and is excited about the exceptional quality of the wines that are included.

“We’ve sourced these wines from very specific regions such as California’s Paso Robles, Washington’s Columbia Valley, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley,” Jose said. “These are really premium wines with a unique sense of place.”

You can find out more about the flavors, region information, and pairing notes of each wine in the Advent calendar at 24daysofwine.com and read about how this unique offering came to be in our take on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Check out Maryrose and Jose’s top drink picks that will provide you with the quality of the top national brands without breaking the bank:

Signature Reserve Brut 
It’s 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir and crafted in the méthode traditionnelle that’s used in the Champagne region of France. Following bottle fermentation, the wine was aged in the same bottle on the yeast lees for nineteen months, gradually developing the classic creamy texture and brioche-like character. It’s very fruit-forward with flavors of juicy pear and stone fruit and bright acidity that elevates any occasion!

Signature Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Rated 92 points by Tasting Panel, this award-winning wine is aged for 19 months in French oak and has generous notes of dark fruit, cassis, and cigar box with a lush, complex palate.

Signature Reserve Tennessee Whiskey
Voted Tennessee Whiskey of the Year in the 2020 New York International Spirits Competition (96 points), this 4-year-old Tennessee Straight Whiskey has prominent notes of hazelnut and vanilla bean which are balanced by mellow oak. Exceptionally smooth finish!

Recent Ratings and Awards:

Tasting Panel Magazine July/August 2020
2016 Signature Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 92 points
2018 Signature Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir – 91 points
2017 Signature Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 90 points

Wine Enthusiast 
Round Rock Vodka – 90 Points (Best Buy)

Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition
2018 Signature Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir – Gold 92 points
2016 Signature Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Gold 91 points
Signature Reserve Tennessee Straight Whiskey – Gold 92 points
Signature Reserve Vodka Ultra-Premium – Gold 91 points
Signature Reserve Canadian Whisky – Silver

San Diego International Wine and Spirits Competition
Signature Reserve Tennessee Straight Whiskey – Gold 93 points
Signature Reserve Canadian Whisky – Gold 93 points
Signature Reserve Vodka Ultra-Premium – Gold 90 points
2016 Signature Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver2017
Signature Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay – Silver

New York International Spirits Competition 
Signature Reserve Tennessee Straight Whiskey – Double Gold 96 points (Tennessee Whiskey of the Year)Signature Reserve Canadian Whisky – Silver 92 points

Store Brands Editors’ Pick 202
Exponential Cabernet Sauvignon – Gold
Brick & Vine Cabernet Sauvignon – Gold
Round Rock Vodka – Silver
Signature Reserve Tennessee Straight Whiskey – Bronze

2020 International Canned Wine Competition
Creamery Chardonnay – Gold

PLMA 2020 International Salute to Excellence Awards
O Organics California Chardonnay 2019 – Best Quality in the Organic Wines category