Sean Hickox, the former category manager for beer and wine at Circle K’s South Atlantic division, is looking forward to watching the boom of hard seltzer in 2021.

What’s got your excited about the alcohol category?
The surge in hard seltzers and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages. It reminds me a lot of what the energy category has done in the past. … [Hard seltzers] is a new segment, a lot changes. It seems much more volatile than it ever has been. Beer used to be very steady and consistent and now there are new trends left and right, and I think it’s the new consumers that are coming up. The millennials and the younger generations are not very brand loyal, whereas their parents and their grandparents stuck to the same brands. I think [younger generations] like to try new experiences, different flavors, and they don’t mind spending money on it, even if they don’t like it.

What do you love about your category?
I love seeing how the category is changing so fast. Trying to stay ahead of the consumer and what they are wanting makes it fun.

How did the pandemic change your category?
It shifted people’s lifestyle to more of a stay home and hangout deal vs. going out to on-premise accounts. We saw singles shrink, but for our large packs, people were pantry stocking, so we actually saw a huge uptick in sales. … We also brought in larger packages in wine. We brought in the 3-liter wine and box wine. People were uncertain about going out, but they still wanted their alcohol.

What trends are you watching?
I keep an eye on the seltzers and the wine/RTD (ready-to-drink). Those areas there are my fastest growing, and we are just breaking into this. We have a long runway when it comes to this.

What products performed well in the past year?
BuzzBallz were a huge success for us in our stores. Corona, Michelob Ultra and seltzers have also really gained momentum in the last year.

What are your goals for 2021?
To expand the wine category. Create a ready-to-drink section, as well, and tap into that customer base.

What are the biggest challenges?
Finding room in the stores to implement new programs and new items.

How do you try to make more space?
By looking at other categories and reducing space based off sales. Wine is a good example of that. We have big grocery sets, so if we can condense the grocery sets to basically space by sales and then grow the wine category, then you are going to see an upside there.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
Watching the boom of seltzers as everyone is coming out with their own.