For­get sweets: Ad­vent cal­en­dars go for booze, cheese

Shanghai Daily - - SPORTS - Joseph Pisani

Ad­vent cal­en­dars are hit­ting the bot­tle. The card­board cal­en­dars, typ­i­cally filled with choco­lates, are now be­ing stuffed with cans of beer and bot­tles of wine. Oth­ers have chunks of cheese be­hind each door. They’re meant to ap­peal to nos­tal­gic adults who want to count the days till Christ­mas with some­thing other than sweets. They’re sold for a lim­ited time, get ma­jor so­cial me­dia buzz and tend to sell out quickly.

Many are avail­able in the United States for the first time this year af­ter gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity dur­ing the past few hol­i­day sea­sons in Europe. Ger­man gro­cer Aldi, for in­stance, said it brought its wine ad­vent cal­en­dar to its US stores af­ter sell­ing it in the United King­dom last year. It also in­tro­duced a new cheese one.

Dara Collins waited out­side an Aldi store be­fore 9 am in early Novem­ber to buy the ad­vent cal­en­dars af­ter she saw them on Twit­ter. One had 24 mini bot­tles of prosecco and pinot gri­gio for US$69.99. The cheese one, which cost US$12.99, had rec­tan­gu­lar-shaped ched­dar and havarti. Collins didn’t wait to open them: She drank a bot­tle of bub­bly wine and ate a piece of cheese weeks be­fore De­cem­ber 1. “I’m Jew­ish,” said Collins, a for­mer at­tor­ney in Hol­ly­wood, Florida, who is now a stay-at-home mom. “I just thought it was a re­ally cute gift for my­self.”

Adult ad­vent cal­en­dars fit into an on­go­ing trend: Peo­ple who want prod­ucts and ex­pe­ri­ences that “let them em­brace their in­ner child,” said Caleb Bryant, a se­nior bev­er­age an­a­lyst at trend-track­ing firm Min­tel. “Kids don’t need to have all the fun with ad­vent cal­en­dars,” he said. Ian Hamil­ton, a ra­dio pro­ducer in Manch­ester, Eng­land, bought a cheese ad­vent cal­en­dar last year and tweeted that it was “prob­a­bly the best day of my life.”

“Choco­late was get­ting a lit­tle bit bor­ing,” Hamil­ton said. One sour note: Un­like the choco­late ones, the cheese ad­vent cal­en­dar needs to be chilled, so he had to pull it out of the fridge each time to show it off to guests. He still bought an­other one this year: “I def­i­nitely don’t want to miss out.”

The in­ven­tor of the cheese ad­vent cal­en­dar is An­nem Hob­son, who cred­its her­self with cre­at­ing it back in 2015 when she de­con­structed a Cad­bury one and re­placed the choco­lates with Gouda and Ger­man smoked cheese. “I’ve al­ways been a fan of sa­vory things,” said Hob­son, who lives in Lon­don.

The in­struc­tions she posted on her blog, SoWrongIt­sNom. com, went vi­ral and the at­ten­tion was enough to con­vince cheese­maker Norse­land to make the cal­en­dars in 2017 for British gro­cer Asda. This year they’re in more stores and coun­tries, in­clud­ing the US, where they’re sold in the spe­cialty cheese sec­tion of nearly 250 Tar­get stores. An­other com­pany, Kalea, makes a nearly 60-cen­time­ter-tall cal­en­dar with 24 cans of Ger­man beer that is sold at Costco and other re­tail­ers.

Kalea, based in Salzburg, Aus­tria, said it shipped 50,000 beer cal­en­dars to the US this year. Next year, it ex­pects to send dou­ble that. “It took off,” said CEO Peter Reimann, who has been sell­ing sim­i­lar cal­en­dars in Europe for a decade., an on­line al­co­hol seller in St Peters­burg, Florida, of­fered beer cal­en­dars last year as an al­ter­na­tive to gift bas­kets. All 500 sold out quickly, said Kym Toner, the com­pany’s co-founder. So this year, in­tro­duced a wine one. Both have 12 glass bot­tles in­stead of 24, be­cause any more would be too ex­pen­sive to ship, Toner said. She ex­pected to sell 1,000 of them each, but so many or­ders came in at the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber that Toner now ex­pects to sell more than 2,000 each.

“Things have gone crazy,” said Toner. “You would not be­lieve the de­mand for boozy ad­vent cal­en­dars.”

Aldi’s Wine Ad­vent Cal­en­dar is dis­played in New York. — IC

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