Tonic water in a can? IMPOSSIBLE!
April 12, 2017 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Why isn't tonic water sold in cans?

Whenever I want to buy tonic water (for evening G&Ts, naturally), I generally have two options: I can buy a 1L plastic bottle for 89 cents, or I can buy a six-pack of 8oz glass bottles for $4. I usually shell out for the glass bottles, because a 1L bottle goes flat before I can drink it all. Why isn't tonic water commonly sold in cans? I hear reports of places you can buy it in cans, but I never see it at the stores I frequent.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero to Food & Drink (26 answers total)
I've seen it (and bought it) in cans at Whole Foods (house brand), Trader Joe's, and Safeway. This is all in California, but we can't be that weird.
posted by rtha at 10:01 AM on April 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

It is in some places at least. I had no trouble finding it in cans in Canada, but here in Seattle it's shelved next to the booze (in the stores I shop at, anyway). I can still only ever find it in 6 packs.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:02 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I regularly buy tonic water in cans when I go to Canada.
posted by bondcliff at 10:04 AM on April 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Absolutely it's in cans. Maybe ask as I've often found booze mixers in areas outside of conventional soda displays at the the supermarket.
posted by quince at 10:06 AM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Here in the UK it is generally sold in bottles or small cans, like this.
posted by vacapinta at 10:06 AM on April 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

You can get it in cans in Massachusetts. I think it's Polar that puts them in cans.
posted by sutel at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2017

Not only is it sold in cans at Trader Joe's, but they're little tiny cans that are perfect for making 1 large or two small G&Ts. Gamechanger.
posted by saladin at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2017 [10 favorites]

Happens in Colorado too. 12 packs of cans can be found! And it is absolutely the optimal way to package tonic water.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2017

I am drinking a G&T made with tonic from a can right now. (UK, Fever Tree tonic, sold in packs of 8 single-serve cans in basically any largish supermarket)
posted by parm at 10:36 AM on April 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I see generic branded canned tonic water all the time. There's a 12 pack of peapod brand canned tonic water on peapod right now (just checked) for $4.

I think maybe it's more that the brand names and logo your brain pings you to recognize in the store, the ones most likely to be shelved at eye level, are not canned. The nondescript store brand boxes of canned tonic water just aren't as visible.
posted by phunniemee at 10:37 AM on April 12, 2017

FWIW, tonic water is not available in cans in my area. I can buy Canada Dry in 1L plastic or a six-pack of 10oz glass bottles. More rarely, I can find Schweppes in 1L plastic. One of the fancy health-food stores near me (we're not near a Whole Foods) has Q Drinks Tonic in a 4-pack of 8oz glass bottles. That's pretty much the extent of tonic water options available to me, and I have not found that any of our local stores carries a store-brand tonic water.
Here the grocery stores have full liquor departments so you have to check both the soda aisle and the liquor aisles to be certain, and I have done so.
posted by aabbbiee at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ok, alright, rub it in, Canada. I'm not crazy- none of the supermarkets I frequent in this area (NJ/NYC metro area) have tonic water in cans. There must be a reason, and it's surely not shelf space, because these places are huge.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:53 AM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Certainly sold in cans in Canada. I've got a case of it in the basement.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:54 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

If your grocery store carries Canada Dry products, look for this:
posted by haunted_pomegranate at 10:54 AM on April 12, 2017

I get Q Tonic delivered from Amazon. They also have Schweppes, Hansen's, and Seagram's in cans available for delivery, if you prefer those brands. I only see Fever Tree in bottles.

I see canned tonic regularly in physical stores in California.
posted by danny the boy at 11:04 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here in the Netherlands, it's certainly available.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:07 AM on April 12, 2017

I will jump in as another NYC resident to confirm that ThePinkSuperhero is right: I almost never see canned tonic in supermarkets in NY (occasionally I've seen canned Q tonic at fancier grocery stores, but even then bottled Q is way more common). Plenty of liter plastic and smaller bottles in glass and plastic of various brands, but almost never cans.

No clue why, but I just wanted to chime in that it wasn't just you. Maybe it's just a New York thing.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:52 AM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I live in Boston and shop at three grocery stores - Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and a Star Market - and they all have them.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:53 AM on April 12, 2017

It's quite a recent development here in the UK - I'm not sure it was possible to get tonic in cans ten years ago. There is now a far wider choice of good tonics, too (it used to be Schweppes or own brand or nothing). As to why, I am not sure, apart from vague handwaving about consumer choice, marketing and differentiation.
posted by altolinguistic at 12:25 PM on April 12, 2017

I live in Philly and bought a 6-pack of small cans at the Wegmans across the river (in South Jersey) without even realizing this was something they might not have! I do find the suburban grocery stores are much better stocked than the city stores, however, so perhaps it's just a shelf space issue coupled with cans of tonic not selling as well as 1 L bottles?
posted by DoubleLune at 12:31 PM on April 12, 2017

I'm in NYC and both the Whole Foods' (Williamsburg and Columbus Circle) I've gone to have Q Tonic, Zevia tonic, and house-brand tonic in cans. Schweppes makes a can but I only saw it once at the Food Bazaar in LIC.

I haven't seen the Trader Joe's/Hansens tonic in the chibi cans, but the liquor laws in NY are such that because they can't carry liquor, maybe they also gave up on mixers. My guess on what happened:

1) NY's liquor laws prevent Trader Joe's from carrying liquor in NY with the exception of wine and beer in some stores
2) They don't waste space on products that are usually add-ons to liquor sales (tonic water is literally only for liquor, there is no other use)
3) NJ has very complicated liquor laws, so they also don't carry liquor or liquor add-ons
4) If some stores could carry liquor and add-ons, they would have to create an entire new delivery chain for those stores in what is a relatively TJ's-dense area that probably uses the same ordering, warehouse, trucks, etc.

I also kind of wonder if the chibi cans are being phased out because liquor drinkers are more likely to want glass bottles or if marketing presumes tonic drinkers prefer glass bottles.

Also, the can shape is short and fat as opposed to the Q Tonic tall can or the standard can from Zevia or Whole Foods' own-brand, and the chibi tonics as well as the tall Q Tonic cans are different from the Coke minis, so maybe it's a manufacturing thing and we'll start seeing them again in the tall cans as marketing clues in to a niche.

And, final thought, NYC is Seltzer Land. I'm from California and I've never seen so much seltzer, in so much variety, at every grocery store, soda counter, or restaurant. It's beyond Crystal Geyser and La Croix, there are tons of local brands and unique flavors. So it's possible that the niche in NYC for tonic is being taken up by seltzer in grocery stores.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:33 PM on April 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here's my theory:

A key difference between a bottle and a can is that a bottle is resealable, and a can is not. Tonic water is used almost exclusively as a mixer (I've heard of people drinking it straight, but not many), and people generally want significantly less that 12 oz in a single drink. As a result, bottles of tonic water are much more popular, because they can be spread out over several drinks/days, unlike cans which will go flat if not used within a day or so. This doesn't apply to seltzer, because people do drink that on its own.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:54 PM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've definitely bought tonic in cans at a CostCo in Brooklyn before. I realize that a membership at CostCo, if you don't already have it, is a steep price just for tonic, but you could perhaps ask a friend with a membership to get some for you. Call first to make sure it's in stock.
posted by ananci at 5:51 PM on April 12, 2017

Trader Joe's in Westchester County (NY) definitely carries tonic water (with lime flavor) in cans. I've gotten it there two or three times. I'd be surprised if there was something nifty in the burbs that you can't get in the city, but maybe they don't carry it in the Manhattan stores. However, that's about the only place I've seen it in cans in the tri-state area.

I ordered the Q tonic water in cans from Amazon once and was pretty stoked about it, even though I prefer Fever Tree. But the tonic in all four cans was super-flat so I gave up on that idea. Maybe I should give them another try ...
posted by Mothlight at 10:10 PM on April 12, 2017

Ha! It's better in clear containers/bottles because then you can use your laser pointer to make it fluoresce! It's the quinine that does it, apparently.
posted by annsunny at 11:22 PM on April 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

In case any grocery/tonic water retailer is reading this thread, tonic water in cans (or actually DIET tonic water in cans! please and thank you) is generally unavailable in the midwest except in speciality grocery stores for too much money, and would be awesome! I would buy this! Regularly!
posted by likeatoaster at 6:05 PM on April 13, 2017

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