By: Calvin Obbaatt
Whether a regular or occasional booze consumer, you have probably come across the term hard seltzer at your favorite liquor store display, social media ads, or other forms of digital commercials. Maybe you missed it at your local liquor store or haven’t come across any advertisement of the same but happened to see a can or two labeled White claw, Truly, Usual, etc., that is the hard seltzer. Below is all you need to know about hard seltzer.
What is it?
Hard seltzer is carbonated water mixed with alcohol and fruit flavors or fermented fruit that is still gaining rapid adoption. It is also known as spiked soda, hard sparkling water, spiked seltzer, or alcoholic seltzer. The drink typically contains around 5% alcohol content by volume, but some brands go as high as 12%.
Despite hard seltzer being mostly made using fermented fruits or flavors and alcohol, can sugar is also used in the US as an alternative. The first widely available commercial example of the style was ‘Two Dogs,’ brewed in Australia in 1993 and widely considered the world’s first modern brewed alcoholic lemonade. Black cherry, cranberry, hibiscus, lemon-lime, blood orange, guava, kiwi, mango, peach, passion fruit, pineapple, grapefruit, raspberry, and other citrus, berry, and tropical fruit flavors are some of the most popular.
Why is it gaining in popularity?
From the accumulated market stats, it is evident that hard seltzer is one of the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage categories globally. From 2016 to 2021, its industrial growth in the US is projected to average 128% per year (estimates made before COVID struck).
In 2020, the size of this industry was worth 1.8 billion dollars and was projected to grow by 35% in 2021. From June 2019 to June 2020, its sales reached 2.7 billion dollars, accounting for more than 10% of non-liquor alcohol sales. Although it has been around for centuries, millennial consumers demand healthier, lower-calorie; gluten-free alcoholic beverages have helped spearhead the segment’s growth. Only 4% of US households purchased hard seltzer in the year before 2019, and it was almost unknown internationally. The rapid growth rate allows new entrants with significant finances or great marketing to gain hard seltzer market share. The spirited fight is particularly from large beer and spirits firms concerned about losing beer and spirits market share. In 2016 Anheuser-Busch, an American brewing company headquartered in Saint Louis, Missouri, purchased Boathouse Beverages hard seltzer brand. Anheuser-Busch then renamed the Spiked Seltzer to Bon and Viv spiked seltzer. After renaming the brand, they used the Super bowl to advertise the new brand, quickly gaining the hard seltzer market share.
The stats are good enough to attract investors into the seltzer market, but what is really in for individuals since the actual consumers are the bare facts behind the stats? When you consider all of the nutritive qualities it provides, such as low calories and carbs, lower alcohol content, gluten-free additives, and low sugar content, hard seltzer appears to be an appealing option. However, an individual may need to dig deeper to determine whether they consume legitimate brands that provide the stated benefits. The reason for exploring the brands is that unscrupulous players in the industry may mislead consumers with wrong information on the contents of their products, hence endangering consumer health.
Reduced alcohol consumption also equals fewer calories. The majority of hard seltzers come in 12-ounce canisters and have about 100 calories. The quantity of sugar in hard seltzer varies by brand. However, the most common hard seltzer brands generally advertise their low sugar level, usually less than 3 grams per serve.
Earlier this year, in March, the same hard seltzer brand boosted its Cacti Agave spiked seltzer new arrival alongside influential rapper Travis Scott which saw furious demand. When a Grammy’s ad spot dropped the line of a Merch to promote Scott’s endorsement featuring American comedian, Eric Andre; DRINKCACTI’S website claimed to have sold out its inventory in 12 hours before even the airing debuted.
More Brands on the Market
The brand seltzer market has expanded, allowing several major brands into action. This includes Beer brands such as; Michelob Ultra Bud Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Jose Cuervo Smirnoff spirit manufacturers.
Forbes on 18th March reported the launching of Topo Chico, a boozy version of Coca-Cola’s sparkling mineral water. The company taped Molson Coors Beverage Corporation as its official manufacturing, marketing, and distribution partner in September 2019. The senior marketing director, Matt Escalante, defined the beverage as a modern take on refreshment that brings a whole new character to a red-hot’s.
How is Hard Seltzer Made?
For hard seltzer typically comes from straight-up fermented cane sugar. It could also come from malted barley, although technically, that would make it a flavored malt beverage like Smirnoff Ice. Like with every alcoholic beverage, the fermentation process, including your favorite bottle of champagne, is the secret to its boozy character. Yeast breaks down sugars present resulting in the formation of alcohol. The sugars in making whiskey, for instance, originate from wheat harvested to be used in brewing. Hard seltzer is made from fermented cane sugar in its purest form. Hard seltzer can also be made from malted barley; however, it is a flavored malt beverage similar to Smirnoff Ice.
What Countries are Making Hard Seltzer?
Hard seltzer has gained impeccable success in the US and Canada. The drink is also being adopted in other primarily English-speaking countries, majorly in Europe, gaining massive popularity. Heineken is among the most recent firms to venture into the European market with the Pure Pirana hard seltzer, a brand under Heineken. Pure Pirana launched successfully in New Zealand and Mexico. The successful launch made it possible for Heineken to be optimistic about a breakthrough in Europe. It’s anticipated that the drink will make it to broader markets in the UK and Scandinavia in 2022.
Despite tariff challenges, hard seltzers are making their way into Africa, with some brands being found locally to overcome the tariff challenges and international brands making their way to African markets. South Africa is an excellent example as the hard seltzer culture is on the rise in the country.
Best-selling Hard Seltzer Brands From Around the World
White Claw: If you plan on giving hard seltzers a shot, then White claw is among the best brands to try. Consistently owns more than half the market though struggles to keep up with demand. A study by T4 shows it had a 58% US hard seltzer market share in 2019.
Truly Hard Seltzer: Truly hard seltzer holds 26% US hard seltzer market share. The brand was launched in 2016 by Mark Anthony Brands, the same company in ownership of Mike’s hard lemonade brand. Its popularity increased so much that in 2019, Mark Anthony brands had to limit distributor allocations due to a nationwide shortage. Despite this, its market share grew in 2019.
Truly Extra: If you are not a fan of low alcohol content servings, Truly elevated the game for you already. Truly hard seltzer introduced Truly extra, a higher alcohol content hard seltzer launched in 2016 under the brand name Truly Spiked and Sparkling, owned by Boston Beer Company, the owner of Sam Adams. Its market share has decreased since its initial. However, its sales are rapidly increasing due to the fast-growing hard seltzer market.
Truly and white claw still dominate the market as go-to hard seltzer, but newer brands are slowly but surely climbing the ladder. However, the market is more crowded now than it was in 2019. Together, White Claw and Truly control roughly 75% of the market. The mentioned stats were phrased to the insider by Greg Doonan, an IQ analyst at Nielsen Holdings (American information, data, and market measurement firm).
Bud Light Seltzer: If you will stock hard seltzer, then Bud Light Seltzer is your ‘money-making machine’ as the brand is among the fastest-growing seltzers. Anheuser-Bush launched Bud Light Seltzer in January 2020 with a $100 million investment. It became the third biggest brand with a 9% US market share by summer 2020. The same rating is on the Instacart list.
A couple of brands are new but booming;
CACTI: made with blue agave from Mexico produced by Travis Scott and Anheuser-Busch.
VIZZY: mentioned by Nielsen analyst Danelle Kosmal as one to keep an eye on, produced by Coors.
Bon and Viv: This brand was launched in 2013 as spiked seltzer by Nick Shield Boathouse Beverage. After being sold, the brand was rebranded to its current name in 2016 by its new owners, Anheuser-Busch. The short-term effects of Corona on it is extraordinary market growth will most probably be high. The hard seltzer market shortage is because most popular in the summer and shelter-in-place restrictions may significantly restrict access to sales channels. The long-term impact beyond the pandemic itself will likely be low as alcoholic beverages are resilient to recession shocks.