Why hard seltzers are set to be the next big thing

hard seltzer

While cans of beer, tins of pre-mixed spirits and cocktails, and fruity ciders are long time RTD summer staples, 2020 will categorically be the year of the hard seltzer.

Even with a global pandemic and subsequent social distancing hampering occasions, there will be no stopping these products which have been quietly growing their category domination plans over the last few years.

What is a hard seltzer?

Hard seltzers are essentially an alcoholic sparkling water, commonly enhanced with fruit flavours. On the face of it, it’s an odd marriage, but this exciting category is hitting the consumer sweet spot – here’s why.

Offering most appeal amongst Millennials and Gen Z, these ‘spiked’ sparkling waters deliver on convenience while offering an aspirational, healthier alternative to the competition. In fact, according to GlobalData*, nearly half (47%) of Millennials say they are always influenced by how products impact their health and wellbeing when shopping for alcoholic beverages.

It’s an alternative spin on the still growing ‘low and no’ category for wellness-driven consumers and demonstrates the potential breadth and versatility available in alcohol to forward-thinking brands able to tap into the trend for low sugar, low calorie options.

Pandemic proof

Before COVID-19 hit, these light and convenient alcoholic beverages were set to go down a storm at festivals, parties and in the travel sector. With these opportunities currently gone and replaced by small, informal socially distanced gatherings, will the loss of occasion hamper the category’s growth?

Certainly the explosion might be fractionally delayed, but hard seltzers offer so much more than summer event refreshment.

The category is already comfortably established in the US, boasting a retail value of US$3.4 billion. Momentum isn’t showing signs of letting up either, as the US’s hard seltzer market share jumped threefold from 0.8% in 2018 to 2.5% in 2019. This staggering sales uplift is being driven by a growing demand from both men and women looking for healthier alternatives. There is already demonstrable success in the category from brands using carefully considered ‘gender neutral’ branding, notably helping beer brands traditionally reaching a male audience cross the gender divide.

Potential barriers to market

With hard seltzers now making their debut on supermarket shelves in Europe, there are some barriers to cross before they get comfortable. Global web searches for ‘hard seltzer’ have shot up exponentially in 2020 according to Google Trends. Tastes differ in different markets, but even something as simple as the name might cause confusion in a territory where the term ‘seltzer’ is more often than not replaced by sparkling, fizzy or soda. Brands looking for success need to consider clear messaging on the product proposition before targeting consumers.

Flavour innovation

While classic flavours such as mango, lime and grapefruit are leading the pack, spicier flavours such as ginger and jalapeño are being added in the established US market to give the beverage a kick, and importantly, a point of difference on shelf. Fruit flavours will still continue to boom, but we expect to also see a rise in the use of botanical flavours as it has in gin-based beverages. Making decisions on when to keep it classic or go a little bolder is a journey Treatt commonly goes on with customers. Treatt are experienced in this space and work with leading brands to create beverages that meet this growing consumer trend. Flavour will be critical to success and so we encourage close collaboration to create the perfect flavour solutions, using our evolving range of ingredients.

Learn more here about how Treatt can work with your business to develop outstanding solutions that deliver standout flavour profiles.

GlobalData 2018 Q3 global consumer survey: https://www.foodanddrinktechnology.com/news/32169/heard-seltzer-movement-is-here-to-stay-says-globaldata/
The Drinks Business: https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2020/01/are-us-consumers-ditching-wine-for-hard-seltzer/#:~:text=The%20US%20alcohol%20market%20volume,to%20hit%20the%20UK%20soon