With hard seltzer sales continuing to climb, brands in or entering the market will want to launch products that align with these consumer trends
Hard seltzer sales have been on the rise. Nielsen data shows the category grew 212% year-over-year between 2018 and 2019 and it's only expanded amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When Nielsen looked at hard seltzer retail sales between March 1 and April 25, 2020, they found 44% of buyers had purchased hard seltzer for the first time, suggesting bored consumers see the category as something new and novel to try during quarantine.
The appeal is easy to quantify: hard seltzers offer innovative flavor combinations and blends while satisfying the need for ease and convenience with their ready to drink format and achieving a health halo due to their low calories and simple ingredient lists. To inform and inspire new product formulations, we explore four trends shaping the hard seltzer market.
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Trend 1: Better-for-you beverages
Consumers want reduced sugar, low-calorie and health halo beverages without losing ABV. Some companies are formulating products that directly speak to this trend: Vizzy hard seltzer flavors are available in blends of fruits traditionally high in vitamin C and call out “with antioxidant Vitamin C” on the can, Smirnoff seltzers boast zero grams of sugar and only 90 calories and White Claw has come out with a 70-calorie version of their seltzer. These beverages not only fit into the health halo many consumers seek, but also align with the keto diet as an alternative to beer.
Trend 2: Creative crossovers
Lines continue to blur across beverage applications, including hard seltzers. While most seltzer flavors lean toward citrus and other fruit, some brands have borrowed flavors from inspiration from adjacent alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories. Evil Twin Brewing has created an Evil Water line of products, which includes hard “pastry” seltzers with flavors including chocolate egg cream and gummi bears. Southern Tier and High Noon both combine vodka with seltzer water as an alternative for malt-based seltzers and Nude Beverages recently released a ready-to-drink low-calorie tequila soda. Brands wanting to break into the hard seltzer space can consider creating a crossover beverage that combines unexpected offerings with seltzer in a fun and exciting way. This trend is driven by the continued experimentation between beverage categories, the consumer desire for innovative brews and brands competing for uniqueness and craftsmanship.
Trend 3: Pop culture phenomenon
The hard seltzer category has seen immense expansion due to its booming social media presence and pop culture buzz as well as the consumer desire to personally connect with brands and share on their own social media accounts. For example, in the summer of 2019 you couldn’t scroll through social media without seeing user-generated “no laws when you’re drinking Claws” memes and videos. According to research from Bank of America, there were six times as many conversations about hard seltzer on Instagram in January of 2020 when compared to January of 2019, which transpates to a 600% increase. There are even articles and multiple dedicated to Instagram caption suggestions for users who want to post about hard seltzers. Brands can grab a piece of the social media buzz by creating gram-worthy hard seltzer packaging to increase engagement and partnering with influencers and consumers.
Trend 4: Elevated taste experiences
From sophisticated profiles to adventurous botanicals and herbs or reinvented favorites, consumers are exploring elevated taste experiences. The use of blends is popular in the hard seltzer space, and there’s something for everyone. Elevated flavor combinations provide the opportunity to try an unfamiliar flavor paired with something more mainstream. For example, take Bon & Viv’s pear elderflower flavor. Consumers are accustomed to pear, but not as familiar with elderflower. With this drink, they can try sweet pear paired with floral elderflower for a well-rounded blend of flavors. Brands can leverage trending flavors in combination with the familiar to set themselves apart in the seltzer space.
Throughout COVID-19, alcohol trends have changed as consumer drinking habits shift away from restaurants and bars and into homes. To learn more about consumer trends or to start innovating and formulating to meet ever-changing consumer demands, contact Kerry. To see how COVID-19 is effecting the food and beverage industry, including changes in consumer preferences and purchasing behaviors, visit Kerry’s COVID-19 resource page.