10 of the biggest Hard Seltzer brands

It’s the drinks category that has taken the US by storm, and now it’s about to hit UK shores. But what exactly is hard seltzer? And which brands dominate the category?

Hard seltzer is basically alcoholic, flavoured water. What that alcohol is made from can differ. In most cases the alcohol in “spiked” seltzer comes from fermented cane sugar, with the addition of flavours and carbonation, making many on the market gluten-free. Alcohol in a hard seltzer can also be produced from other grains, in which case it’s described as a “flavoured malt beverage”.

Canned and colourful, the hard seltzer is the alcopop’s more sophisticated sister, and suits not only those looking to reduce their alcohol intake, but also calories. Most hard seltzers are 4.5-7% ABV and are typically 100 calories a can or less.

“The rise of hard seltzers shows there was a segment of consumers underserved by the current beverage alcohol market who were looking for alternatives that were refreshing and flavourful, but also low-calorie and low-sugar,” said Brandy Rand, COO of the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

“These products also meet the growing consumer demand for convenience, and appeal to people that enjoy popular cocktails like the vodka soda, and wine spritzers. We definitely expect to see more brands taking advantage of this fast-growing trend.”

Sales in the hard seltzer category in the US off-trade hit $1.5 billion last year, while on-trade sales rose from 210 million in 2018 to $1.2 billion last year. Overall, the US hard seltzer market is expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2021, with 2020 the year many big beer brands have chosen to take on the market, including Molson Coors, Corona and Budweiser.

Its rise has coincided with a general decline in consumption of wine in the US, after a long period of growth, creating a “perfect storm” and an opportunity for lower alcohol beverages such as hard seltzer, according to analysts at Wine Intelligence. The appeal of hard seltzer, it says, is being driven by the fact they are lower in alcohol and calories, combined with an increasingly health conscious market, and the fact they come packaged in “insta-friendly” and sustainable cans.

According to research published by the IWSR last year, over half of US alcohol consumers drink hard seltzers at least once a week, with analysts describing the rise of hard seltzer as “meteoric” and “phenomenal”. To put it into perspective, the current volume of hard seltzer produced in the US, says IWSR analysts, is currently about 82.5m nine-litre cases in the US – larger than vodka. That’s impressive, considering the category has really only taken off in the past few years, while vodka has been a stalwart for decades. Overall, hard seltzer and other “seltzer-like” products command a market share of 2.6% of all beverage alcohol in the US, up from only 0.85% a year ago.

The same IWSR report predicts that consumption of hard seltzer brands is expected to triple by 2023 to reach over 281m cases.

“Hard seltzers are far from a fad, they’re growing at a spectacular rate, and increasingly, hard seltzer producers are pulling consumers from other beverage alcohol categories, not just beer,” adds Rand. “Combined, hard seltzers and other canned seltzer-like products (vodka soda, as an example) will drive the total ready-to-drink category, making it the fastest-growing beverage alcohol category in the US over the next five years,”

So, it’s a category that demands attention. But which brands are currently dominating the US market?

Click through for a look at some of the biggest and fastest-growing Hard Seltzer brands in the US market right now.

For further in-depth analysis on the hard seltzer category click here. 

(NB: Market share stats provided by Guggenheim Analysts for the 12 weeks ending March 21, 2020, where indicated, with estimates/sources given for others where known.)

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