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Brewdog to take on White Claw with own hard seltzer brand

Scottish craft beer giant Brewdog is tapping into the fast-growing hard seltzer category with its own brand called Clean & Press.

(Photo: Brewdog)

There are four flavours in the range: Crushed Black Cherry, Crushed Mango and White Peach, Cactus and Lime, and Kiwi and Passionfruit.

Called Clean & Press, the seltzers have been made with LoneWolf craft vodka, produced by Brewdog’s spirits arm, Brewdog Distilling Co., in Aberdeenshire. It is then infused with natural flavours to create a light drink with 5% ABV and 95 calories per 330ml can. Two six-packs sell for £30 on Brewdog’s own website.

Steven Kersley, head of distillation at Brewdog Distilling Co, told the drinks business that the project has been in works since January, and was due to launch later this year.

But things change. On 20 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told all pubs, bars and restaurants to close “as soon as they reasonably can” as the UK went into its own coronavirus lockdown. A week later, Brewdog sent a note to its Equity for Punks shareholders claiming the brewer had lost 70% of its revenue “overnight” as their on-trade channel was cut off. Founders Martin Dickie and James Watt have said they will forgo their salaries this year to help keep the business afloat. Meanwhile, Brewdog sends regular emails to newsletter subscribers detailing generous offers on its current stock.

The hard seltzer launch was brought forward to this month and, instead of launching in bars, the craft beer giant is relying on e-commerce.

In fact, bringing a new product to market during a global pandemic has made some aspects of the launch easier.

“What we’ve been able to do is focus our attention on one platform,” Kersley said. The product is available through Brewdog’s newly created Hop Drop app, which lets consumers order draught beer rom the drinks group’s bars and have it delivered to their door.

“A lot of our bars are doing doing great work with Hop Drop – we can do that with spirits as well.”

“When it comes to getting the drinks into consumers’ hands, that’s more difficult. It has streamlined the launch itself but we’re very focused on e-commerce.”


Taking on White Claw

The launch comes after the stratospheric rise in sales of hard seltzers in the US. In just three years hard seltzers have become the fastest-growing alcoholic drinks category in the US, with the sector predicted to be worth US$2.5 billion by 2021 and due to triple in size by 2023.

In 2016 the burgeoning hard seltzer category moved up a gear with the launch of the category’s two biggest players: White Claw and Truly.

Truly, created by the Boston Beer Co, has proved so successful for the brewer that it now sells more hard seltzers than it does beer, while White Claw’s sales surpassed US$1.5 billion last year.

A lack of sales in bars and restaurants might be concerning for a burgeoning wine or beer brand, but Kersley told db that hard seltzers sell better in supermarkets anyway. “[Brands have] experimented in on-trade with kegged seltzer, but the majority of their sales are definitely in the off-trade.”

White Claw is slated to launch in the UK this year, but asked if he’s worried about the competition, Kerlsey told db he believes Clean & Press has the power to rival the US seltzer giant, thanks to Brewdog’s strong brand presence. After all, Brewdog itself was named the UK’s fastest growing brand in Brand Finance’s annual report last May. “White Claw doesn’t have a great deal of equity in the UK, but Brewdog does,” he said.

“For us we have a delicious liquid and it really speaks for itself. White Claw may have taken the US by storm, and we’re not looking to the US right now, but if and when they come to the UK they’ll find some worthy competition.”


Read more:

10 of the biggest Hard Seltzer brands

In focus: Hard seltzers

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