Hard seltzers are the new drink category starting to dominate supermarket and liquor store shelves in the US. High-profile Super Bowl advertising and social media moments have pictured them as the beverage of choice at home, by the pool or at the beach.
With US off-premise sales having hit $1.55bn, on the back of a 213% annual growth rate, hard seltzers are now successfully hitting the American bar and restaurant market too – and if that continues can a mass move across the Atlantic to these shores be far behind?
So what are hard seltzers? The common definition is a drink consisting of fizzy water, alcohol and flavouring, and it is also sold as ‘hard sparkling water’ or ‘spiked seltzer’.
Billed as a light, refreshing beverage, the category has already made a significant sales dent in the on-premise space. Hard seltzers generated $1.2bn in sales in U.S. out-of-home market during 2019—with 462% dollar sales growth, while volume sales increased by the equivalent of 182 million 12oz cans.
And the hard seltzer market in bars and restaurants is far from saturated; plenty of untapped opportunity remains—particularly through the effect on other alcoholic beverages.
The number of consumers drinking hard seltzers in US on-premise venues has risen by 73%—equivalent to around 7.5 million new drinkers between the Spring and Fall of 2019, according to the Nielsen CGA On-Premise Hard Seltzer Report, 2020. And while some of these are new drinkers entirely (including those turning 21), most are doing so at the expense of other alcoholic drinks.
Weekly sales now surpass the entire pale ale beer category. Of the consumers who identify as hard seltzer drinkers, more than half (51%) said they are actively choosing seltzers over their normal drink of choice when they’re out of the house—with 52% selecting hard seltzer instead of beer and 40% doing so instead of cocktails. And nearly three quarters (72%) of hard seltzer drinkers in the US think they will become even more popular in the future.
With more brands coming to market, Americans drinking healthier, and seltzer marketing efforts taking media by storm, we expect the appetite for hard seltzers in bars and restaurants to cross the pond to Great Britain soon. With suppliers all wanting a piece of the action, competition is going to get intense very fast. The consumer demand is there, which means that retailers, suppliers and distributors just need to understand the demand and deliver on the opportunity, said CGA's Client Director for Drinks, Philip Montgomery.