The popularity of hard seltzers is an undeniable success in the BWS (beer, wine and spirits) sector and future growth is set to remain robust.
Last year, the hard seltzer category grew an impressive 155 percent, and Goldman Sachs forecasts U.S. retail sales will expand from approximately $4.1 billion last year to $30 billion by 2025, comprising roughly 25 percent of the total alcohol beverage sector.
The appeal of hard seltzers is shared among producers and consumers.
For producers, there is a relatively low barrier to entry. Beer makers, for example, have been able to launch hard seltzer products by utilizing much of their existing equipment infrastructure and supplier network, including ingredients, packaging and distribution providers.
Consumers are attracted to the health aspects of hard seltzer, especially compared to spirits. From Baby Boomers to Gen Z’ers, hard seltzers are finding favor with a broad range of adults who are drawn to lower calorie and carb beverages that are also gluten-free, vegan, sell equally well to men and women, and are enjoyable year-round.
Not surprisingly, the overwhelming growth of hard seltzers means the sector is becoming more crowded and competitive.
As hard seltzer producers look to retain and expand their market share, they are sharpening their focus on flavor as a way to stand out from the competition.
Simply speaking, hard seltzers are made with water, sugar, yeast and flavoring. Many hard seltzers use chemically derived extracts to achieve the desired flavor. However, an increasing number of producers are opting for real fruit purees, which expand the possibilities for new and creative flavor profiles.
When combined with various spices, herbs, and even flowers such as hibiscus, the possibilities are virtually endless. Moreover, the use of real fruit and other ingredients are key to addressing consumers’ demands for food and beverage products whose ingredients are more transparent and healthy.
In March, SLO Brew, Central California’s longest-standing craft brewery, introduced Cali-Squeeze, a hard seltzer crafted with real fruit puree—a feature that was important to both the company and it’s customers.
In addition to flavor, real fruit also gives the hard seltzer an opaque color, which can range from purple to red to pale yellow.
“Our customers have been asking for a hard seltzer and we wanted to blow their expectations out of the water,” said SLO Brew co-founder Rodney Cegelski in a press release.
SLO Brew is not the only company getting into the hard seltzer segment or expanding an existing line-up.
New Belgium, Braxton Brewing, Cape May, New Realm Brewing, Molson Coors and Bud Light are among those that are also unveiling new offerings this spring.