Love It or Hate It, Hard Seltzer Is Not Going Away

The trendy drink of 2019 is probably not going to fizzle anytime soon.

In case you thought the hard-seltzer trend was soon destined to go from fizz to fizzle, a flurry of new evidence to the contrary may make you think again.

Sales of hard seltzer rose sharply in 2019: “Nielsen puts hard seltzer sales at $1.5 billion in 2019 — which … marks an increase of nearly 213 percent,” VinePair reports. “Broken out by individual brand, it shows 330 percent growth for White Claw (Mark Anthony Brands), and 180 percent for Truly Hard Seltzer (Boston Beer).”

Awareness is also on the rise: “In its survey of 1,029 alcohol-drinking Americans, UBS finds that more people now say they are drinking hard seltzer ‘regularly’ (21% vs. 19% in September), a lot more people say they are drinking it ‘occasionally’ (32% vs. 27% in September), more say they are ‘familiar but never tried it’ (19% vs. 18% in September), and most telling of all, far fewer people say they are ‘not familiar’ with it (14% now vs. 21% in September),” Yahoo Finance notes.

More growth is predicted: “The climbing category awareness, UBS concludes, ‘increases our conviction that the category will grow from $1.75 billion in 2019 to $4.7 billion by [end of] 2022,’ a 39% average compound annual growth rate,” according to Yahoo Finance.

White Claw’s “crown” may be “up for grabs” in 2020: “In 2019, White Claw was the law … America's top-selling hard seltzer,” CNN Business recently noted. And while so far this year, “White Claw has remained dominant, a growing number of competitors present the biggest challenge yet to White Claw. Nielsen predicts that the number of spiked seltzer brands will double this year.”

Beer makers, for instance, are making a big play to enter the crowded field: Anheuser Busch InBev, already in the hard seltzer game with Bon & Viv and Natural Light Seltzer, just launched Bud Light Seltzer. MillerCoors, which owns Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water, is “doubling down” on the category with the launch of Vizzy in the spring. Also this spring, Constellation is set to introduce Corona Hard Seltzer, investing a whopping $40 million into the new brand. “[W]e still believe that there’s a lot of upside in the total size of the seltzer business,” Constellation CEO William Newlands told investors, MarketWatch reports.

And wine companies are getting into the biz, too: The Barefoot wine brand just announced plans to enter the hard seltzer category with the nationwide rollout in February 2020 of Barefoot Hard Seltzer, which it says is “the first nationally distributed hard seltzer made with real wine.” The wine-based hard seltzer, which will be made with Barefoot Wine, seltzer water and natural flavor, will be available in four flavors: Pineapple & Passion Fruit, Cherry & Cranberry, Peach & Nectarine, and Strawberry & Guava.

Given all that, it’s not hard to see how hard seltzer may be around for a while. As AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito recentlytold CNBC, hard seltzer “is something that’s profitable. It’s here to stay.”

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