The distillers taking on hard seltzers

It’s the drinks category that’s swept the US and is now hitting the UK. But which distillers are getting in on the booming hard seltzer market? We look at five producers tapping into the trend.

Led by brands including White Claw and Truly, the hard seltzer category is already larger by volume than the leading spirits category in the US – vodka, which puts its phenomenal success into perspective. Sales in the hard seltzer category in the US off-trade hit US$1.5 billion last year, while on-trade sales rose from US$210 million in 2018 to US$1.2bn last year.

The category is expected to triple in size in the US by 2023 to reach 281m nine-litre cases, according to analysis by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, and will be worth US$2.5bn by 2021.

Over the next five years, IWSR predicts that hard seltzers will achieve the highest growth rate within the UK’s ready-to-drink category, with a forecast volume compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 71.7% from 2019 to 2024.

Its success is even more impressive when you consider that hard seltzer is essentially just alcoholic, flavoured water. 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 is described as a flavoured malt beverage. A seltzer can also simply be sparkling water mixed with vodka or gin, which has been the case with several distillers looking to edge in on the market. The appeal of hard seltzer is tied to it being a lighter, refreshing beverage, with most having an ABV of between 4.5% and 7% and typically 100 calories per can or less.

This year, White Claw entered the UK market as it attempts to replicate its success in the UK. But it has competition. This year big brewers including Molson Coors, Corona and Budweiser all launched hard seltzer brands, going toe to toe with the biggest brands. But which distillers are getting in on the market?

Click through the following pages for our roundup of the spirits producers tapping into hard seltzers.