You have probably already seen it at the supermarket or online. Chances are your fitness-driven friends enjoy it. So, what is hard seltzer? Learn all about this growing industry segment.
What is hard seltzer 101
What is hard seltzer exactly? Essentially, it is sparkling water with alcohol and a slightly sweet, fruity taste. Most versions contain minimal sugar, so they do not exceed 100 calories (Crotty, 2020). They also have a relatively low ABV of between 4 and 6% (Jennings, 2019), similar to beer.
Maybe just now you are asking yourself “what is hard seltzer?” But such products have existed since the 1990s, and some of these were available up to 2013 (Jennings, 2019). The segment started gaining traction in 2016, with top players White Claw, Truly, and Bon & Viv hitting the shelves (Wiener-Bronner, 2019).
By 2019, hard seltzer became a 550-million-dollar business, growing about 200% in a year (Jennings, 2019). During that year alone, its volume in the U.S. reached 82.5 million nine-liter cases (larger than vodka, the national leading spirits category), taking up 2.6% of the alcoholic beverages market from only 0.85% in 2018. Experts expect the category’s size to triple by 2023, with over 281 million cases (IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, 2019).
What is hard seltzer and why is it so popular?
Why this growth in popularity? There are numerous reasons (Jennings, 2019):
- It packs alcohol content without many calories.
- It is refreshing and light, especially when compared to other alcoholic drinks.
- Diversity! There are endless flavor combinations.
- As it comes in cans and can be sold in grocery stores, it is convenient.
- It is in the same price range as light domestic beer.
- Young people gravitate towards it, as it is trendy and in line with the low-alcohol, easy-drinking phenomenon.
- It is now perceived as a gender-neutral beverage.
Making hard seltzer
If you have asked the question, “What is hard seltzer?” (See also: Beer-flavors ). you have also probably wondered how it is made. The brewing process entails water, sugar, yeast, and flavoring. Seltzer is usually fermented for about a month (Schoolhouse Brewing, 2019). Some products get their alcohol from vodka (Bernstein, 2020), while others contain malted barley (Jennings, 2019).
Some hard seltzer includes fruit puree or fruit juice, like fruit beer does, to achieve a unique taste. Quirk Spiked & Sparkling Seltzers, from Boulevard Brewing Company, and Willie’s Superbrew’s hard seltzer both use real fruit. On the other hand, High Noon’s Sun Sips and Maha’s Organic Hard Seltzer have fruit juice in them (Bernstein, 2020).
Now, from a business standpoint, what is hard seltzer? It is an opportunity to diversify and grow. Hard seltzer resonates with sour beer and cider drinkers (Crotty, 2019). Potential consumers are out there among craft brew supporters.
Hard seltzer is in a position to keep growing. According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis (2020), the ready-to-drink segment (which includes such products) will conquer a compound annual growth of 21% globally by 2024. In doing so, it will take market share primarily from beer. Today, consumers interested in unique beer flavors or easy-drinking alcoholic beverages gravitate towards hard seltzer. The boom may be here for the long haul. Now you know the answer to the question “What is hard seltzer?” and you can be part of the boom.