Everything You Need to Know About Spiked Seltzer for Summer 2020 and Beyond
The beverage category that took the world by storm last summer continues to evolve and thrive
This summer, not so much. There are now tons of laws when it comes to drinking Claws, mainly regarding when, where, with whom, and how much distance must be between you and your fellow drinkers. What hasn’t changed, however, is the volume of hard seltzer consumption, which, despite the effects of COVID-19, has only grown since last year.
“Since last summer, what we’ve really learned is that hard seltzer is certainly not a fad,” says Casey O’Neill, senior product development manager of the Boston Beer Company, which owns Truly Hard Seltzer. “We’re really learning that as a category, it’s here to stay; it’s continued to grow year over year.”
As cited by Vinepair, in 2019, U.S. drinkers bought more hard seltzer by volume than vodka. According to global data firm IWSR, Americans bought 82.5 million 9-liter cases, or almost 2.1 billion 355-milliliter cans. And in bars and restaurants, on-site hard seltzer sales reached $1.2 billion in 2019, an increase of over 470 percent from 2018’s sales of $210 million according to a report by research firm Nielsen CGA.
There was much speculation about whether the light, carbonated beverage primed for the warm weather could survive in the fall/winter. But according to O’Neill, Truly’s sales, in particular, are up nearly 200% since last year and have only grown in the colder months.
“As we moved away from the summer months last year and into the fall and the winter, we actually saw our growth continue to accelerate,” explains O’Neill.
“So not only are we confident that this is a popular beverage when it’s hot outside, but that it’s also a year-round product that drinkers are enjoying despite the season, which really proved to us that, that this isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
The outbreak of COVID-19 also didn’t stall the hard seltzer market. As cited by Brewbound, during the first eight-week period of the coronavirus outbreak the number of consumers purchasing spiked seltzer nearly doubled, with 44% of buyers being first-timers according to another report by Nielsen.
So since hard seltzer is here to stay, we figured we should check in to update you on all the happenings in the market, from major updates from the top-selling brands to the world of craft seltzer and some upcoming trends to look out for.
New news from the three OGs
While the OG hard seltzer brands — White Claw, Truly and BON VIV — have a lot more competition now than they did last summer, they’re still the best-sellers and have made some major updates to their product lines since last year.
White Claw released the highly-anticipated Variety Pack #2 which includes flavors Tangerine, Lemon, Watermelon and Mango. Since we like to consider ourselves hard seltzer experts over here, we have to say White Claw really outdid itself with the #2 pack. Tangerine and Lemon are among our favorites in the whole line — refreshing, lightly-flavored and perfect for the summer.
In October, Truly Hard Seltzer revamped their entire 13 flavor line to ensure a crisper, more refreshing taste by eliminating any lingering bitterness and adding more fruit. But the brand has also stepped into a new spiked beverage category with Truly Lemonade — a half seltzer, half lemonade mix that has only 100 calories and 1g of sugar. Available in original, black cherry, mango and strawberry, Truly Lemonade is perfect for the drinker who likes the light-bodied, low calorie count of a hard seltzer but needs a little more flavor.
BON VIV (formally known as Bon & Viv) rebranded and gave their cans a chic design upgrade because, let’s not kid ourselves, how good a can looks in our hands is important.
The big boys are movin in
As you probably already know from perusing the grocery store these past few months, almost every big-name brand now has its own take on hard seltzer. Bud Light, Corona, Smirnoff and Four Loko are just some the powerhouses to capitalize on the growing hard seltzer boom. While most of the newly launched brands have seen some success, only one has managed to join the OGs in terms of sales: Bud Light Seltzer.
Launched in January 2020, Bud Light Seltzer is already the third best-selling seltzer, holding a 9% share in the U.S. hard seltzer market according to The Drinks Business, and after tasting some for ourselves, we can see why. With standard flavors, lemon-lime, black cherry, strawberry and mango, Bud Light Seltzer is easy to drink, made with real fruit flavors and like White Claw, is low in sugar, has only one hundred calories and has a 5% ABV. The only real difference is that there’s a huge “Bud Light” sprawled across the can, so men can finally feel comfortable being seen drinking hard seltzer — thanks Bud Light!
Craft seltzer anyone?
Tell your yuppie friends there’s a seltzer for them too. Since last summer, more craft breweries have either pivoted to making their own low-cal, fresh flavored hard seltzer or have popped up with the intention of snagging a spot in the booming market.
A few of our current favorites:
- Basic Hard Seltzer: The people who brought you Basic Vodka recently released Basic Hard Seltzer, and it’s far from basic. Available in flavors, cranberry, lemon, cucumber and Pamplemousse, the seltzers are lightly flavored and feature a super sleek can design that feels real good in our hands. And if you want all the low-calorie, zero sugar benefits of hard seltzer without the heavy carbonation, this is the seltzer for you.
- Ficks Beverage Co.: Crafted in California’s Sonoma wine country, Ficks hard seltzers are flavored with pure fruit juice, so whether you’re sipping on the brand’s blackberry, grapefruit, cranberry or lime flavors, you’re tasting real fruit.
- Willie’s Superbrew: Last year we told you Willie’s Superbrew is really fucking good. Our opinion still stands. Based in Charleston, Massachusetts, Willie’s Superbrew is gluten-free, low in carbs and sugar, but unlike the big-named spiked seltzer brands, Willie’s crafts their delicious seltzer with real fruit and spices. And since our last review, the brand has debuted two new flavors, Blueberry & Lemon and Pineapple & Lime, which we encourage you to try.
- Two Robbers: While the PA-based craft hard seltzer brand may have been robbed twice, they still managed to produce and launch a super refreshing, all-natural line of hard seltzers that include flavors like Orange and Mango, Pineapple with Ginger, and Beach Berry. All made with zero sugar, zero concentrates and decorated with unique, colorful artwork from UK-based artist Jonny Mowat.
I’ll have a vodka soda … in a can
Absolut Vodka, Cutwater and High Noon are canning up a classic drink we’d give anything to order in a bar right now: the Vodka Soda. Does it taste almost exactly like hard seltzer but more expensive? Sure! But if you’re a staunch vodka-drinker, this is a refreshing and convenient way to consume the spirit.
Are spiked teas the new spiked seltzer?
If you’ve noticed more hard iced tea brands during your weekly alcohol runs, you’re not alone. While Boston Beer Company’s Twisted Tea has dominated the spiked iced tea market for years now, it might soon see some competition from brands focused on providing consumers with a healthier hard tea option.
Loverboy and Crook & Marker are two brands offering multi-flavored gluten-free, low-calorie and zero-sugar hard teas crafted from interesting ingredients like monk fruit and quinoa. And after trying the teas for ourselves, they’re noticeably light, flavorful, and don’t leave our stomachs a mess the following day, unlike our once-beloved Twisteds.