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Chris Bibey

The Rise of Hard Seltzer and How It Became So Trendy

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Not long ago, the idea of spiked sparkling water might have raised some eyebrows. But fast-forward to today, and it's almost impossible to walk into a liquor store, party, or social gathering without encountering the trendy beverage that's taken the world by storm: hard seltzer

In many ways, hard seltzer has become every bit as popular as traditional alcoholic beverages such as wine, whiskey, and Cognac — and that’s saying a lot. In fact, there are also many hard seltzer trends that are growing in popularity. 

In this article, we examine the rise of hard seltzer, how it became such a big hit, and where the beverage is heading from here.

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What is Hard Seltzer?

Hard seltzer, often referred to as spiked sparkling water, is a unique and trending type of alcoholic beverage. It features a clear, carbonated water base and contains a shot of alcohol, typically derived from fermented cane sugar or malted barley. The alcohol content generally ranges from 4-6%, which is comparable to most light beers. 

What sets hard seltzer apart is its flavoring, which leans toward “fruity”, giving it a refreshing taste. Additionally, hard seltzers are low in calories and carbohydrates, often gluten-free, making them appealing to health-conscious consumers. 

These drinks are available in various flavors, ranging from lime and grapefruit to more exotic tastes like watermelon and mango. Conveniently packaged in cans, hard seltzers are portable in size which makes them perfect for almost any social setting.

Key takeaway: Hard seltzer continues to rise in popularity thanks to various new players on the scene, combined with an ever growing selection of flavors.

The Emergence of Hard Seltzer

The ascent of hard seltzer in the alcoholic beverage market can be traced back to 2013, with the introduction of a brand named SpikedSeltzer, currently known as Bon & Viv. The creators, Nick Shields and Dave Holmes, saw a potential market gap for a lighter, healthier alcoholic beverage. 

This innovation didn't lead to instant success, but it set the stage for what was to come. As 2016 wore one, the hard seltzer wave began to swell with the launch of class-leading brands like White Claw and Truly. 

These brands offered a slew of appealing flavors in attractive packaging, which resonated with a younger audience of millennials and Gen Z consumers. 

Aggressive marketing strategies, coupled with growing health and wellness trends, caused hard seltzer's popularity to skyrocket. It was (and remains) the perfect storm.

Why Hard Seltzer Has Become So Trendy

The skyrocketing adult beverage trend of hard seltzer can be attributed to several factors. 

The first, and in many ways the most impactful, has been a growing trend towards health and wellness. With fewer calories, sugars, and carbs than many traditional alcoholic beverages, hard seltzer aligns perfectly with a consumer base increasingly conscious of nutritional intake. 

The diverse variety of flavors adds another appeal, providing a refreshing departure from the norm and catering to diverse palates. 

Further adding to the allure is the effective branding and marketing employed by hard seltzer brands. They position their products as a 'better-for-you' alcoholic choice, presenting them in sleek, minimalist packaging, and leveraging the power of social media for brand promotion. 

The convenience and portability of canned hard seltzer, ideal for outdoor activities and gatherings, also contributes to its trendiness. 

Overall, hard seltzer continues to capitalize on the evolving preferences of a health-focused, flavor-exploring generation, leading to its current popularity.

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The Future of Hard Seltzer

When it comes to the future trajectory of hard seltzer, there’s no reason to believe it’ll “fizzle” out in the near future.

According to Grand View Research, “the global hard seltzer market size was valued at USD 8.95 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9% from 2022 to 2030.”

This continued growth is likely to be fueled by the same factors that led to its initial popularity. 

Continual innovation and product diversification are also set to play crucial roles in hard seltzer's future. The increasing demand for new flavors and variations is prompting companies to experiment, leading to exciting new offerings. These range from higher alcohol content seltzers aimed at the craft beer audience, to more exotic, unique flavors designed to keep the consumer interest piqued.

However, hard seltzer's future isn't without challenges. As the market becomes increasingly saturated with competitors, brands must find new and innovative ways to stand out. 

For example, consumer loyalty in the hard seltzer category is currently lagging more established alcoholic beverage categories. Even with above average customer satisfaction, many consumers are willing to switch brands for a new flavor or lower price.

The environmental impact of canned beverages is another potential challenge for the industry. Brands may need to explore more sustainable packaging options to align with growing consumer concern for the environment.

While the hard seltzer market is poised for continued growth, its future — much the same as the future of restaurants — will hinge on the industry's ability to innovate, differentiate, and respond to evolving consumer preferences and concerns. 

The category's journey from niche product to mainstream success — in such a short period — is a testament to the power of consumer-driven innovation in the beverage industry.

Hard Seltzer Frequently Asked Questions

As a restaurant or bar owner, it’s good practice to understand the finer details of hard seltzer. These questions will help you understand how to best serve your customers. 

What exactly is hard seltzer?

Hard seltzer is a carbonated beverage containing alcohol, typically derived from fermented cane sugar or malted barley. It's flavored, typically with fruit essence, and has a relatively low calorie count compared to other alcoholic drinks.

What's the alcohol content in hard seltzer?

The alcohol content in hard seltzer generally ranges from 4% to 6%, making it similar to many light beers. However, some brands do offer higher alcohol options for those seeking a stronger drink.

Why is hard seltzer so popular among health-conscious drinkers?

Hard seltzer has gained popularity among health-conscious consumers due to its lower calorie, sugar, and carb content compared to many traditional alcoholic beverages. And in some cases, it’s gluten-free. This booming market makes it that much more appealing to become a hard seltzer distributor.

Can hard seltzer be considered a “healthy” alcoholic drink?

While hard seltzer is lower in calories and sugars than many alcoholic beverages, it's essential to remember it still contains alcohol. It's a healthier alternative when considering calories and sugar, but alcohol, regardless of the form, should be consumed in moderation.

What are some popular hard seltzer brands?

Some of the most popular hard seltzer brands include White Claw, Truly, Bon & Viv, and Bud Light Seltzer. These brands, more than others, have significantly contributed to the rise of hard seltzer's popularity.

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It’s Time to Offer a Large Selection of Hard Seltzer

It doesn’t matter if you’re opening a bar, operating a restaurant, or managing a country club, the hard seltzer trend should have you excited. The best way to take advantage is by offering a large selection to your customer base.

Now that you know the ins and outs of hard seltzer, it’s time to learn more about BinWise and BlueCart. Both of these applications can help you with restaurant or bar management. This technology will help you ensure that you have the right selection of hard seltzer drinks for your customer base. 

The BinWise Pro platform, when used alongside the BinScan mobile app, can bring efficiency to your inventory program. That’s in addition to the BlueCart order management system that empowers you to manage orders in advance, determine your reorder point, and strategize for potential food supply chain disruptions.

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