The music should pump and the burgers and jerk chicken wings should fly out of the kitchen this holiday weekend at the Rambler Kitchen and Tap in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago.
To wash up, guests can try a mixed drink or one of the 20 craft beers the bar sells. But many will order a tough seltzer. The Rambler expects sales of nearly 500 cans in flavors such as peach, pineapple and grapefruit grapefruit.
“We’re going to be selling lots of buckets of White Claw and Truly Seltzers,” said Sam Stone, co-owner of the Rambler. “It’s going to be a big summer for Hard Seltzer.”
Memorial Day weekend kicks off with what many hope it will be a normal summer, when the kids start counting down the number of days left at school, people go back to the beach and heat up for backyard parties that came with the pandemic last year . And for the hard seltzer industry, it’s the beginning of a dizzying time with dozens of old and new competitors battling it out for the juicy, fizzy drink of the season.
As the adult cousin of carbonated seltzer waters like LaCroix, alcoholic hard seltzer was a sensation before the pandemic, grossing around $ 500 million in 2018, according to NielsenIQ. But last year, when people couldn’t go to their favorite bars and restaurants, they picked up boxes and crates of beverages at liquor and grocery stores, and sales grew more than $ 4 billion in 2020.
Analysts are betting that another big wave of seltzer purchases will kick in this summer. Nik Modi, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, notes that tough selters are popular at group meetings, which was mostly not the case last year.
“This summer,” said Modi, “will be a completely different ball game.” He and others predict annual sales will exceed $ 8 billion over the next four years.
Dave Burwick, the executive director of Boston Beer, said on CNBC last year that the growth of hard seltzer was the biggest change in the beer industry since the introduction of light beers in the 1970s. Boston Beer, the company behind Sam Adams, also makes Truly Hard Seltzer.
While White Claw and Truly – the Coca-Cola and Pepsi from Hard Seltzer – conquer around 70 percent of the market, everyone wants to join in, drawn by the breathtaking growth. Old school beer companies, liquor giants, winemakers, and others ferment sugar solutions and add seasonal flavors like watermelon, black cherry, and strawberry lemonade to create their own vibrant concoctions. (Fancy passion fruit orange guava?) They also try to outdo each other by developing new variations, like so-called spike selters that use rum or tequila, selters with antioxidants, or even “hard coffee”.
Boston Beer introduced Truly Iced Tea Hard Seltzer this year and launched an ad campaign with British pop singer Dua Lipa a few weeks ago. This spring, hip-hop star Travis Scott and Anheuser-Busch released Cacti, a seltzer made from blue agave syrup. It sold out quickly in many places.
“People stood in front of the shops to buy cacti and share pictures of themselves with their carts full of cacti,” said Marcel Marcondes, Marketing Director at Anheuser-Busch.
Topo Chico Hard Seltzer was also released this spring. A partnership between Coca-Cola and Molson Coors Beverage, it hit shelves in 16 markets across the country, following the iconic episode of Topo Chico’s Selterswasser in the south.
“I feel like I can go to a party and say, ‘Oh yeah, I brought the Topo Chico,” said Dane Cardiel, 32, who works in business development for a podcast company in Esopus, NY roughly 60 miles, lives south of Albany.
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How flavored sparkling water with alcohol became a national phenomenon can be attributed in part to social media videos that went viral and cleverly marketed, selling hard seltzer as a “healthier” alcohol choice.
In the lean cans of White Claw, it becomes clear that the drinks only contain 100 calories, are gluten-free, and only contain two grams of carbohydrates and sugar each. The brand is owned by Canadian billionaire Anthony von Mandl, who created Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
“The health and wellness element is at the heart of visual marketing,” said Vivien Azer, an analyst at investment firm Cowen. “Each brand’s packaging has relatively low carbohydrate and sugar data.”
In addition, at around 5 percent or 12 ounces of a typical beer, the alcohol content in most hard seltzer is less than that of a glass of wine or mixed drink. This makes it easier for people to have a sip at a party or while watching a game without getting intoxicated or worrying about feeling like their stomach is full of beer.
“It’s a nice drink for an afternoon on the patio,” said Shelley Majeres, manager of the Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver. “You can have four or five of these in an afternoon and not have a big hangover or get really drunk.”
Blake Street, a 18,000-square-foot sports bar, started selling tough seltzer two years ago. Today they make up around 20 percent of can and bottle sales.
The industry has also properly bypassed the gender issue that plagued earlier, lighter alcoholic alternatives like Zima, which became popular with women but struggled to be adopted by men.
“I have as many men as women who drink it,” said Nick Zeto, the owner of the Boston Beer Garden in Naples, Florida. “And it started with the millennials, but now I’ve got people in their forties, fifties and sixties.” order it. “
This broad appeal is attractive to beer, wine, and liquor companies.
“We see ourselves as a challenger brand,” said Michelle St. Jacques, director of marketing at Molson Coors, which has been making beer since the late 18th century but hopes to end up with 10 percent of the hard seltzer market this year.
Last spring, the company released Vizzy, a hard seltzer that contains vitamin C. Topo Chico came this spring. “We feel that we are making great strides with Selters by not trying to bring me products, but products and brands that make a clear difference,” said Ms. St. Jacques.
While grocery and liquor stores have given plenty of space to the Hard Seltzer brands people drink at home, competition for restaurants and bars is fierce. Most only want to offer their customers two or three brands.
“Oh my god, I get a new hard seltzer whenever they can get my attention,” said Mr. Stone, who sells six brands at the Rambler. The crowd favorite, he said, is the vodka-based High Noon Sun Sips Peach from E. & J. Gallo Winery. “Everyone from the big brands to the small, new brands is getting into the Hard Seltzer game.”
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