If you’re at a bar and look around at the patrons, you might be surprised to find most of them holding an orange drink in their hand. At bachelorette parties, smiling women stare at the camera, holding skinny silver cans.

The cocktail bar patrons are drinking Aperol Spritzes and the bachelorette attendees are sipping spiked seltzers. Both groups are gravitating toward carbonated alcoholic beverages and sales in this category are spiking. Aperol sales are up 25% and the spiked seltzer market is valued at $550 million.

It’s hard to ignore that for consumers, bubbles are no longer just for champagne.

For the love of bubbles

Consumers love carbonation, and high-profile brands are noticing.

While the first spiked seltzer hit the market in 2013, the masses didn’t start popping open so many cans until summer 2019, when White Claw nearly sold out of stores. The hard seltzer sector of the market is projected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2025, with more and more brands launching their own line.

Consumers are loving the hard seltzer trend for a few reasons. First, it’s convenient. Just pop open an ice-cold can for a great drink that you can enjoy by the pool or at a tailgate. Second, it’s considered a more health-conscious choice than beer. Hard seltzers have about half the carbohydrates of beer and, fewer calories. They’re also gluten-free. Finally, they come in multiple flavors, so there’s a taste for everyone.

While spiked seltzers have a reputation for being a more outdoor drink, cocktail bartenders are mixing up more carbonated cocktails: Aperol Spritzes. These orange drinks hail from Italy, and have gained massive popularity in the last few years. An Aperol Spritz has prosecco, Aperol, and soda water.

The Aperol Spritz ranked as the 11th most popular cocktail in 2018 by Drinks International, up from around the 20th spot in years past.

“We saw there was a growing interest in Aperol in the U.S., especially at summer events and destinations,” Melanie Batchelor, the vice president of marketing at Campari America told The New York Times. “We invested behind that.”

What brands can do to ride the carbonated beverage trend

Carbonation is on the rise, and brands and disruptors want a piece. Besides cocktails, there are now dozens of brands of hard seltzers. Some major players are now taking a piece. Constellation Brands announced they plan to launch a Corona-branded hard seltzer. Anheuser Busch just launched Natural Light seltzer.

If your brand has the ability to launch a new product, the projected growth of the hard seltzer category means it is likely worthwhile to launch your own variety. Be sure to also invest in a strong marketing campaign to help differentiate yourself from the other brands.

If you have a sparkling wine, prosecco, or champagne brand in your portfolio, invent a cocktail that would work well with your bubbly. Then, look for bartenders that have strong sales of your products and train them to create the cocktail. Ask them to promote it and consider helping them fund a special menu as part of that promotion. You can also have sales representatives go into liquor stores and mix the cocktails for customers to taste, and hand out recipe cards for people to make at home.

To help promote your brand, take a lesson from Campari, an Aperol maker. Campari helped promote the growth of the drink through events. The brand hosted pop-up booths at summertime events such as Governor’s Ball and the Jazz Age Lawn Festival in New York City. In the Hamptons, they turned a traditional Italian scooter into a traveling bar and handed out free Aperol Spritzes to drum up attention.

Meredith Galante

Meredith Galante is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has been published in USA Today, amNewYork, Newsday, Square and more. She's interviewed then-Mayor Cory Booker, Ryan Seacrest, and other New Jersey folks who made their community better. She's covered breaking news, sports, features, and now frequently writes about small businesses.
Meredith Galante