Of all the trends and shakeups in the alcohol industry over the past few years, none have been as dramatic or as exciting as the rise of hard seltzers. A few years ago they were almost unheard of, but then, seemingly overnight, they became cultural mainstays and a dominant force in the alcoholic beverage market. In 2019, sales for spiked seltzer shattered expectations by passing the billion-dollar threshold. And their popularity is not slowing down.
There does not appear to be a single, unified reason for this meteoric trend. Rather, everyone seems to have their own reason for being a seltzer fan, whether it’s the taste, the lightness, or the lack of calories. Understanding the causes behind the popularity of seltzer can help us understand whether seltzer is here to stay.
An assortment of fruit flavors
One of the biggest advantages of spiked seltzer is that it can be given just about any flavor that customers might want. White Claw, the most popular seltzer brand in the United States, expanded on their success last year by rolling out four new flavors, including unconventional options like pineapple and clementine. The variety keeps the drinks exciting so that people don’t get tired of them as quickly, which gives the hard seltzer trend some additional longevity.
Wine and beer mostly just come in ‘grape flavored’ and ‘hop flavored’ respectively, which just doesn’t appeal to every drinker. Many prefer seltzer because they can get it in their favorite flavor, or whatever best suits their mood at the time.
The fruity flavors also make them a perfect ingredient in cocktails, where their mild taste allows the other ingredients in the glass to come to the forefront, while giving the drink that nice fizzy texture.
Light and refreshing
When the popularity of spiked seltzers exploded last summer, analysts assumed that the trend was largely due to the lightness of the drinks. Being mostly water, the beverages are crisp and refreshing—perfect for a hot summer day when beer or cocktails might be too heavy. Once the weather cooled down, it was predicted that seltzer sales would as well. However, it became clear last fall that this has not been the case.
The easy drinkability of seltzers makes them a popular option year-round. Fans claim that since they are not as “filling” as other beverages, more can be enjoyed at once. A common complaint about beer is that it makes people feel bloated before they are able to feel the effects of the alcohol. Seltzers do not have this problem. This makes them ideal for concerts, parties, and other events where people want to drink a lot without getting full.
A healthier option
But perhaps the biggest draw to spiked seltzers is their low number of calories. The data seems to support this theory. An estimated 70% of buyers are women, who tend to care more about calories than men. A majority of seltzer buyers also appear to be millennials, who so far appear to be more health-conscious than other demographics. While seltzers are still far from being a ‘healthy’ beverage, their often total lack of calories makes them a hit among those who want to have fun without putting on any additional weight.
Of course, it isn’t just about the calories. Their low sugar content makes them much less likely to cause a hangover, which is a huge selling point to any drinker with something important to do the next morning. And since they are gluten-free, people with celiac disease are welcome to enjoy them, making them great for large gatherings where some people may have dietary restrictions.
The future of spiked seltzers
So will the surge in seltzer sales subsist? Experts who predicted the end of the trend have already been proven wrong, and the industry’s growth does not appear to be slowing down. With the way things are going, seltzers just may find a permanent place alongside beer and wine as a ubiquitous drink sold in just about every bar or restaurant with a liquor license.
While it isn’t feasible for every alcohol producer and distributor to branch into the hard seltzer market, those who can should give the idea some serious consideration. While the rapid changes in the market may seem like an unsustainable financial bubble, signs suggest that this trend won’t be fizzling out anytime soon.
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