Summer of 2019 was the summer of hard seltzer. Everywhere you went this year, from bars to the beach to sporting eventsyou were bound to see someone with a can of White Claw or Truly (these two brands dominate with an 85% combined share of the market)What restauranteurs want to know is whether the popularity of hard seltzer is just a fad, or will it continue through the winter and beyond? 

Where did this trend come from? 

To a degree, it arose from the popularity of non-alcoholic flavored seltzers such as LaCroix, which began to replace soda, particularly among those who wanted to avoid both sugar and artificial sweeteners. Developing an alcoholic version seems like the next logical step. 

A healthier alcoholic drink? 

Hard seltzer became popular in part with people who wished to avoid carbs and sugar. There are several different kinds of people who make this a priority. For example, people with diabetes or gluten sensitivities might prefer hard seltzer. It’s also popular among those who are following keto or other low carb or low-calorie diets. Hard seltzer is glutenfree and low in calories, with about 5% alcohol. A pint of craft beer can have as many as 270 calories, while a can of White Claw has about 100, depending on the flavor. 

Catering to 20-somethings and influencers 

Hard seltzer is nearly flavorless but high in alcohol and has gained appeal, particularly among younger drinkers. These consumers are a good market to court because they are typically willing to have more drinks in one sitting than older drinkers and drink more frequently. This market segment also tends to be heavily into social media, spreading trends and creating games and challenges out of hashtags – giving the brands free marketing. White Claw was a big hit at Coachella 2019, a festival many watch for emerging trends. 

What’s the market outlook? 

Hard Seltzer has been around since about 2016, so it’s not a brand new beverage. The market continues to grow, with US retail sales of $1.1 billion in the year that ended September 7, 2019. It’s too big of an opportunity to miss out on.  

What does all this mean for your restaurant?  

Be conservative with stocking levels. This is a light and refreshing drink that tends to be more popular over the summer than in the winter months. Watch your local market, but don’t hold excess stock if you are in a coldweather market unless you can afford to tie up cash and storage space until spring. Winter months tend to attract people to heavier craft beers, hard liquor cocktails, and red wines.  

Keep up with the latest market trends. 

Horizon Hospitality can help you with recruiting restaurant managers and executives with a finger on the pulse of the market with the skills and experience to know which trends to adopt and which to ignore. Contact our restaurant recruiters today.  

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