Drizly predicts that hard seltzer will get more flavorful in 2021

11 Mar 2021

The U.S. alcohol delivery service Drizly expects “hard alternatives” to continue to flourish in 2021. However, the category is no longer limited to seltzer with hard versions of iced tea, kombucha and lemonade gaining ground amid a demographic that is interested in lighter, lower-ABV alternatives to traditional libations.

Nielsen data show that for the year ending Dec. 26, 2020, off-premise hard kombucha dollar sales jumped 128%, far outpacing the growth of other hard alternatives. Hard tea increased 34% and lemonade grew 15% in the same time frame. Internal Drizly sales data supports these findings. In 2020, hard kombucha sales on the platform grew 2,134% over the previous year, while hard iced tea sales increased 462% and hard lemonade grew 440%. Hard seltzer sales increased 495%.

Drizly predicts that hard seltzer will get more flavorful in 2021

While this growth is impressive, hard alternatives remain a small fraction of the overall beer market. For Drizly, hard seltzer made up 21% of Drizly’s beer sales while the combined sales of hard kombucha, hard lemonade, and hard iced tea accounted for less than 3% of Drizly’s 2020 beer sales. In the larger market, beer continues to be a big moneymaker for American breweries, but with the continued growth of seltzer’s popularity, nearly every major beer company has one seltzer offering in its portfolio.

Although hard alternative sales still exist in the shadow of overall beer dollar and volume sales, the demographic that these beverages appeal to position them on a long runway for growth. According to Drizly data, 73% of hard alternatives consumers are under the age of 42. But though seltzer remains a top choice with these consumers, 75% of hard seltzer drinkers also buy beer, according to Nielsen. As a result, Big Beer is working toward brand extensions such as Bud Light Seltzer and Corona Seltzer. This evolution of mainstream beer brands into the seltzer category reflects a potential opportunity to cross-promote those beer brands that are experiencing flagging sales but that continue to support the bottom lines of major brewers.

As Big Beer continues to pad their portfolios with hard alternative options, these brands continue to lag behind Mark Anthony Brands' White Claw and Truly, owned by Boston Beer, which collectively control 75% of the market, according to Seeking Alpha.

Still, Drizly data remarks that up-and-coming craft brands and the continued development of niche alternatives will fragment choices beyond the big players in the space. Liz Paquette, the head of consumer insights at Drizly, said in a release that she expects more brands to invest this year in the hard alternatives space, particularly the hard coffee and hard soda subcategories. “We also expect more craft offerings to emerge in the hard alternatives category, similar to the trend which has begun in the hard seltzer space,” she said.

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