RSS Feeds

Advanced search

You are in:


Hard seltzers: a summer flash in the pan, or here for all seasons?

Hard seltzers have undoubtedly been the 'drink of the moment' thus far in 2020. The drinks - essentially alcoholic sparkling water - began life in America, but have grown remarkable legs and are spreading around the world.

They have received a particularly good reception in the UK, with many homegrown brands springing up: in the past month alone, new brands Mike's and TWIST have launched in the UK.

As low-calorie and relatively low-alcohol beverages (normally around 4-5% ABV) that tend to steer clear of articifial elements such as sweetners, colours or flavourings, the category speaks to the growing 'mindful drinking movement' which is seeing drinkers move towards 'healthier' options.

Fabio Bruni, co-founder of British brand Two Brooks Alcoholic Sparkling Water, said: "The hard seltzer category has hit the UK as you'd expect any new trend from the US to be received - lots of intrigue from both consumers and the trade given it's all been about gin and craft beer for the past few years, and growing numbers of category-specific brands emerging, like Two Brooks, and others reacting with their own takes to capitalise on the trend."

Afer launching as Mike's Hard Sparkling Water in October 2019, the rebranded Mike's Hard Seltzer has been making an impression on the UK seltzer market.

"The decision to launch Mike's was based on two main observations," explains marketing manager Alexandre Wellens. "Firstly, we realised that younger consumers in the UK are looking to moderate their alcohol consumption as well as wanting something less sweet and sugary, but all the while not compromising on taste and the excitement of new flavours. Secondly, we knew that hard seltzers experienced huge growth in the US and Canada and we saw that the same trends were in place in the UK for the category to take off."

Mike's Hard Seltzers, like many other seltzer and RTD brands, has had a bumper summer. Sales and distribution are growing a-pace, it's claimed top spots in repeat and penetration rates among consumers, and it has also run its first media campaign. 

The level of market growth at brands such as Mike's amid a global pandemic - when many brands have been shying away from marketing spending - shows the potential of the category, according to Fabio at Two Brooks. His brand only started selling in June, but has so far sold more than 25,000 cans through e-commerce, trade listings and delivery partnerships and is currently on its second production run. 

"The UK isn't anywhere near the saturation levels of the category in the US drinks market, but there have been very positive signs from consumers that there is an exciting future for the category," Fabio says. "It's fair to say that the pandemic has put a bit of a blocker on the levels of marketing spend a new category or skew would traditionally receive, which has likely affected it realising its full initial potential, but the potential is definitely there." 

With evidenced interest and demand, hard seltzers now have the foundations to grow further in UK and to move into other markets across Europe where 'mindful drinking' trends are also catching on. For a brand that has an image - unwarranted, some would argue - as a cooling summer sip, Fabio thinks one of the focuses of marketing must be on year-round relevancy.

"You can see by the shelf space the category currently commands that there is still a job to be done on this. With activities such as sampling and events currently out of the question, there are big gaps in the usual opportunities for consumer trial and education that would normally aid listing decisions, but the market is ripe for this when the time is right," he says.

Alexandre is confident that hard seltzers are here to stay. "The category meets the needs of the younger generation, offering a better-for-you, fun and social drink alternatiuve to moderate their alcohol consumption while not compromising on taste and flavours. We know that hard seltzers are continuing to grow exponentially in North America, we're already seeing the category taking off in the UK and it'll keep spreading to more countries in Europe."

Fabio adds, "As a start-up with a young, passionate team at the helm, and one of the only all-British brands on the market in terms of ingredients, production and bottling, our story is being well received and we're really starting to build momentum as we finalise our marketing and sales strategy for 2021."

6 November 2020 - Bethany Whymark