How craft brewers make hard selter better
Sales of low-alcohol sparkling water (hard seltter) in 2019 reached the billion dollar mark and even stepped over it. According to experts, by 2021 this figure may even exceed $ 2.5 billion. October magazine writes about the success of the hard-hitters. Pivo.by publishes a translation of the material.
At first, many were skeptical of the LaCroix soda-flavored drink with the addition of vodka, but in July, when White Claw surpassed all the leading varieties from large breweries in terms of sales, it became clear that everything was serious. For no reason, alcoholic selter festivals began to take place, then its deficit began, which terrified the audience, and then there were stronger versions of this drink with an alcohol content of 14%, such as Four Loko.
Now that the hype around the hard-seltter has subsided a bit, the question remains: what is the future of this drink, which a couple of years ago no one cared about? Today, 85% of the market is occupied by the White Claw brands, owned by the same corporation as Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and Truly, owned by the Boston Beer Company. So far, they mainly compete with AB InBev, MillerCoors and other large brewing corporations.
“The current situation with the alcoholic seltter resembles the situation with beer about 15–20 years ago. There are several major manufacturers that control the market, and many smaller ones who believe they can make a better product, ”says John Barley, founder of Solemn Oath Brewery, the first Chicago-based craft selter. “We are confident that our customers deserve to create a local version of this drink for their sake – just like in the case of beer.” We believe that our product is different from the rest, and we can change the rules of the game. ”
One glance is enough to understand that the creators of the City Water hard selter, offered in four flavors, including Lime Coconut and Valencia Orange Cranberry, are working hard to stand out from competing brands of large breweries. 12 oz cans have an unusual, even psychedelic design: they are decorated with building blocks, squirrels, possums and other representatives of the urban fauna. The list of ingredients is quite short, and it does not find artificial flavors and colors, and 3% of sales are transferred to local charity organizations.
“I do not think this is a short-term fashion. I see this as a great potential for creativity, ”says Barley. – The time has passed when people just drank the same beer. Depending on the situation, people want to have a choice and discover new things. I think that the alcoholic selter in this case is a great solution. ”
And he is not alone in his opinion. Craft breweries across the country have either released or are preparing to release their own alcoholic soda, and this is very easy to understand from a business perspective. Beer sales in the USA over the past few years remain at the same level, and the number of craft breweries continues to grow at a tremendous pace and has already exceeded 7,000. Therefore, many brewers are looking for ways to get additional income.
“Beer production requires large expenditures, both monetary and labor. The craft beer industry has grown at an insane pace for many years, and now this growth has begun to slow down, ”says Tucker Gerrick, marketing director at Fulton Beer Brewery, Minneapolis. “If you have built your business in the last five or ten years of active growth in the industry, you begin to ask yourself what will come to replace craft beer.”
Hard selter is not just a new fashion trend that should be followed, it is also practical. The Bureau of Taxation and Trade in Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Products has the same requirements for sugar or malt based selter as beer, which means that most craft breweries already have a license and the equipment necessary for its production. Unlike stouts aged in bourbon barrels, most hard selters can be made in less than a week, and unlike a muddy IPA, you don’t have to worry about spoiling them before they arrive at the point of sale.
Gerrick recalls that he noticed changes in the tastes of beer lovers during one of the corporate events of Fulton Beer in the spring of 2017. Even the most avid IPA fans from among employees have preferred less caloric alternatives with lower alcohol content to their favorite drinks.
“That weekend, we probably drank a couple of hundred cans of White Claw. Given that we are experienced beer lovers, we realized that there is something to it, says Gerrick. – We started thinking about it and decided that we can do something of our own, even better. Our zelter was supposed to be different from the rest. “