Having blazed a trail at American supermarkets, hard seltzers are also enjoying dramatic growth in the US on-trade, where sales hit US$1.2 billion last year.
According to a recent report by Nielsen CGA exploring the hard seltzer category in the US on-trade, between spring and autumn last year hard seltzers attracted 7.5 million new drinkers in the American on-trade.
The majority of these new hard seltzer lovers are going for the drink in place of their usual booze of choice, with 52% of those surveyed swapping beer for hard seltzers and 40% electing the drink over cocktails.
Hard seltzers have created such a buzz in the US on-trade that, according to Nieslen, weekly sales now surpass those of the pale ale category in restaurants and bars.
Dollar sales of hard seltzers in the US off-trade hit 1.5 billion last year, while on-trade sales rose from 210 million in 2018 to 1.2 billion last year.
“Hard seltzers have begun to dominate supermarket shelves, but up until now we haven’t been able to quantify the effect they had on the nation’s bars and restaurants, with just over half of hard seltzer drinkers opting for them instead of what they normally drink when they’re out.
“Our report shows just how wild bar patrons have gone for all things seltzer. The category is having an impact on the whole industry, with both traditional beer and cocktails being switched out for hard seltzers,” said Matthew Crompton, Nielsen CGA’s client solutions director.
“Seltzers are dominated by two or three big players, but with suppliers all wanting a piece of the action, competition is going to get intense very fast.
“Having a solid draft offering may end up being the differentiator in winning in the on-premise. To do this, retailers will need to work with suppliers to ensure quality, theatre of service and correct placement,” he added.
While the growth of the category has been lightening quick, 72% of consumers surveyed by Nieslen CGA believe that hard seltzers have potential to grow even further rather than them being just a flash in the pan.
While other drinks categories are under threat from the rapid rise of hard seltzers, Nielsen believes there is a chance for cross-pollination among the sectors, with hard seltzers lending themselves to being enjoyed with both mixers and in cocktails.
Vodka seems to be the spirit set to benefit most from the trend, with 69% of those surveyed being open to drinking a hard seltzer mixed with vodka, though they also seemed open to the idea of drinking the disruptive beverage with rum and Tequila.
The category continues to dominate the US off-trade, where sales are growing at a rate of 215%, though the rate of growth in the on-trade outpaced the retail space last year.
An in-depth look at the hard seltzer category will appear in the April issue of the drinks business.