The Summer of Hard Seltzer: Top 5 Brands

Since it’s market inception in 2014 and the meteoric boom of White Claw in 2019, the hard seltzer craze has continued to dominate the alcohol industry. It’s even outselling a number of popular beers. But, why is it so popular? Well, spiked seltzers are thought to be the next “light beer” because it’s brewed similarly using a fermented base for its alcohol, and has a similar ABV%. Accordingly, in the U.S. alone, sales are expected to double to $3.5 billion this year and reach $6.5 billion by 2024. This summer, big beer brands are catching on and investing in their own seltzers to keep up with the fast-growing trend. So, what’s all the fuss about hard seltzer, you ask? Read on to find out more, as well as the top 5 seltzer brands in the country.

What is Hard Seltzer?

Hard seltzer is a ready-to-drink carbonated beverage made from three basic components: alcohol, carbonated water, and fruit flavoring. They are also low in alcohol (around 4.5-7 ABV%), and the most popular base is fermented cane sugar or malted barley. However, many producers use sugar-based alcohol, which excludes the need for added sugar and thus, fewer calories. This also creates a more neutral taste, which makes for one heck of a refreshing and flavorful sip. Hard seltzer also positions itself as a “healthier” alternative to other alcoholic options because of its low ABV, and it has fewer calories (typically less than 100) and carbs than beer. Not to mention, many on the market are gluten-free.

Health & Branding Matters to Consumers

Hard seltzer brands have ultimately succeeded in reaching the masses. While the beverage may appeal to a younger generation of consumers, it also reaches across multiple demographics and ages nationwide. According to IWSR research, 55% of US alcohol consumers in 2019 drink hard seltzers regularly (at least once a week). But, perhaps hard seltzers’ greatest selling point lies in the eye-catching cans and modern branding. For example, White Claw’s gender-neutral marketing and packaging helped propel it to victory with purposefully shareable social media content during the summer of 2019.

Top 5 Hard Seltzer Brands in the U.S.

1. White Claw
  • Market Share: 58.6%

White Claw, owned by Mark Anthony Brands, is unequivocally the largest and most established seltzer brand in the country. Interestingly, in 2019, Americans drank over $212 million worth of White Claw, more than the entirety of 2018. Each can contains 100 calories and carries an ABV of 5%. With over 9 flavors available, their top sellers include Black Cherry, Mango, and Natural Lime.

2. Truly
  • Market Share: 21.8%

Truly spiked seltzer, aimed at social-media-loving millennials, fulfilled their promise to deliver the drink alternative you’ve been looking for. In other words, a light alcoholic beverage that is lighter than beer and contains less alcohol than a cocktail. Each gluten-free can contains 100 calories and 5% ABV. Truly currently offers 16 flavors including Blueberry & Acai, Watermelon & Kiwi, and Pineapple.

3. Bud Light Seltzer
  • Market Share: 9%

Even with its most recent launch in January 2020, Bud Light Seltzer already holds a spot as the third biggest seltzer in the U.S. One can has 100 calories, 2g of carbs and 5% alcohol and is available in four flavors: Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, Strawberry, and Mango.

4. Bon & Viv
  • Market Share: 7.4%

As a reference to the phrase “bon vivant”, the brand is based on two fictional founders, mermaids called Bonnie and Vivian. And, you’ll find them on the front packaging of each can. Thus far, it is the first and only hard seltzer brand to appear in an ad during the Super Bowl (2019). Bon & Viv contains 4.5% ABV 90 calories per 12oz can. Today, its flavors include Grapefruit, Pear Elderflower, Clementine Hibiscus, and Lemon Lime.

5. Smirnoff Seltzer
  • Market Share: 4%

Launched in the same year as White Claw and Truly, Smirnoff seltzer is a top contender in the industry. Taking on a similar flavor profile to Smirnoff Ice, the seltzer is lower in calories with just 90 per serving and a 4.5% ABV. Its new Smirnoff Seltzer Rosé comes in Raspberry, Strawberry, White Peach, and Pink Apple flavors.

Find Your Flavor at Festival

If one thing is certain, hard seltzer is a phenomenon that is here to stay in the U.S. And, to put it into perspective, the current volume of hard seltzer produced in the country, according to IWSR analysts, is about 82.5 million nine-liter cases, which exceeds vodka. So, hop on board! To find your favorite flavor, check out our hard seltzer selection from Festival Wine and Spirits!