Hard Seltzers, are they here to stay?

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Hard Seltzers are flying off the shelves all over the country.

As we approach the end of a pandemic summer, we've seen so many changes and new trends around beer due to COVID-19. One trend that has been unwavering so far is...hard seltzers.  

If you haven't seen hard seltzers in the coolers and shelves at your local bottle shop or grocery store, you may be living under a rock. They're everywhere. The craze seemed to have ramped up in early 2018 with White Claw trending on the scene first. The trend was quickly followed by big brands such as Anheuser Busch with Bud Light Seltzer, Truly from Boston Beer, Corona Hard Seltzer, and many more. With hard seltzers continuing to gain solid market share, crossing over $100m in sales for 10th week in a row, it doesn't seem like anything is going to slow down the hard seltzer train.

More and more breweries are starting to shift their strategy to making hard seltzers to help meet the growing demographic of drinkers that are looking for something different. We've heard first hand from brewers who've lamented at first when thinking about testing the waters with hard seltzers, but sales have shown that it's a win/win for consumer and local breweries in trying to regain consumer interest in a COVID world.

At Untappd, we love to look at trend data so we've kept our eye on hard seltzers to see how popular they've become and their longevity in the market. This craze reminds me of when Small Town Brewery launched "Not Your Father's Root Beer" back in 2015. Once it hit the market it catapulted to the top of the charts for ratings and check-ins. It grew 150% percent in terms of check-ins from April to July in 2015 each month. However, as the warmer days moved into the colder months, it started to dip in popularity. Looking at its July 2020 check-ins back to July 2015 check-ins, it has decreased over 40k check-ins to only 324 check-ins.

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Check-ins to beers assigned as "hard seltzer" on Untappd from Jan 1, 2019 to July 31, 2020.

We only recently added hard seltzer as a style on Untappd in 2019. Even though seltzers are still fairly new on the scene, once a beer is updated by a brewery as a hard seltzer, that's updated in your check-ins and we're able to pull historical data on its check-in history. We looked at created entries in July 2019 and we had over 282 commercial beers (113 breweries) categorized as hard seltzer. Flash forward to July 2020, we have 1,446 beers by 524 breweries.

Looking at the raw data, the trends are pretty crazy. Comparing July 2020 to July 2019, check-ins are up 162% and distinct users are up 128% versus the prior year.

Now, as I said before, we have seen this before with the "root beer" craze back that trended significantly but for only one summer in 2015. The difference is that hard seltzers so far have stuck around way longer than the "root beer" craze. Hard seltzers continue to grow year over year. The "hockey stick" effect is something I am curious to see as we move into the fall and winter, but the rapid growth and numerous breweries that are jumping on the hard seltzer train makes me think that this style is here to stay. 

In terms of popularity on Untappd, the big brands such as White Claw and Anheuser Busch still have the top checked in hard seltzers on Untappd. I suspect as more and more breweries start to dabble and make their own, the data will start to filter out the smaller and regional breweries. 

Interested in finding more about what hard seltzers are popular around you? Use the Untappd app and tap "Trending Beers", and filter the selection based on hard seltzer.

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What do you think about the hard seltzer trend? Is it here to stay or a passing fad? Let me know on Twitter and don't forget...connect with me on Untappd! Cheers!

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