The rise of the hard seltzer segment has taken the beverage alcohol industry by storm the last few years, delivering 130% volume growth in 2020 despite the pandemic, according to IWSR. A new report from on-premise inventory software firm Backbar, provides some revealing data regarding the future of the category and consumer preferences. 

“Unlike off-premise, where retailers carry a wide selection of hard seltzer brands, a majority of bars and restaurants only offer a single brand of hard seltzer,” said Josh Saunders, CEO of Backbar. “We’re seeing this starting to change as more differentiated products with interesting new flavors are finally introduced.”

New Entrants Take Share

The top five brands of hard seltzer currently account for 83% of the market share in data from Backbar retailers. 

White Claw is the name that comes to mind first when thinking of the hard seltzer segment and it remains the dominant brand name with 45% of inventory market share. Other brands are gaining steam, however, and White Claw has seen its inventory market share decrease for three consecutive years through 2021.

Truly currently holds the second largest market share at 17.4% and saw a 2.6% market share growth from 2020 to 2021, driven by the release of their Lemonade and Punch product lines.  The third spot belongs to the brand with the largest market share gain from 2020 to 2021: High Noon. The hard seltzer offering from E & J Gallo overtook Bud Light on the year and currently holds a 10.4% market share in the segment. Bud Light was a fast riser after a strong market entry in January 2020, but ultimately lost market share in 2021 and is currently the fourth largest market share brand.

Tropical Flavors on the Rise

The data shows that the top three flavors are black cherry, mango, and lime, and these flavors make up 49% of the market. In fact, four of the top ten products are black cherry flavored and black cherry products currently account for 26.4% of Backbar’s inventory market share. Meanwhile, lime offerings are showing a steady decline in popularity, dropping from 15% share in 2019 to 7.5% in 2021. 

The flavors that have seen the fastest growth from 2019 to 2021 include pineapple, watermelon, strawberry, and punch. This indicates that consumers may be transitioning toward summer-fruit flavors. 

The Future of the Segment

The hard seltzer category is expected to continue to experience rapid growth through the remainder of 2021 and brands will continue to enter the market. Over the years, the industry has seen a deluge of players entering the hard seltzer category with copycat products that were not necessarily differentiating themselves. 

As a result, despite major market spends by big players like Constellation Brands/Corona and Molson Coors, their offerings account for less than 4% of market share. This shows that the hard seltzer segment is not driven by established brand names, but by innovative products and offerings.