Hard seltzers set to continue momentum
as On Premise reopens

BY TOM GRAHAM – CLIENT MANAGER AT NIELSEN CGA

Hard Seltzers have continued to gain popularity and broaden their consumer base throughout the shelter in place measures in the US. We now know that 11% of all US On Premise visitors said they drink the category when out, up from 8% six months earlier. While in the Off Premise, where sales have not been restricted by closures, they have continued to fly, with week on week sales increasing since March, when the lockdown began.

Having been a client manager at Nielsen CGA for almost two years, working across a number of brands and categories, I have closely followed the Hard Seltzer trend, and believe that one of the main reasons for this continued success in the Off Premise is the accessibility of the category; drinking a can of seltzer at home or in the garden is very much the same in terms of serve as drinking one in a bar or restaurant. Compare this to draft beer or cocktails, which have a stronger association with the On Premise and harder to replicate when not in bars and restaurants.

From previous research we have been able to understand the strong consumption habits that these consumers have and their frequent presence in the On Premise. We now know that this level of alcohol consumption has continued into lockdown, as 67% of Hard Seltzer drinkers have maintained/increased their alcohol consumption. Positive news for the category, and a sign that upon return to the On Premise this will remain at a similar level.

During lockdown hard seltzer drinkers have continued to trial and experiment with new brands (61%) and flavors (62%) the same as or more than before lockdown. This spells good news for newer entrants in the category, highlighting the opportunity to win over customers with the right offering. While more established brands can continue to innovate with the flavors they offer, and build their flavor portfolio to reach more consumers.

For bars and restaurants, the hard seltzer category makes for an extremely valuable option to stock as and when they reopen. With ¾ of hard seltzer drinkers stating that on reopening their visit frequency will be the same as or more than previously – their preferences need to be met. In fact the proportion who will increase their frequency upon reopening (24%) is much higher than those who drink other popular categories, including cocktails (14%), beer (13%) and wine (11%).

Furthermore, the preferred serve style of hard seltzers, which we know is overwhelmingly in the can format, also plays into the logistics of the ‘new normal’. Discarding cans is much easier than washing glasses used by consumers, while the majority of consumers have also expressed concern around using glassware (82%), suggesting the can format may prove a more viable option for outlets reopening.

All of these factors are pointing to yet another ‘summer of seltzers’, but this one has all the potential to be bigger, albeit different than last year, given the number of new high-profile brands, as well as the ‘new normal’ we are experiencing in the On Premise, making it crucial to understand the dynamics of this category and how to succeed.

The NCGA Hard Seltzer 360 report shines a light on this category, delving into the On Premise growth of up until lockdown, how the category is consumed in the On Premise, and the biggest areas of opportunity. Use this report to build an effective and actionable Hard Seltzer strategy as this category continues to bring significant value and opportunity to On Premise brands and businesses.

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