Hard Seltzer Is Now Outselling Craft Beer?

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by JackHorzempa, Jul 7, 2021.

  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Below is information provided by @jesskidden in another thread.

    I figured this topic deserved it's own dedicated thread for further discussion.


    "Supposedly they're already outselling "craft" beer as a percentage of the overall beer market, too :astonished:. From Beer Marketer Insights weekly newsletter:

    Hard Seltzer Bigger than Craft for 12 Wks in IRI; Bigger YTD without Blue Moon, Leinie, Shock Top – CRAFT 6/30/21 Another hard seltzer milestone marks another surefire sign that there’s a new darlin’ segment in “beer” as craft’s go-go growth years slip into a more distant memory, at least off-premise. Hard seltzer $$ sales are now larger than (IRI-defined) craft beer $$ sales for the latest 12 wks thru Jun 13 in IRI multi-outlet + convenience data. In fact, excluding big brewer brands (tracked with craft in this data, recall), Blue Moon, Leinenkugel and Shock Top, hard seltzer $$ are ahead of total craft beer YTD, as seltzers up 34% to $1.995 bil vs craft (ex-BM, Leinie, Shock) up 0.2% to $1.98 bil; 10.2 vs 10.1 share of total beer $$."

  2. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,698) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    Not shocking. It's a more approachable beverage for a lot of folks, they can be grabbed almost anywhere, and they're an easier drink to consume. But, this is the IRI data, which then comes with its usual caveats.
  3. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,127) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    I'm sure some hard seltzer sales are coming at the expense of craft beer sales, but I'd expect they are also (perhaps even more so) coming at the expense of big beer light lager sales.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    IRI data has the limitations that it does not cover every potential retailer for beer but at least it provides an 'apples to apples comparison' for the same subset of retailers:

    "Top, hard seltzer $$ are ahead of total craft beer YTD, as seltzers up 34% to $1.995 bil vs craft (ex-BM, Leinie, Shock) up 0.2% to $1.98 bil; 10.2 vs 10.1 share of total beer $$."

    Maybe because I am personally not a consumer of hard seltzers but I was surprised they amounted to $1.995 billion YTD. That is a lot of money for a relatively new product line IMO. More money then I would have guessed.

    rocdoc1, Shanex and Providence like this.
  5. nomisugitai

    nomisugitai Initiate (119) Mar 11, 2006 New Jersey

    My purchases of hard seltzer come at the expense of regular seltzer purchases.
    John1985, db23, cjgiant and 9 others like this.
  6. officerbill

    officerbill Crusader (780) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    No doubt sales for the following 12 weeks (hottest part of summer, July 4th & 2/3 of the Labor Day weekend) will be even higher.
    Stores stock what sells and, increasingly, hard seltzer is what sells.
    Harrison8 and BBThunderbolt like this.
  7. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,729) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    But isn't that leaving a huge chunk of sales on the table for craft beer?

    Tap room sales, home delivery now (which came about during the pandemic), restaurants/bars and smaller liquor stores that aren't chains...?

    I know many craft breweries who have stated the majority of their sales come from tap room sales.

    I get the "apples to apples" comparison, but when you don't sell most of your apples at a grocery store, how valuable is that data?
  8. officerbill

    officerbill Crusader (780) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    That's likely true on an individual brewery level, but what percentage of total craft sales industry wide are tap room as opposed to retail? I don't know if including tap sales would have made a big difference.
  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Cool! :sunglasses:

    If you have sales data that is 'better' than IRI please share.

    dbexpert likes this.
  10. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,698) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    Yeah, the IRI data generally doesn't include independent retailers, which is what we generally think of as a "beer store", of the type users of this site would frequent. But, it does include the high volume grocery and mini mart chains, so does give a solid baseline of overall sales. The more small, local/regional breweries jump through the hoops to get on the shelves of their area Kroger/HEB/Giant/Wegman-type stores do get their sales reflected in those numbers.
  11. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,248) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Mark Anthony Brands (or whatever the !@#$ the name of the company responsible for White Claw and the Mike's Hard lines) passed both Heineken USA and Boston Beer Co. to wind up the #4 US Brewer/Importer, with 9.25 million barrels shipped.

    Pre-pandemic I think Brewers Association's Bart Watson estimated the "own premise" sales ( both on- and off-premise, sold at the brewery) as being around 10% of craft total barrelage. But the stat is not about individual small breweries but the overall craft market (plus the noted macro brands that sell in that segment according IRI). 2.5% of the biggest craft breweries (220 out of ~8,800) sell 2/3's of all the craft beer (B.A. stats for 2020).
    #11 jesskidden, Jul 7, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2021
  12. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (4,303) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
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    I don't pay too much attention to sales, but wasn't hard seltzer up big last summer too? Will be interested to see how it plays out later this year, although, there are a couple more warm months ahead of us before summer cools down.
  13. jasonmason

    jasonmason Devotee (484) Oct 6, 2004 California
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    While I seriously doubt data this granular exists, I would be interested to see whether "big beer" or craft beer is seeing a larger percentage of sales loss to seltzer. My gut still says craft beer is the bigger loser here.
    #13 jasonmason, Jul 7, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2021
    officerbill likes this.
  14. UrbanCaveman

    UrbanCaveman Defender (631) Sep 30, 2014 Ohio

    That was my initial thought as well. Also non-beer-drinkers in general, like the family members of my most recent ex, who were not beer people at all until I introduced them to New Glarus' fruited offerings. Suddenly they were very much beer people, as long as the beer in question was Belgian Red or Serendipity. :laughing:
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  15. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (1,828) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    I take the value of this data set to be giving insight into the mainstream beverage market. And all of my anecdotal experience tells me that hard selzer has definitely leap frogged craft.beer with the general consumer.
  16. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (2,275) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina
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    I’m not surprised by this at all.

    I think the more interesting question is what percentage of the craft beer market has dipped because of it, and what percentage of the light macro AALs has dipped because of it.

    My guess is the clientele drinking the hard seltzer’s is moreso the clientele that was drinking Mich Ultra or Bud Light, etc than it was those drinking Heady Topper.
  17. BeerVikingSailor

    BeerVikingSailor Meyvn (1,009) Nov 19, 2009 Ohio

    White Claw and the like have been around for a number of years now and millenials love them....not at all surprised by this - look around any grocery store in my area, and there are huge displays of hard seltzer products - dwarfing many of the craft beer stack outs....by a lot....this is what is selling
    BigIronH, beergoot and Bitterbill like this.
  18. JFresh21

    JFresh21 Disciple (333) Mar 6, 2012 Illinois

    I must admit I have been contributing to this statistic. Hard seltzer on a hot day works.
    ivegot3Dvision likes this.
  19. dennisthreeninefiveone

    dennisthreeninefiveone Initiate (100) Aug 11, 2020 New Jersey

    I just in the last hour asked the owner of a small local
    Liquor store about this. He doesn’t think it cut into his craft beer sales at all. Thinks it cut into BMC and wine sales and it purchased mostly by females.
  20. hoptheology

    hoptheology Poo-Bah (5,703) May 12, 2014 South Dakota
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    Shouldn't even be in the same "demographic" really. Beer drinkers are going to drink beer, and seltzer folks are going to try to be "artsy" in between trips to the gym.
    BigIronH, TrojanRB, beergoot and 3 others like this.
  21. ESHBG

    ESHBG Disciple (346) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Same. A funny story from over the weekend: a relative was joking about HS and thought that I would be on board and I couldn't agree, as I drink them regularly now. They were in shock and I got the, "What?!? YOU?!?" response. When I explained why, and shared all of the craft breweries I can still patronize (and we all know more will be on the way), they changed their tune.

    The smartest thing any brewery could do right now is dabble in HS and in the years to come it may be an absolute must for survival.
    LeRose, Shanex and FatBoyGotSwagger like this.
  22. UrbanCaveman

    UrbanCaveman Defender (631) Sep 30, 2014 Ohio

    This is interesting to me, because I'm not a seltzer person - hard or otherwise. I'd rather have a plain water than a Perrier, and I've been unimpressed when trying any flavored seltzer, hard or regular. About the only bubbly beverage I like that isn't beer involves tonic water, a decent or better gin, and possibly something like St. Germain splashed in.

    That said, the ex I mentioned above was the polar opposite - she would go out of her way to buy carbonated water, or carbonate her own, and everything had to be "sparkling". Her peer group was much the same.

    There was a bit of an age gap, so I wonder if this might be a generational thing. or if this is yet another example of my palate being weird. Like where for my entire life I've viewed bread as a disposable wrapper for food to be torn away as one eats rather than actually eating the bread. :laughing:
  23. mmmbeerNY

    mmmbeerNY Devotee (454) Mar 5, 2014 New York

    Why are they easier to consume?
    Where is craft beer not available?
    WCKDVBZ likes this.
  24. mmmbeerNY

    mmmbeerNY Devotee (454) Mar 5, 2014 New York

    This is very sad if true.
  25. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (3,239) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
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    Apples and oranges stats. why compare Seltzer sales (including all the BMC and macro produced seltzer’s against craft beer (oh, let’s exclude Shock Top, Blue Moon and Leinenkugels from craft stats). What really matters is for craft breweries that are now making seltzer as well, are their craft beer sales lower than their seltzer volume sales? I’d guess no, and really it’s just bringing in more females and non beer drinkers to the craft brewers party. Does Bud Light Seltzer now outsell Bud Light?
    StoutsAllDay and AlcahueteJ like this.
  26. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (13,174) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
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    I think you're right. We craft drinkers evolved from drinking macro back in grade school, and tend to drink many brands and many styles. Those adults who continued drinking macro through high school and into adulthood rarely stray from AAL, and their idea of the wild side is having a Pilsner. Craft drinkers are more likely to try hard ciders, wine coolers, seltzers, etc. But few will switch entirely, variety is in our DNA.
    TedHead and BBThunderbolt like this.
  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Have you had many Hard Seltzers produced by small/local breweries? How do they compare to those brewed by the larger businesses (e.g., White Claw, Boston Beer Company, AB InBev,...)?

    We BAs tend to enjoy craft beer vs. mainstream AAL beers since they have notably different flavors and other qualities (e.g., Heady Topper vs. Bud). Is there are parallel here as regards Hard Seltzers produced by small craft breweries vs. White Claw (or similar)?

  28. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (7,736) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming

    I'd only be worried if a website called SeltzerAdvocate showed up. :wink:
  29. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (281) Jun 4, 2005 California

    I have to think that the pandemic had something (a lot?) to do with this. Hard seltzer is the sexy new thing and everyone is looking to get drunk at home. Let's check back in a couple years.
    bubseymour and Bitterbill like this.
  30. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (1,828) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    In my experience that's not the case at all. It seems like all sorts of people are drinking hard selzer for all sorts of reasons. I've observed it to be super popular with bar tenders and with the mid-late 20s crowd.
  31. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (7,736) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming

    Has anyone seen this crap on draught yet?
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  32. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (1,828) Mar 12, 2013 California
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    A local brewery has their brand on tap at their location and a couple places around town.
    They're super light in the belly from what I've been told. Not filling at all. Also they have really simple and approachable flavors that everyone is familiar with
  33. UrbanCaveman

    UrbanCaveman Defender (631) Sep 30, 2014 Ohio

    There's one tap dedicated to it at the small town local 16-tap place here where I am. But mostly they seem to offer cans cracked open and poured into glasses.
    BigIronH and Bitterbill like this.
  34. beergoot

    beergoot Poo-Bah (7,176) Oct 11, 2010 Colorado
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    I was at a local pool that actually permits 'adult beverages' to be consumed on site and in the pool...and my favorite local beer emporium actually had a tent (that they apparently set up every 4th of July weekend)...

    The session IPA they had went first, the pale ale was next to go, and the seltzer remained.

    I don't recall which beer brands they offered nor the seltzer, but never having tried a seltzer before, I took a half-cup when the beer ran out. It didn't impress me and I dumped it into the grass. It was bland and fizzy (to be expected), but I didn't get any kind of 'exciting' or 'appealing' flavor from it. But I can say it was 'on tap'...

    Now, talking with the folks (Coaltrain), they do say that seltzers are a big seller for them, and they also continue to have ciders (wasn't that another 'new big thing'), too. But their core business is beer (and wine).

    So, to get to the point: yes, I've tried one seltzer 'on tap', and since I don't remember which one it is, I can't even say if it's a popular or 'standard' representation of seltzers. And, of course, being a diehard beer fanatic, it just isn't my 'cup of tea'. Yet I can see a potential customer base appeal if only because it is bland and not challenging to many palates.

    Eh, this isn't my world anymore...:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
    #34 beergoot, Jul 8, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2021
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  35. lucius10

    lucius10 Meyvn (1,436) Aug 1, 2017 California

    I agree...more and more breweries around me have them on draft. And when beer nerds like me want to bring a girlfriend/significant other along who may not like beer that much, this gives them something light and fruity to sip on. I'm happy I can beer nerd out, she is happy she is spending time with me and we can generally stay longer. I think HS may be here to stay as breweries see another revenue stream.

    This, on the other hand, is not light and bubbly, but a heavily fruited HS! Ha! Just like with Fruited Sours taking the Jamba juice turn, HS are experimenting with it too! :grin:

    BigIronH, AlcahueteJ, bret27 and 5 others like this.
  36. Foyle

    Foyle Meyvn (1,025) Sep 29, 2007 North Carolina

    My unscientific survey of local grocery stores finds that the increase in seltzer shelf space has come at the expense of craft beer and imports (with the exception of Mexican brands, Heineken, and Guinness, any other imports are very rare). The space devoted to BMC + Yuengling regular and light lagers is the same as in the pre-seltzer era.

    Seltzers are coming close to 1/3 of cooler space in some stores.

    I would not be surprised at all if seltzer (White Claw and macro offerings) is outselling all craft offerings (beer and seltzer) in my area. I live near the coast, so that may skew the seltzer sales even more. I tend to drink light beers when sitting on the beach. If I was a seltzer drinker I would definitely opt for that in 90 degree weather on the strand over a 9% Double IPA or Imperial Stout.
    jasonmason, Bitterbill and lucius10 like this.
  37. Ffenski

    Ffenski Initiate (127) Apr 24, 2008 Ohio

    I really think the popularity of seltzers lately is a result of society's affinity for sugar and everything sweet-
    -Seltzers (and ciders) are sweeter than the popular AAL's.
    -More sweetened stouts with maple, brown sugar, etc. added
    -Addition of fruits in a lot of beers
    -Addition of lactose in beers
    -The popular "hazies" are sweeter than IPA's
    -Even a lot of the sours have some sweetness

    I think older beer drinkers prefer more bitterness in their beer than the younger generations (I have not researched this).

    Even on the food side, more foods (talking about America, not sure of other countries) have more sugar in them- people need dipping sauces for everything. We like our sugar.
  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

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  39. Justonemore91

    Justonemore91 Zealot (518) Nov 24, 2018 New York
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    I just found out labatt has a hard seltzer. The present and future is hard seltzer
    Shanex and beergoot like this.
  40. ESHBG

    ESHBG Disciple (346) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Off the top of my head so far I have had Founders, Victory, Levante... Overall they are better versions of the larger ones because many use natural ingredients and in turn really do taste better. But are the larger ones terrible? Not to me (except for the super artificial tasting ones, I typically don't enjoy those) and that is another thing that makes this market really competitive: hand me a terrible beer and it's undrinkable. Hand me a "terrible" HS and I'll still be able to finish it. And most have a shelf life of 12 months and are easily drinkable beyond that.

    I'm an expert on this subject unfortunately and HS are super easy on my system vs beer. I've done some major experimenting (for science, of course) and it's not even a comparison and numerous HS will not do me in like the same volume of beer can.

    And HS are great to use as a base for cocktails, something I would not recommend doing with many beers :wink: