Hard seltzer is the official drink of summer 2019. I assume you’re drinking one right now. I am. It’s the perfect breakfast booze. Low calories. Delicious fruity vibes. I can easily hide those tiny cans in my pants. Forbes. Business Insider. Vinepair. Delish. That guy you know, Steve. Everyone’s riding the hard seltzer wave right now, and I’m jumping on board with all of you. Make some room, folks, because I take up a lot of space.
I’m a latecomer to almost every party, but I definitely knew hard seltzer was for real when I found Crook & Marker, and I began buying variety eight-packs for $16 just to get the two coconut pineapple brands. I knew the category as a whole was for really real when I noticed reports that White Claw alone was virtually outpacing sales of all craft beer. I thought to myself, wow, that is impressive and completely unbelievable, so let’s dip into these thoroughly researched reports.
What we know
White Claw is the market leader in hard seltzers, owned by Mark Anthony Brands, which also owns Mike’s Hard Lemonade. You know hard lemonades. We both still love those too. Toss me one, and then let me throw some facts at you.
This summer, White Claw has already accounted for over half of all total hard seltzer sales, and the summer’s not even over yet. The numbers are already in, man, even Wikipedia knows that. Volume sales of White Claw grew 275 percent over the year prior, according to the same page, and growth overall for hard seltzers is up nearly 200 percent over last year, according to every article on the internet and apparently Nielsen.
What everyone is saying we know
From my quick, one-article research, all of this growth is because hard seltzers have a fun and rock-solid following. This Business Insider article specifically details, quite accurately of course, how the core of hard seltzer customers is “bros,” a category of consumers that I assume are quite loyal and never lacking in attention span. And when you do the math, it’s easy to come to this conclusion. According to this report on Milwaukee’s CBS affiliate WDJT-TV, Channel 58:
A new report says hard seltzer is a summer staple. Data show ‘White Claw,’ a hard seltzer alcoholic beverage brand, is in the top 25-brands among malt beverages and beers. Sales have surpassed all craft beer brands, except for Blue Moon Belgian White.
Some are shocked to find out White Claw sales surpassed craft beer.
“I’m surprised by it because to be honest I don’t love the taste of it. I tolerate the taste of it, I prefer craft beer though,” said Lindsey Kresge of Wauwatosa.
Poor Lindsey from Wauwatosa. Clearly not a bro. This WDJT-TV piece is cited by Delish for its headline: “Spiked Seltzer Is Now Virtually Out-Selling All Craft Beer.” Fact. Clearly, Cearron Bagenda’s WDJT-TV feature is saying that the White Claw brand (as a whole?) is outselling singular craft beer brands, though I can’t quite find the attribution for that fact beyond “The Report.”
It’s hard to tell if WDJT-TV and friends are only talking about Milwaukee, as their research seems to be mostly asking random people (video here) with a guy saying, “Everyone wants to get healthy.” Finally, healthy alcohol.
Fine, let’s try to actually know
I’ve reached out to the Brewers Association as a matter of courtesy, assuming they will confirm all of these very believable and straight-forward facts.
“This is like a bad game of journalistic telephone,” explained Bart Watson, Brewers Association economist. “In scan, looking at individual brands, there have been a few weeks where individual seltzer brands are outselling any individual craft brand in specific channels — off-premise. Looking at the category level, craft is still much larger than seltzer. Craft was 24 percent of beer dollar sales last year. Seltzer has been hitting ~5 percent of beer dollars in off-premise in individual weeks recently. It has much lower share in on-premise, which is half of the total beer dollar sales. We’ll see how seasonal it is and how it drops after summer. So seltzer may hit 3 percent of total beer dollar sales this year, whereas craft will be in the mid-20s again. Yes, White Claw and Truly are big, but they are 90 percent of the category. Craft has a much deeper roster.”
There you have it: Reviewing all those numbers as a whole, it’s clear White Claw is outpacing all craft beer sales just by itself.