Anheuser-Busch (A-B), the U.S. arm of brewing giant AB InBev is going to raid the hard seltzer market with a planned investment of USD 100 million. The brewer will launch early next year a range of new products under its new Bud Light Seltzer label. The product will come in four flavors (Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, Strawberry, and Mango) containing 5% alcohol by volume, two grams of carbs and less than one gram of sugar which adds up to only 100 calories.
In addition A-B is apparently planning to release a new line of flavored malt beverages called Hard & Simple. In late October, federal regulators approved a two-toned brown label with pictures of coffee beans and ice cubes on it which appears to be a hard coffee with 8% alcohol-by-volume packaged in 16-ounce cans. The product seems to be the answer to similar product launches earlier this year by MillerCoors (inside.beer, 11.9.2019) and Pabst Brewing Company (inside.beer, 26.7.2019).
In addition to the planned Bud Light Seltzer line, AB InBev has already with Bon & Viv and Natty Light, two products in the hard seltzer category, whose sales have increased year-over-year, but lost market share compared to rivals.
“Anheuser-Busch has been in the seltzer game for some time. Bud Light Seltzer complements our existing offerings of Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer and Natural Light Seltzer by putting the power of our biggest brand behind this new product,” explains Andy Goeler, Vice President Bud Light Marketing at Anheuser-Busch.
In order to structure the new business, A-B has set up a stand-alone business unit called Beyond Beer to handle such products. The division bundels all acquisitions outside the traditional beer segment like products from Spiked Seltzer (inside.beer, 13.9.2016), HiBall (inside.beer, 24.7.2017), Babe Rose (inside.beer, 13.3.2018) and Cutwater Spirits (inside.beer, 20.2.2019).
Top-selling brand in the hard seltzer market with a national market share of 58% is White Claw, a brand which was launched in 2016 and which is owned by Mark Anthony Brands, which also owns Mike's Hard Lemonade. The beverage which is sold in six different fruit flavors, had seen nationwide shortage in the United States this summer, sparked by the drink's rising popularity.
Another major player in the hard seltzer market is Truly Hard Seltzer by Boston Beer Co. which has captured a market share of about 30% and which helps the craft brewer to compensate the underperforming sales of its Samuel Adams and Dogfish Head beers.
Molson Coors, the other big American brewer has launched this year a national ad campaign for its Henry's Hard Sparkling Water and is said to be working on a major takeover in this segment [update: 18.11.2019, Molson Coors has taken a minority stake in L.A. Libations, inside.beer, 18.11.2019)]
Constellation Brands (CB), another big player is also jumping on the hard seltzer bandwagon. The company announced two weeks ago to launch next spring a new hard seltzer line under the Corona brand name. Like the others, CB’s offerings will also come in several fruit flavors and will have 90 calories with zero carbs and zero sugars.
In total, the U.S. market for hard seltzers has expanded by 200% over the last year and the number of brands have doubled during this time. Sales of hard seltzer surpassed USD 1 billion for the past year ending in August making up now 2.5% of the overall alcohol market.