Hard Seltzer Going Flat: Light Beer Is Making a Comeback

Fizzled Fad

The numbers back it up: hard seltzers were majorly popular throughout the pandemic’s earlier stages. Considered a low-calorie and fruity alternative to light beer, sales rose 11% in 2020 per data gathered by Bump Williams Company, as analyzed by Nielsen (NLSN). Meanwhile, during the four-week period ended July 2, hard seltzer sales in retail stores fell 18% year-over-year.

Boston Beer Co. (SAM), famous for Samuel Adams beer, developed its own hard seltzer brand by the name of Truly. Its CEO Dave Burwick says the product has lost its novelty, adding customers have become distracted by other “beyond-beer” products like canned cocktails and similar drinks.

Brands Rush In

It was common to see people drinking hard seltzers over the last few summers, whether from Truly, the White Claw brand, or otherwise. Back in 2020, Nielsen IQ claimed hard seltzers had the “most sustainable” growth trajectory when considering the entire alcohol landscape in the US.

In consideration of that trend, numerous companies large and small entered the beyond-beer marketplace. Natural Light and Michelob Ultra developed offerings. Others focused on flavors like tea, margarita, cola, and lemonade. Canned cocktails also exploded in popularity, as evidenced by Coca-Cola (KO) and Bacardi getting in on that market.

Truly, Madly, Off Mark

During last week’s earnings call, Boston Beer’s executives spent time discussing the state of Truly. Mr. Burwick said consumers between the age of 35 and 44 in particular have shifted away from hard seltzer in favor of light beer, which is cheaper. He noted Truly’s sales fell 17% in the second quarter, compared to the year-ago period.

Boston Beer has disclosed previous issues with the Truly brand as well. Despite ranking second in overall sales the company admits it overestimated demand last summer. Its 2022 seltzer forecast was recently cut once again. After predicting volume would be anywhere from flat to down 10%, executives now say sales could fall 15% to 20%. The pandemic certainly saw a pop in hard seltzer’s popularity, but some of that’s gone flat.

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James Flippin ABOUT James Flippin James Flippin is the son of a financial advisor who grew up hearing and learning about bond yields, interest rates, the stock market, and the ins and outs of Wall Street. After stints as a licensing and business broker for Marcus and Millichap in New York City, James moved into broadcasting and became a reporter and anchor. He covered crime, politics, finance, and tech at NBC News Radio while working part-time as a producer for SiriusXM. James graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. He's also an accomplished podcaster with over 10-years of experience.

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