When you open a cold one this summer, you might be drinking something other than Beer.
Drinkers will be tempted by a wide variety of novelties alcoholic beverages on the shelves as major brands expand their portfolios to compensate for slowing beer sales. Canned cocktails and fortified seltzers with enhanced flavors (sorry, boring old lime!) are growing in popularity as Americans celebrate warmer weather.
“This summer is going to be a reset,” Jamie Wideman, vice president of innovation at Molson Coors, told CNN Business. “Last year people had one foot outdoors and one foot indoors. I think the opportunity to explore and experience new drinks is going to be very important this summer.”
To this end, the company is delighted with the highly anticipated national launch of Simply Spicy Lemonade June 6. The alcoholic beverage, inspired by Simply brand fruit juices, is a collaboration between Molson Coors and Coca-Cola. Flavors include Strawberry Lemonade, Watermelon Lemonade, Blueberry Lemonade, and Traditional Lemonade.
“Consumers are already using the non-alcoholic Simply brand as part of their mixology regiment,” Wideman said. “So bringing that into the ready-to-drink space was a no-brainer.”
Simply Spiked Lemonade is indicative of a general trend to blur the lines between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages as companies seek to bank on household names and increase revenue. For example, Boston Beer Company recently partnered with PepsiCo will transform Mountain Dew into a caffeine-free alcoholic beverage and Molson Coors is enjoying success with its enriched Topo Chico line.
Even hard liquor companies are moving into the canned cocktail space. In recent months, Cazadores Tequila has launched canned margaritas and Jack Daniels has introduced flavored whiskeys including apple, cola and lemonade varieties.
Sales of ready-to-drink cocktails have exploded as drinkers seek convenience and new flavors beyond wine and beer. This beverage category grew 53% last year and is expected to grow another 29% over the next three years, according to data from IWSR Drinks Analysis.
Fortified seltzer also remains popular, despite warning signs that the once-new drink loses market share. The category grew nearly 4% over the past year, well below the gains seen with canned cocktails. The market is now saturated with more than 300 brands on the shelves.
This has prompted companies to go back to the drawing board and unveil more impactful flavors. White Claw, which remains the top-selling brand of seltzer, has seen a 7% drop in sales over the past year according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. It recently launched bolder releases including White Claw Surf which uses exotic flavors (i.e. yuzu citrus smash) and an iced tea and lemonade pack called REFRSHR.
“As a category leader and creator, White Claw understands the need for new innovation to maintain our status as the number one hard seltzer brand, where last year we contributed more than $2 billion to the category,” White Claw chief marketing officer John Shea told CNN Business.
Truly Hard Seltzer remains the second largest brand, with sales growing 13% year over year. The Boston Beer-owned brand has added a new Poolside Variety Pack with flavors like Pina Colada and Strawberry Melon Sparkling. It even expanded to selling vodka.
Anheuser-Busch also remains confident with its ever-expanding Bud Light Seltzer line, which now includes around two dozen flavors. “There’s growth here and that’s now coming from the rise of bolder flavors that are driving consumer interest in products like Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda,” said Simon Wuestenberg, the company’s chief sales officer. . Anheuser-Busch has bolstered its lineup with cocktail-inspired seltzers and sour-flavored options.
However, with more varieties to choose from, Wideman warned that drinkers have the advantage of being picky.
“People are going to be less tolerant of things that don’t taste good,” she said. “We know what is happening in the world and in the economy. Money is important to them and they want to invest their money in buying products that they know will meet their expectations.”
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