- In the past week, Natural Light, PBR, and Four Loko have all announced plans to roll out hard seltzers.
- Hard seltzer has exploded into the mainstream, boosted by "bros’" love for White Claw.
- As bros ditch beer, brands like Natural Light and PBR are looking to hard seltzer to win over younger male drinkers.
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As students head back to college, alcohol companies want to quench their thirst not just with beers of frat parties past, but also with hard seltzers.
In the past week, Natural Light (or "Natty Light"), PBR, and Four Loko have all announced plans to roll out hard seltzers. Natty Light’s hard seltzer is 6% ABV, PBR’s is 8% ABV, and Four Loko promises a whopping 14% ABV.
"Hard seltzer is jumping between groups," Euromonitor beverage analyst Matthew Barry told Business Insider.
Originally, Barry says, most hard seltzer fans were people who drank seltzer in all forms. These people were generally health-conscious, perhaps switching from soda to sparkling water. They liked that hard seltzer had fewer calories and found it to be an enjoyable alternative to beer on a hot day.
"Then, White Claw this summer makes the jump into being a mainstream beverage," Barry said. "Men start drinking it — it’s something you can drink without being harassed, more or less, for drinking a ‘wussy’ beverage."
"That then opens up a huge market," Barry added.
Winning over beer-ditching bros
Over this year’s Fourth of July weekend, hard seltzer was the top-growing segment in the beer category. Sales increased by more than 200% over the past year, according to Nielsen.
"Bros" played a major role in fueling this growth, Business Insider’s Bethany Biron reported.
"Throw a dart at my fraternity composite, and you’ll find a guy who’s into hard seltzer," a college junior and fraternity member told Biron.
Now, beer giants and other alcohol companies are trying to cash in on American young men’s new drink of choice. Beer sales by volume dropped by 1% in the US from 2017 to 2018, according to Euromonitor data shared with Business Insider.
"The iconic American beers are around for decades — those are the ones that are really struggling to hold the younger consumers," Barry said.
Beer giants have worked to diversify their offerings, adding new wine, liquor, and alcohol-free options to their portfolios.
White Claw makes up roughly half of all American hard seltzer sales. With the category going mainstream and quickly growing, many alcohol companies see an opportunity.
Natty Light, PBR, and Four Loko are well-established brands for less-discerning drinkers, focused more on alcoholic content than on nutrition or depth of flavor. Now that hard seltzer has gone mainstream and been embraced by bros, these brands likely see a chance to become the even-harder seltzer of choice, with significantly higher alcohol content than White Claw’s 5% ABV.
As summer draws to a close, will the thirst for hard seltzer also dry up? Barry doesn’t think so.
"I think hard seltzer is here to stay," he said. "I think it’s well in line with a lot of these longer term trends."
"Next year, people probably aren’t going to be yelling ‘Ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws,’ anymore, but they’re probably still drinking Claws," Barry added.
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