Does Anybody Still Think Hard Seltzer is a Fad?

Dear Client:

If there’s one thing certain in these uncertain times for beer – it’s that hard seltzer isn’t going away.

In a time where consumers are, by all accounts, turning to familiar and old trusted brands, the four-year-old segment is growing 300% or more week after week.

Beyond these incredible growth rates, Nielsen notes in its latest update that “hard seltzer is the only segment where we’re seeing a shift in share.”

HARD SELTZERS NEARING AN 8 SHARE IN LATEST WEEK. In the latest week to April 11, Nielsen’s VP of Bev Alc Practice Danelle Kosmal told BBD that “hard seltzers accounted for 7.8% of category dollars, up from 5.0% in pre-COVID time periods.” Dayum. 

Indeed, seltzer’s share trends, which were already on a tear, have only gotten stronger since the pandemic began to hammer the U.S. 

Hard seltzers were gaining an average 0.2 share points each week at the start of the year, and that’s bumped up to +0.3 share points per week since the beginning of March, according to Danelle.

HARD SELTZER ITEMS INCREASING OVER COVID TOO.  There has been a sizable drop in the number of beer items selling at retail, down about 8.3% for the six weeks ending April 11, representing a drop in 1,900+ items compared to those same 6 weeks last year. But guess which segment has “picked up the greatest number of items selling in off-premise channels”?

Yep, hard seltzers. The segment saw an increase of 100+ items, according to Danelle, representing a 54% increase during the six weeks compared to last year. The rest of the beer segments over the six weeks were for the most part down in number of selling items: craft was down double digits; imports and cider weren’t far behind, both down 8%; premium light was up 1.6%; and below premium was up 0.6%.

THE TOP SELLING BEER SKU RIGHT NOW? If all the stats above weren’t enough to convince you that hard seltzer is here to stay, consider this: White Claw Variety Pack is currently the top selling beer SKU in IRI scan data by a WIDE margin.

Indeed, we see the White Claw Variety Pack sold a little under $22.5 million for the week ending April 12 in IRI’s all channel plus liquor universe, data courtesy of Bump Williams Consulting.

The next closest SKUs by dollar sales were Corona Extra 12-pack bottles ($15.9 million) and Bud Light 24-pack cans ($15.7 million).

WC VARIETY PACK NOW A TOP EIGHT BEER BRAND TOO. The latest data also shows that White Claw Variety Pack is now a top eight beer brand by dollar sales in the latest week, putting up more dollar sales during the week than Natty Light, Busch Light and Heineken to name a few.


Alright, enough about hard seltzers. Let’s take a step back and look at how total beer performed in the latest available data.

Beer, as a whole, turned in another solid performance, up 21.6% in dollars for the week ending April 12 in IRI’s all channel plus liquor universe. Data, once again, courtesy of Bump Williams Consulting. 

That’s the exact same dollar sales trend we saw in the week prior, up 21.6%, though this latest week actually turned in more dollar sales ($150.2 million) than the previous week ($146.6 million).

That $150.2 million seen in the week to April 12 is the second strongest week of sales we’ve seen in the COVID days, trailing only the peak pantry loading week (the week ending March 22), which brought in $223 million in beer sales. Keep in mind, however, that this latest week included the buildup to the Easter holiday this year, which fell on April 12. 

All but one beer segment (domestic sub-premium, up 9.1%) grew dollars by double digits in the latest week. 

With this surge in sales in the off premise, every beer vendor in the Top 15 is now in the black for dollar sales YTD (note, in off-premise scandata, but not necessarily overall), as is every brand family in the Top 15, according to Bump’s latest update.

THINGS SETTLING DOWN IN CALI AND SOUTHEAST? While sales seemingly roll in the off premise, Bump pointed out some “interesting developments in California and the Southeast regions where beer sales over the Latest 1 Week appear to have settled, ranking on par with or below the respective YTD averages.”

Indeed, during the latest week in California, beer sales were up 10.5%, running behind its YTD trend of +13.8%. And in the Southeast region, beer sales in the latest week (+8.5%) were pretty much even with its YTD trend (+8.2%). In the rest of the regions, beer sales for the latest week were growing at nearly twice the rate of their YTD trend or more. 


Online bev alc sales are making continual strides as regular restaurant activity and normal shopping habits have been altered, now for more than a month in many parts of the country. 

The latest from Drizly reflects the fact that bev alc e-commerce is becoming more commonplace. 

“The week of 4/13, sales were up a whopping 535% over baseline, or what we would have expected to see during this time,” the company told BBD.

The platform continues to see new customers, which have accounted for close to half of recent orders in recent weeks. 

“We have continued to see our biggest day in sales ever each Friday since 3/20. That growth was driven by new customers who accounted for approximately 40% of orders (this is usually closer to 15%). This did drop slightly this past week down to 35% of total sales, but new buyer sales remain up approximately up 1,200% year over year.”

Returning users have also spiked over the last week, with the 7 day repeat rate doubling.

“We’re also seeing that consumers are placing larger orders, now spending on average 50% more than normal on Drizly, which indicates a ‘stock up’ mentality.”


It’s not just e-commerce platforms crowing about the growing online channel for beer sales. Yesterday, Molson Coors sent notice to business partners that it would be promoting some of its biggest brands’ availability for online ordering, starting with a focus on Miller Lite.

One of the “profound impacts” of the COVID-era lifestyle? It’s “the accelerated adoption of online shopping,” Jeff Long and Nigel Tordoff wrote distributors. “In fact, online beverage alcohol sales are growing at 243% (per Nielsen w/o March 21 vs. YA).”  

Meanwhile, they estimate that “80% of consumers” still do not know they can buy beer online. 

“That’s why Molson Coors is launching a new product locator for online purchases,” covering both beer delivery and pick-up at retail.  

The tool will “help consumers learn where their favorite Molson Coors products are available for online purchase in their area.” They’ll start the effort with Miller Lite. 

The online product locator “curates randomized retail results based on the consumer’s zip code. The consumer then selects their retailer and is redirected to the retailer’s site to make the purchase.”

Molson Coors will feature the product locator on its existing brand websites, but it looks like they’re looking to promote it beyond that. 

“We’re also looking at media opportunities to promote the tool,” Jeff and Nigel shared. 

Until tomorrow,

Harry, Jenn and Jordan

“I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” – Frances Willard

———- Sell Day Calendar ———-

Today’s Sell Day: 14

Sell days this month: 22

Sell days this month last year: 22

This month ends on a: Thurs.

This month last year ended on a: Tues.

YTD sell days Over/Under:  +1