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Written by Kelsey Woodbridge
on July 16, 2019
women cheering drinks on beach - JConnelly Blog- How Hard Seltzer is Changing the Malt Beverage Industry

It’s Friday night and your friends invite you to your favorite bar but the hangover from a couple of vodka & cranberries no longer sits well with you the next day. Not only that, but you’d rather waste a high sugar serving on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s than a few drinks. The drink game is changing, causing a constant influx of new products to the market.

Consumers are saying no to the bloated beer trap and the sugar high that comes from too many mixed drinks, as the demand for health-conscious food and beverage products continues to increase. Hard seltzer is impacting the malt beverage industry, one can of clean ingredients at a time.

Products focusing on clean ingredients and a health-first mentality are showing up all over including oat milk, kombucha, chia drinks, cauliflower gnocchi and sunflower butter. And the list continues.

The Health Shift in Food & Beverage

This trend is part of a larger change in food attitudes from previous generations. Millennials are at the forefront of a shift in the definition of healthy. This shift is based in a more conscientious mindset towards food and drink.

They’re selectively choosing food based on the origin, including if it’s locally sourced, sustainable, and organic. Stores and manufacturers are now including this on their packaging, creating a price ladder in which customers are willing to pay higher for this information and quality.

What does this mean for the beverage industry? This new health shift is flooding over to malt beverages, normally packed with high sugar content or a lot of calories. Consumers are opting out of these drinks and looking for more healthier options like White Claw and Truly.

The Malt Beverage Faceoff

This bubbly drink is competing with wine and liquor, but especially other malt beverages like beer. Hard seltzer sales have shot up in the last couple of years, taking around 10% of the flavored malt beverage market, and a 1.4% share of the beer market. More are grabbing for this convenient gluten-free option, causing a new brand of hard seltzer to appear almost every month and now select brands can be found at your local bar.

Even those that wouldn’t consider themselves drinkers before are joining the bandwagon. Why have a calorie dense beverage when you can have a much lighter option for just as cheap? While it’s too soon to make clear projections on whether the sales from hard seltzer will continue to increase or even keep a consistent run, this health shift adds an interesting element of sustainability.

It poses a solution to a space in the beverage industry: making available healthy alcoholic pre-packaged drinks that before were not accessible.

Not All Healthy is Green

Drank by the can, it places a priority on portion control but can also increase packaging waste if not recycled. This opens a broader discussion about waste in the food and beverage industry, stemming from longstanding bad habits. Perhaps this health shift will expand not just with products that are better for us but better for the earth as well.

Reducing waste isn’t just about education but creating awareness that we want to change the world we live in, through simple day to day efforts like recycling your White Claw can.

More about reducing waste and the marketing to get there: A Plastic Fork for a Planet: The Hard Truth of Disruptive Marketing 

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