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Industry Focus: Hard Soda & The Wider 'Near Beer' Market
hard sodas

One of the key alcohol industry trends of the past 18 months has been the flood of new products entering the ‘near beer’ ready-to-drink market. Whilst both Beer & Soft Drinks consumption has been in decline respectively for several years, several major alcoholic drinks manufacturers have focused their new product development on combining the two, producing ‘Hard Sodas’ that are proving a huge hit with consumers.
Marketed as alternatives to beer, wine, cider and spirits these products have a huge potential market making them very appealing to manufacturers and distributors. For example one of the category leaders is ‘Not Your Father’s Root Beer’ which accounted for an estimated $75 million USD at retail in 2015 and with a recent research report citing that “eight in 10 (79%) alcohol drinkers are open to trying new types of alcohol”, it’s clear that increased variety and new product development is coming.
As you can see from the examples linked below, most of the new products in this area have been malt-based, focused on traditional and nostalgic flavours such as Cola, Root Beer, Ginger Ale, Lemonade and Orange & Cream. These are flavours that most of us are familiar with and will have enjoyed as kids, now given a new lease of life with an added alcohol kick.
The opportunities for alcoholic drinks manufacturers looking at this market don’t stop here; in more recent developments in this area we have seen drinks producers look beyond the ‘sweet & nostalgic’ and toward more exotic flavour combinations similar to those that have proved popular in the craft beer industry – including tea infusions, honey, various spice and unusual fruit combinations.
Furthermore, innovation has been seen to extend from sodas into the broader ‘near beer’ category which includes spirit infused variations; as well as Bud Light’s MixxTail and Lime-a-Rita Splash cocktail RTDs, fruit infused shandies/radlers, and “healthy alternative” products such as Wachusett Brewing Co’s recently introduced Nauti Seltzer.
Looking at how the large industry players are investing in this market, it’s clear that this isn’t a flash in the pan or something that will only see short lived success.
Strong consumer demand has already made the category a veritable force, New York-based Beverage Marketing Corp. expects the hard-soda market could grow nearly 175% to about 16 million cases this year, vs. 6 million cases in 2015. For manufacturers the challenge is to create a product range that contains enough options to build customer longevity and to become an ingrained choice, rather than a one off, novelty ‘to try’ purchase.
At SPL we have been developing several flavours, extracts & essences, and a full range of fast fermenting Turbo Yeasts to cater to this growing sector, in both the commercial alcoholic drinks and homebrew markets. If you’d like to discuss the opportunities and learn more about the products we could provide, then please get in touch.
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