The Hard Seltzer Bubble Might be Fizzing Out
Is the sun going down on the ‘White Claw Summer’ for the last time?
“There ain’t no laws when you’re drinking claws.”
The now-famous line from the viral video by comedian Trevor Wallace, titled ‘drinks White Claw once’, marked a turning point for the fate of the hard seltzer — and the White Claw brand — catapulting the drink to fame.
White Claw debuted in 2016, and by 2018, the drink was beginning to make a little headway, bringing in sales of ~$150 million over 2018. But everything changed in 2019. In what became known as the “White Claw Summer” — a nod to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer — the drink became a smash hit, bringing in over $327 million in July alone, a huge increase of 283% from the prior year. Demand was so high that the White Claw Summer was often in danger of ending prematurely due to stock shortages. Speaking to CNN Business, Sanjiv Gajiwala, White Claw’s senior vice president of marketing, admitted, “White Claw has accelerated faster than anyone could have predicted.”
The drink was everywhere, and as competitors rushed to join in, the market quickly ballooned. In 2015, the hard seltzer market was a $3 million business. In 2018 it had jumped to over $550 million. By the end of 2019, White Claw alone estimated sales of over $1.5 billion, and the category was even outselling craft beers. Analysts were bullish, predicting that the market could be worth over $2.5 billion by the close of 2021. Goldman Sachs went further, stating the market could reach $30 billion by 2025. But with the promise of money, more and more brands are entering the market, and the product line is now in danger of becoming saturated. Can the category continue to claw away at the overall alcoholic drinks market, or is the bubble about to burst?
Hard seltzer fever bubbles over
For those asking ‘what the hell is a hard seltzer?’ the drink is technically a malt beverage — not a “vodka soda in a can” as many believe them to be — going through a similar production process to beer. First, sugar and gluten-free grains are fermented, then purified before sparkling water and flavors are added to the mix. The process allows the…