While hard seltzers have been booming in the US, the category is still in its infancy across the Atlantic. But the entrance of the Danish beer giant could propel the category into the mainstream in Europe - as well as beyond.
While the details of any potential launch are still a way off, Carlsberg says it is monitoring the category and its development and 'might do one or two test markets in 2020'.
Seltzers in Europe – and beyond
Carlsberg is by far the first beer giant to look at hard seltzers – take AB InBev with Bud Light Hard Seltzer and Bon & Viv, Constellation Brands with Corona Hard Seltzer and Molson Coors with Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water and Vizzy.
All these, however, are firmly positioned in the seltzer stronghold of the United States. Carlsberg’s main market, in contrast, is centred in Western Europe: as well as with a strong presence in Eastern Europe and Asia.
“The main challenge is that the hard seltzer category and concepts are still relatively unknown outside the US,” Stephanie Illgner, marketing director brews & beyond at Carlsberg Group, told BeverageDaily. “By next year, we expect to have a better view on the long-term potential of the category.”
Around half of Carlsberg’s group revenue comes from Western Europe and similar trends to the US would make it a natural launchpad for a hard seltzer. But while Illgner says hard seltzers would be a good fit in Europe, it is also exploring the potential in some of its key markets outside of Europe where it sees the same macro-trends of health and moderation.
Carlsberg hard seltzer?
It’s too early to say whether Carlsberg will look at hard seltzers as an extension of its flagship beer brand (in the same way as AB InBev with Bud Light Hard Seltzer or Constellation Brands with Corona Hard Seltzer) or as a standalone brand (such as with Molson Coors’ pending Vizzy launch).
“We are still monitoring the category and development across our markets and are currently investigating both approaches,” said Illgner. “We have done consumer testing in a number of markets and have a good understanding of the main drivers and liquid composition and content.”
And as to a launch date, Carlsberg’s CEO has tentatively pinpointed 2020 for pilot launches. Certainly in the UK – which tends to lead European trends – has seen a number of seltzers spring up in 2019: signalling the time is ripe for the market.
“There have been a few players announcing launches in the category in Europe, but it is still small,” notes Illgner.
The big picture? Moderation
But it’s not just a matter of getting into the seltzer trend, says Illgner: the bigger picture is tapping into moderate drinking trends that are spreading out globally.
“We are innovative by nature, it’s in our DNA to use our scientific capabilities to develop new and exciting brews and hard seltzers are based on a natural brewing process just like beer,” Illgner said. “We particularly believe in this category because you have approximately 68 million millennials asking for more moderation and more healthy choices and we want to show them that Carlsberg offers that choice.”