Anheuser-Busch launched Bud Light Hard Seltzer in the US in January 2020: one of a number of brands from Big Beer hoping to take a chunk of the attractive hard seltzer market. IRI now names the product as the #1 New Product Pacesetter: with $194m in sales in multi-outlet channels, and No. 3 in the convenience channel with $167m in sales.
The 5% ABV drink initially launched in four flavors - Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, Strawberry and Mango - made with cane sugar and natural fruit flavors, and coming in at 100 calories, 2g carbs and <1g of sugar per serving. It now has a host of line extensions including Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, retro summer packs, a higher ABV Platinum seltzer, seltzer Iced Tea and even icicles.
Introducing the NEW Bud Light Seltzer Retro Summer Pack, coming soon to a store near you! Featuring Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry, and Summer Ice.— Bud Light (@budlight) June 2, 2021
Trust us, they’re ~tie dye~ for. pic.twitter.com/vLkaTWUUhg
The initial success of the hard seltzer was down to at-home and backyard consumption during the pandemic.
But Andy Goeler, VP of Marketing, Bud Light, says hard seltzers could start to make in-roads in the on-trade on the back of their at-home popularity gained over the last year.
“Historically, the seltzer category has been primarily an off-premise business,” he told us. “However, we’re seeing an increased demand for on-premise consumption thanks to our loyal fans. Bud Light Seltzer is already available at bars & restaurants across the country. In addition to being available in 12 oz. cans, we are also starting to introduce Bud Light Seltzer on draught in several key markets.
“Bud Light Seltzer is also available at approximately one thousand sports venues across the country. Naturally as bars and restaurants continue to reopen and live sports events resume, we expect seltzer sales across the board will increase.”
Bud Light vs Bud Light Seltzer?
Brands like Bud Light Hard Seltzer, Corona Hard Seltzer (Constellation Brands) and Coors Seltzer (Molson Coors) have been hoping to benefit from the brand equity of their mega beer brands as they enter the hard seltzer space.
It's by no means a guaranteed strategy, however - earlier this week, Molson Coors pulled its Coors Seltzer saying that a line extension of a beer brand wasn't working as well as its independent stand-alone brand Vizzy.
In picking out the hard seltzer as a pacesetter innovation, IRI noted that “while the digital marketing, product innovation — including Bud Light Platinum Seltzer and the Ugly Sweater and Out of Office variety packs — and virtual events look and feel different for Bud Light Seltzer, the marketing team says they support the ethos for the Bud Light family."
Goeler says that, at the end of the day, a product that resonates with consumers is the most important part of the innovation - whether that's on the back of an existing brand or not.
“Bud Light Seltzer certainly leverages its equity as the #1 beer brand in the industry, however, we believe it’s the taste that keeps consumers coming back and allows us to be competitive in a crowded marketplace,” he told us.
“Bud Light Seltzer earned more than 10% of the hard seltzer market within its first year. Its offerings are resonating with both Bud Light base consumers as well as general hard seltzer drinkers as the category continues to grow."
Innovation for 2021 and beyond
Goeler believes its primarily the taste that has resulted in Bud Light Hard Seltzer’s success; plus the fact it resonates with both Bud Light base consumers as well as wider hard seltzer drinkers.
So what’s next for the brand?
“We expect the hard seltzer category to continue to grow - especially as the country safely re-opens and on-premise consumption grows throughout this summer and into 2022," said Goeler. "As for Bud Light Seltzer, the Bud Light franchise has always thrived on product innovation and providing consumers with unique options and classics alike to appeal to a variety of tastes.
“Fans have come to expect Bud Light to be fun and innovative, delivering more than just their favorite beer or seltzer. Recent seltzer innovations include the limited-edition Bud Light Seltzer Mix Pack, which features select flavors of Bud Light Lemonade and Bud Light Seltzer Iced Tea so people can mix and match their own flavor combinations. Bud Light Seltzer also recently launched its limited-edition Retro Summer Pack Variety Pack and Frozen Icicles, a groovy innovation featuring Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry and Summer Ice flavors.
“While we cannot dive into specifics regarding upcoming innovations, the Bud Light franchise will continue to think outside the box to bring new offerings to consumers.”