Flavor attraction: Trendspotting in hard seltzer flavors

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/jonathanknowles
Pic:getty/jonathanknowles

Related tags: hard seltzer

As more and more brands launch into the category they’re vying for a point of difference: with today’s products ranging from classic citrus through to new and unexpected flavor combinations.

From botanicals to confectionery and cross-category flavors, we take a look at some of the trends emerging in the hard seltzer category. 

Flavor is main influence in hard seltzer purchases

Flavor is the key driver for consumers when purchasing RTD alcohol, according to research released this month by IWSR (hard seltzer takes the largest share of RTD alcohol but the category also includes products such as hard tea, coffee and kombucha).

Flavor watch

White Claw Hard Seltzer (base US range): black cherry, mango, watermelon, natural lime, ruby grapefruit, raspberry, lemon, tangerine, strawberry, blackberry, pineapple.

Topo Chico (US): strawberry guava, tangy lemon lime, exotic pineapple

Press alcohol seltzers: blackberry hibiscus, pineapple basil, lingonberry elderflower, pomegranate ginger, lime lemongrass, grapefruit cardamom, pear chamomile, apple cinnamon.

In fact, almost 70% of consumers surveyed across the top markets for RTD alcohol said that flavor was the main influence in their purchase of drinks.

Meanwhile, more than half of RTD drinkers (56%) say that the regular release of new RTD flavours is the most important factor in establishing a premium image.

Hard seltzers to date have been almost exclusively based on fruit flavors: fitting in with the clean, refreshing image of the product.

Part of the attraction of the category has always been the novelty, however, and brands are now taking on increasingly exotic angles and combinations in flavors as they seek to create a point of difference in a crowded market.

Pack a punch

Having launched Corona Hard Seltzer last year, one of Constellation Brands’ key takeaways is that consumers want a flavor punch: noting they want ‘more robust taste and flavor in their seltzer’.

It’s accordingly pledged to reformulate its Corona Hard Seltzer accordingly to punch out a stronger flavor: while it also spies the opportunity for create distinctive consumer value propositions with different alcohol bases and functional benefits.

Functional benefits

Flavor and fragrance company Givaudan also notes the opportunities in functional benefits and their associated flavors. Along with the classics, we’ve also seen some new functional flavors. This includes ingredients like ginger and hibiscus, playing into the health halo consumers are increasingly interested in,” ​it notes.

Botanicals and herbs

Ingredient supplier Kerry, meanwhile, notes the trend towards ‘elevated taste experiences’: highlighting the use of botanicals and herbs.

The use of blends is popular in the hard seltzer space, and there’s something for everyone. Elevated flavor combinations provide the opportunity to try an unfamiliar flavor paired with something more mainstream.

"For example, take Bon & Viv’s pear elderflower flavor. Consumers are accustomed to pear, but not as familiar with elderflower. With this drink, they can try sweet pear paired with floral elderflower for a well-rounded blend of flavors.”

Beyond fruit

Kerry also sees the potential for hard seltzer flavors to go beyond fruit.

“While most seltzer flavors lean toward citrus and other fruit, some brands have borrowed flavors from inspiration from adjacent alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories. Evil Twin Brewing has created an Evil Water line of products, which includes hard “pastry” seltzers with flavors including chocolate egg cream and gummi bears. 

"Southern Tier and High Noon both combine vodka with seltzer water as an alternative for malt-based seltzers and Nude Beverages recently released a ready-to-drink low-calorie tequila soda.

"Brands wanting to break into the hard seltzer space can consider creating a crossover beverage that combines unexpected offerings with seltzer in a fun and exciting way.”

Cross category innovation

Other category crossovers also include hard seltzer iced tea (White Claw, for example, uses a ‘unique BrewPure process, sustainably source brewed tea, and the finest flavors to deliver a wave of pure refreshment like no other’); and hard seltzer lemonade (Truly Hard Seltzer, for example, offers the four flavors of original lemonade, watermelon lemonade, strawberry lemonade and mango lemonade). 

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