New spiked sodas — not seltzers — ready to shake things up

Understanding the Causes of the Spiked Seltzer Trend

New spiked sodas — not seltzers — ready to shake things up
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Of all the trends and shakeups in the alcohol industry over the past few years, none have been as dramatic or as exciting as the rise of hard seltzers.

A few years ago they were almost unheard of, but then, seemingly overnight, they became cultural mainstays and a dominant force in the alcoholic beverage market.

In 2019, sales for spiked seltzer shattered expectations by passing the billion-dollar threshold. And their popularity is not slowing down.

There does not appear to be a single, unified reason for this meteoric trend. Rather, everyone seems to have their own reason for being a seltzer fan, whether it’s the taste, the lightness, or the lack of calories. Understanding the causes behind the popularity of seltzer can help us understand whether seltzer is here to stay.

An assortment of fruit flavors

One of the biggest advantages of spiked seltzer is that it can be given just about any flavor that customers might want.

White Claw, the most popular seltzer brand in the United States, expanded on their success last year by rolling out four new flavors, including unconventional options pineapple and clementine.

The variety keeps the drinks exciting so that people don’t get tired of them as quickly, which gives the hard seltzer trend some additional longevity.

Wine and beer mostly just come in ‘grape flavored’ and ‘hop flavored’ respectively, which just doesn’t appeal to every drinker. Many prefer seltzer because they can get it in their favorite flavor, or whatever best suits their mood at the time.

The fruity flavors also make them a perfect ingredient in cocktails, where their mild taste allows the other ingredients in the glass to come to the forefront, while giving the drink that nice fizzy texture.

Light and refreshing

When the popularity of spiked seltzers exploded last summer, analysts assumed that the trend was largely due to the lightness of the drinks.

Being mostly water, the beverages are crisp and refreshing—perfect for a hot summer day when beer or cocktails might be too heavy. Once the weather cooled down, it was predicted that seltzer sales would as well.

However, it became clear last fall that this has not been the case.

The easy drinkability of seltzers makes them a popular option year-round. Fans claim that since they are not as “filling” as other beverages, more can be enjoyed at once.

A common complaint about beer is that it makes people feel bloated before they are able to feel the effects of the alcohol. Seltzers do not have this problem.

This makes them ideal for concerts, parties, and other events where people want to drink a lot without getting full.

A healthier option

But perhaps the biggest draw to spiked seltzers is their low number of calories. The data seems to support this theory. An estimated 70% of buyers are women, who tend to care more about calories than men.

A majority of seltzer buyers also appear to be millennials, who so far appear to be more health-conscious than other demographics.

While seltzers are still far from being a ‘healthy’ beverage, their often total lack of calories makes them a hit among those who want to have fun without putting on any additional weight.

Of course, it isn’t just about the calories. Their low sugar content makes them much less ly to cause a hangover, which is a huge selling point to any drinker with something important to do the next morning. And since they are gluten-free, people with celiac disease are welcome to enjoy them, making them great for large gatherings where some people may have dietary restrictions.

The future of spiked seltzers

So will the surge in seltzer sales subsist? Experts who predicted the end of the trend have already been proven wrong, and the industry’s growth does not appear to be slowing down. With the way things are going, seltzers just may find a permanent place alongside beer and wine as a ubiquitous drink sold in just about every bar or restaurant with a liquor license.

While it isn’t feasible for every alcohol producer and distributor to branch into the hard seltzer market, those who can should give the idea some serious consideration. While the rapid changes in the market may seem an unsustainable financial bubble, signs suggest that this trend won’t be fizzling out anytime soon.


Why Is Every Young Person You Know Drinking Hard Seltzer?

New spiked sodas — not seltzers — ready to shake things up

It’s been a lawless summer. At least for those of us who’ve been enjoying the refreshing taste of a spiked seltzer. 

There’s really no denying it: Spiked seltzer is the drink of summer 2019. You can’t go to the beach, the pool or even some bars without seeing at least one person drinking a can of Truly, Bon & Viv’s or, of course, crowd favorite White Claw.

You also can’t escape the craze on the internet. Instagram feeds everywhere are cluttered with people snapping pics of themselves drinking a White Claw, usually on a boat, and then captioning it: No laws when you’re drinking claws.

The phrase itself has become a summer meme, among the ranks of hot girl summer and storming area 51. 

But how did the carbonated alcoholic beverage that’s been around since 2012 finally get a summer all to itself? How did the White Claw become an internet obsession? And are there really no laws when you’re drinking claws? You’ve got the questions, I have the answers. 

Let’s take it back: What the hell is spiked seltzer?

Spiked sparkling water, hard seltzer — whatever you want to call it — is a pretty simple beverage. It’s carbonated water that has about 5-6 percent ABV per can, around 100 calories, and just one or two grams of sugar. You have your choice of natural flavors, from lime to black cherry to mango, and now you can even drink them plain.

While there are, at this point, a dozen brands of spiked seltzer on the market — Natural Light is even set to release their own — the three most popular brands, as I mentioned above, are Bon & Viv’s Spiked Seltzer, Trulys, and White Claw. And people have very strong opinions about which is best. 

I once received this text message from a friend: “She seems the type to drink Truly,” about a girl we weren’t particularly fond of. Your spiked seltzer brand of choice says a lot about you.

The first spiked seltzer to hit the market was Bon & Viv’s in 2012, simply named “Spiked Seltzer.” The drink is brewed with a cold, natural fermentation process similar to beer, but hard seltzers are typically fermented with sugar instead of malted barley.

While Bob & Viv’s is the OG, they’re not the most popular. White Claw Hard Seltzer by Mark Anthony Brands, also known for Mike’s Hard Lemonade, didn’t come out until 2016 and has become the dominant spiked seltzer on the market, on the internet, and in Montana.


So what’s with the sudden craze?

The spiked seltzer market has actually been growing substantially in the last two or three years. According to a May 2019 Nielsen report on ready-to-drink beverages that are “shaking up the adult beverage market,” spiked seltzers have experienced a sales growth of 193% since last year.

So people have been drinking them steadily, but they really thrive in summer. They’re light and refreshing, and more importantly, they look really good on Instagram.

The brand that’s most successively capitalized on this is White Claw. The can is white with a sleek design featuring that cool-ass wave.

We live in an age where if you’re choosing between two brands that are basically the same except for the fact that one will look better on your Insta-story, you buy the one that will look better on your Insta-story.

You think we buy White Girl Rosé for its hints of fresh berries? No, we buy it because the bottle is cute. Same thing applies here.

A photo I uploaded to my Instagram story last weekend to let everyone know I was having a fun and very aesthetically pleasing time.

But our obsession with our social media persona isn’t the only reason White Claws have taken off. Hard seltzer has become more visible of late because men have finally embraced it.

For a while, women, particularly college-aged women, were far more ly to drink the bubbly beverage. It was pegged as a sorority girl drink, a #WhiteGirlWasted drink, the same way vodka sodas, rosé, or anything else that tastes remotely good, is low in calories, or is the color pink is regarded as a “girly drink.”

(For the record, associating drinks with a particular gender is dumb and I know you’re a big strong man who s whiskey but it’s okay to indulge in a drink that has fruit in it once in a while.)

And because anything women enjoy, especially young women, is ridiculed as frivolous and not worth anyone else’s time, spiked seltzer was kind of cast aside. Dudes would maybe try one at a BBQ, but it never seemed to be their first choice.

3 months ago any girl drinking a white claw got their entire existence roasted by the same guys now posting snap stories saying “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking claws”

— marystebbins (@marystebbins_) July 26, 2019

But MelMagazine reported in February that college-aged men were ditching beer and other malt liquors for seltzers because they could control their level of drunkenness well with spiked seltzer, they didn’t feel as bloated, and they could generally just drink for longer.

(Literally minutes after I submitted this article, I went to a local Duane Reade where they were selling 12-packs of White Claw for $14.99, with a $12 mail-in rebate bringing the total cost to an unbelievable $2.99. Next to the display were two finance bros, one of whom excitedly said to the other, “Should we do it? This is insane!”)

Anyway, now that it’s summer and bros are officially proclaiming their love for the Claw, we get to the memes.

Once more unto the memes?

Yes, once more. 

White Claw has been compared to other drinks La Croix and Four Loko for its ability to cultivate a cultural presence online — inspiring ironic memes, jokes and even it’s own signature phrase: Ain’t no laws when you’re drinking claws. And that phrase originated from this now-viral video posted in June by comedian Trevor Wallace, parodying the frat bro White Claw phenomenon.

Since then, it’s been full-on “White Claw summer.”

La Croix walked so that White Claw could run

— yeetwood mac (@sarahndipity18) July 21, 2019

You can also buy your own White Claw paraphernalia on Etsy — with shirts and koozies all explicitly stating that there are no laws.

So are there really no laws?

I’ll let you figure that out for yourself, but maybe heed this guy’s advice before you start shotgunning Claws in public places.


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