How the summer of seltzer is an opportunity to 'recruit consumers' to spirits

It’s become the summer of hard seltzer, as evolving millennial drinking habits continue to prove that the ubiquitous White Claw and its ilk are only just getting started.

But, legacy brands like Grey Goose are not flinching. Martin de Dreuille, Grey Goose’s Global Vice President, joined The Final Round on Friday to discuss the US spirits market, and why a company like Grey Goose need not worry about Instagram-famous White Claw.

Hard seltzer is ‘an opportunity to recruit consumers’

According to data from Nielsen, sales of hard seltzer have skyrocketed 193% since last year. Bon & Viv recently became the first official hard seltzer of the NFL, scoring a lucrative partnership for its owner, Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD). And the ballooning popularity of White Claws has transformed the brand from a viral fad into a millennial phenomenon.

A variety of White Claw Hard Seltzers are seen at the Mike's Hard Lemonade office on Monday, March 27, 2017 in Chicago. (Kristen Norman/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

“Those [hard seltzer] trends are very interesting for us, and very exciting,” explained de Dreuille. “At the end of the day, [seltzer] is a sparkling, alcoholic drink...it’s exactly a vodka soda. It’s definitely an opportunity to recruit consumers to vodka soda.”

More than that, however, de Dreuille regards burgeoning interest in hard seltzer as a consumer trend towards ‘premiumization.’

“Consumers want to make sure they’re buying a product that has good quality ingredients,” said de Dreuille. “And that’s what Grey Goose is all about.”

Why Grey Goose, USTA partnership is ‘a natural fit’

For thirteen years, Grey Goose has enjoyed a successful partnership with the United States Tennis Association: as the official vodka of the U.S. Open since 2007, de Dreuille describes the collaboration as “a natural fit” between “two global icons...that come together to bring this exceptional experience” to a broader audience.

That experience, of course, is the US Open’s signature drink. The Honey Deuce – a cocktail-turned-tradition crafted by Grey Goose – is described by de Dreuille as “what the mint julep is to the Kentucky Derby,” and is predicted by Grey Goose to sell in historic quantities at this year’s event.

“Vodka is an amazing category – it’s the number-one drink in the US,” explains de Dreuille. “One out of three drinks is a vodka in the U.S. It’s the biggest category, and Grey Goose is the biggest brand in the super-premium category in vodka. Vodka is still growing, as well.”

But the threat of hard seltzer stealing consumers – and their wallets – away from traditional spirits doesn’t worry de Dreuille, who expressed little interest in turning the company’s attention towards the hard seltzer market.

“We’ll focus for now on Goose, the original, and the flavors that we have, and inspire consumers to treat themselves with it,” de Dreuille says.

Olivia Balsamo is a writer and producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @BalsamoOlivia.

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