Why hard seltzer sales continue to surge in America

Brian Sozzi

And you thought it was rosé all day. Think again. More like low cal, low sugar White Claw FTW.

Demand for hard seltzer is accelerating — at the expense of often high calorie beer — says Macquarie Capital analyst Caroline Levy. Sales for flavored malt beverages, aka mostly hard seltzer, have surged 30% in the last four weeks according to Levy’s research. That’s a faster clip than the 26% year-to-date gain and the 21% increase over the past 52 weeks.

Beer sales are up a meager 3% so far this year.

Sales volumes of the leading hard seltzers are simply off the charts as consumers embrace the product’s better nutritional profile. White Claw and Truly Hard Seltzer have seen their respective volumes — pardon the pun — spike 70% and 50%, respectively, year-to-date.

The eye-popping growth has naturally attracted the attention of the big beer makers.

Anheuser-Busch (BUD) is launching Natural Light Seltzer, priced $4 per case cheaper than White Claw and Truly, Levy notes. The analyst also speculates a Michelob Ultra hard seltzer to be on the way.

Meanwhile, Constellation Brands (STZ) has recently released Corona Refresca, a hard seltzer-like product.

Hard seltzers are here to stay

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)

The bad news here for the big beer consortium of Budweiser, Boston Beer (SAM) and Molson Coors (TAP)? Hard seltzer and all its low calories, low sugar and decent alcoholic punch are unlikely to vanish from the scene anytime soon. A fad this is not. And if anything, Levy thinks consumer demand for the product will only get stronger — as beer-drinking falls to the wayside due to a growing legion of calorie counters.

“Hard seltzers will continue to take share from: 1) wine & spirits (especially vodka/soda, as hard seltzer in cans is more convenient), 2) non-beer drinkers who don’t like the taste/calories in beer, and 3) domestic light beers, plus Corona Premier/Michelob Ultra drinkers,” Levy says.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-host of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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