Hard Seltzer Consumption Surges On-Premise

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The spiked seltzer phenomenon of the past two years may have started off-premise, but more guests now gravitate to the beverage at bars and restaurants. The number of consumers drinking hard seltzers on-premise increased 73% from spring 2019 to fall 2019, according to a new Nielsen CGA report. While that’s equivalent to about 7.5 million new drinkers, most of the new hard-seltzer drinkers are switching from other alcoholic beverages.

The report finds that 51% of consumers who identify as hard-seltzer drinkers say that they are actively choosing seltzers over their normal drink of choice when they’re away from home; 52% pick hard seltzer instead of beer and 40% opt for it instead of cocktails. Weekly U.S. on-premise sales of hard seltzers now surpass those of the entire pale ale beer category, says Nielsen CGA.

The appetite for hard seltzers in bars and restaurants isn’t likely to fizzle anytime soon: Nearly three quarters (72%) of hard seltzer drinkers in the U.S. on-premise think they will become even more popular in the future, while 18% view them as a fad. And though consumption may increase in the warmer weather, 82% say that hard seltzer is suitable for all four seasons.

Perhaps the best way for bars and restaurants to tap the hard seltzer trend is to offer it on tap: A solid draft offering may end up being the differentiator for on-premise operators, says Nielsen CGA’s client solutions director Matthew Crompton.

More than a third (36%) of consumers say that they would drink spiked seltzer on draft, and of those, 46% would enjoy it on its own, 35% would use it as a mixer in a cocktail and 33% would mix it with a spirit. When asked which spirit they’d pair with a hard seltzer, 69% of consumers said vodka, followed by 53% for rum, 52% for tequila and 45% for liqueurs and cordials.

Several restaurant chains have already embraced hard seltzer beyond the can. Beer-centric dining chain Yard House is offering Boston Beer’s Truly hard seltzer on tap.

The 1,200-unit sports bar/restaurant brand Buffalo Wild Wings, which stocks canned hard seltzers from White Claw and Truly, last summer began testing Truly and Bon & Viv unflavored hard seltzer on tap in about 300 locations. A draft line with hard seltzer provides multiple options in that the product can be served over ice with fresh fruit, or as an ingredient in a cocktail says David McPhillips, director of beverage strategy and innovation for Buffalo Wild Wings.

Boston-based The100-unit Uno Pizzeria & Grill recently added two hard-seltzer-based beverages. The Berry Berry Seltzer Spritzer muddles fresh strawberries and blueberries with Truly Hard Seltzer and a splash of agave, and the Cucumber Mint Seltzer Spritzer, is fresh cucumbers, mint and lime muddled with Truly Hard Seltzer.

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