Hard Seltzer: more than a trendy summer drink

Ah yes, yet another hip summer drink that will make it all the way, critics will think about ‘hard seltzer. All the more so because it has blown over from America… But now that it is available in more and more places, we are getting curious: what is it? And are we waiting for this?

First of all, a brief explanation of what‘s in the usually hip designed can: sparkling water, vodka and a hint of fruit flavour. Low-alcohol lemonade (usually around 4-5%), actually.

The great success, however, lies in the fact that it contains almost no calories and almost no sugar (depending on the brand). Of course, that’s where the millennial consumer comes in, of course. Because they want to party, but they also want to stay in their skin.

Mindful drinking‘ is what food trend watcher and author of the book Horeca na corona Gijsbregt Brouwer calls it. That sounds like a paradox, but young people drink less and pay better attention to their health. That calls for appropriate alcohol: a low percentage and hardly any sugar

Admittedly, he was not immediately to. The concept sounds so simple. But given the success in America, I did see that there would be a market for a hip seltzer with a flavour and alcohol

The one who was directly concerned was Louis Pessers, with his hard seltzer Stรซlz. During a holiday to America last year, he and his lawyer partner Milan Voets saw that the refrigerators were half filled with the drink. Previously they were full of beer.

In America it has been around since 2012, but last year its popularity exploded. Back then, the younger consumers cared because they paid attention to how many calories, carbohydrates and sugar. They were looking for something to drink ‘responsibly‘. Hard seltzer is as clean as possible and even fewer calories than champagne

The lawyers with some entrepreneurial blood decided to be the first to bring the drink to the Netherlands. Not importing, but their own version. Then corona came and they wondered if it was the right timing. If you do something, you want to be the first with something, so we persevered.

According to Brouwer, the fact that it is so successful in America can be explained: The US is de-freshening drinks. So much sugar is even becoming too much for them. Water is a logical alternative, but lacked a credible brand for the millennials and Gene Z.

Success in America does not yet guarantee success in the Netherlands, Pesser knows. That is what we were also asking ourselves: will Dutch consumers be told that they ‘have to‘ do the same? The difference is that this is not a change or small adaptation to an existing product that does well in America. A lot does not work in the Netherlands, think of light chips. It really is a whole new category of drinks and that arouses interest

According to Max and Bob Ponsen, co-founders of the Hard Seltzer brand GiG, launched at the beginning of August, the strength lies in the combination of all that. New, low-calorie and low-sugar, but also affordable, drinkable and popular with men and women.

Coming up

Max knows that because when he was studying in Boston, he witnessed the rise of the drink up close. As a student of finance, he dug into research and figures and discovered that the drink was almost more popular than beer in the 21-35 age group. Moreover, affordable; students drank it, he saw for himself.

Above all, the drinkability appealed to him: A lot of low-alcohol drinks are often sweet and not refreshing, that’s quick to finish. Scientific research shows that the permeability of hard seltzer is forty percent higher than that of beer, which by no means all women drink. It has no taste to get used to, it is not overpowering and it is thirst-quenching

The brothers decided on the name GiG. Bob: A universal and recognisable word with which you can go in many directions because it has no fixed meaning. It has to do with expression, something a person can do well

Of course the three hard seltzer men think this trend is permanent, otherwise they wouldn’t have dived into it. Max: If you look at the American data, you can see that it is not a hype. It‘s often bought again, which doesn’t happen with a trend drink, and the ratio 50-50 between male and female drinkers is also important. All my American friends continue to drink it, even outside the summer; that says it all. It has changed the whole drinking in America

Trend watcher Brouwer does not dare to say whether this is going to happen in the Netherlands. This summer will be dominated by the hard seltzer. I have already spotted more than ten new brands in the Netherlands. Coca-Cola is stepping in and several large beer brands are developing one or have one on the shelf

There’s more to come!

Isn’t the shelf getting too full with all those new drinks? Food trend watcher Gijsbregt Brouwer: You‘d say that, wouldn’t you? But I don‘t think so. If you come up with a new category, it’s completely empty.

This exactly fills the gap between soft drinks, beer and mixed drinks. So I think it goes beyond the summer, precisely because it is a new category.

On the other hand: new gin is added every year, which of course is no longer a new category, and that growth seems far from over either. There is always room for more

In the case of hard seltzer this also seems to hold true: the number of suppliers of the drink in the Netherlands continues to grow steadily.

By the way, the original drink seltzer is only sparkling water with a taste, often drunk in the US. Hard‘ stands for the alcohol that has been added. Another name for the drink is ‘spiked seltzer’.