Welcome to seltzer season.
After a torrid winter and spring for so many Australians, there's an unprecedented sense that this will be a summer of rare heights. And you know what many Australians will be reaching for when they peer into the fridge? Based on the latest stats, it's more likely than ever to be a seltzer.
RTDs as a category is enjoying record highs, with 16.7% of Australians enjoyed something from the RTD category in the last four weeks, according to the latest Roy Morgan stats, which is up 3.2% points (some 680,000 people) from a year ago.
And as Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine explains, you can look at seltzers as the source of this record growth.
'The increasing popularity of seltzers over the last few years is continuing to drive the increasing consumption of RTDs generally. "Hard seltzers" began to hit the Australian market in significant numbers in 2019, just before the pandemic struck, and these newer alcoholic products are still attracting an increasing array of customers'.
Drinks analysts IRI have the hard numbers to back up that trend too, IRI noting that the local seltzer market has grown by an enormous 282% in the last year alone.
Ah, now there is an interesting question. In the US, which has a much more mature seltzer market than Australia, the category had been enjoying superstar growth of 226% in 2019 and 165% in 2020. But then, last year, the bubble burst (of sorts), with growth slowing to 'just' 16%, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, and had some makers declaring the category over.
There's an excellent article in Hop Culture that covers some of the reasons why seltzer fell flat last US summer, listing the extreme seasonality of the category (in the US at least) and COVID shutdowns among a few reasons for the growth slowdown.
Indeed, for the US, that seltzer growth is being swapped for a lift in spirits-based premium RTD cocktails, with IWSR figures suggesting that premium premixed cocktails will overtake seltzers by 2025 helping to drive global RTD sales to $11.6 billion.
While we've seen a lift in canned cocktails here in Australia, this summer is unequivocally the season of seltzers.
Without the same confounding factors (like COVID shutdowns), we're seeing seltzers growing at double that of any other RTD segment - indeed, looking at Kaddy Marketplace figures, seltzer makes up eight of the top ten best-selling RTD skus since the start of spring 2022.
A quick glance across the list below and a few names really dominate - and interestingly, many of these brands are associated with craft breweries and distillers. That's not a surprise, as the IWSR suggested in a recent report that ‘more than 50% of consumers are influenced to purchase RTDs made by a well-known spirits, beer or soft-drink brand' with 'RTDs produced by a local craft brewery or distiller' rating high whereas 'celebrity-backed brands rank lowest in terms of influence'.
That's reflected in products like the W seltzers, made by the ever-popular Wayward Brewing. Or the SOMETIMES range from the talents at Range Brewing. However, some of the strongest-selling products have come from the most focused makers, with the well-packaged premium local seltzer brands like Saintly & FELLR as some of the biggest winners of all.