What is White Claw? That’s the question thousands of Australians are asking after following its launch in Australia earlier this month.
The answer? White Claw is a “hard seltzer” – alcohol-infused sparkling water with a hint of fruit flavour. It launched in the United States in 2016 and is estimated to deliver close to $4 billion in revenue to its creator, Mark Anthony Brands, in 2020.
The secret behind White Claw’s success is the freshness of flavour and the lightness of the drink – most seltzers contain less than 100 calories, and are sugar and gluten-free.
Brewer Lion secured the distribution rights to the brand in Australia and consumers were so keen to get their hands on the first cans that Dan Murphy’s took pre-orders for it. There was a massive increase in searches by people wanting to know “what is White Claw?” on its site in the two weeks prior to launch.
“White Claw is without a doubt 2020’s most anticipated drink,” Dan Murphy’s Premix Category Manager Andrew McCrae said.
“Overseas, we have seen seltzers convert beer, wine and spirits drinkers, so it appeals to a wide range of drinks lovers.”
“Since the launch of White Claw in mid-October, we have seen unprecedented demand, which has surpassed all our expectations for the brand and delivered over $4 million in retail sales value in its first week,” Lion MD James Brindley (above) told 9Honey.
Lion launched the first alcoholic seltzer into the Australian market in November last year, called Quincy, which only saw $2.1million in sales in its first 10 months on shelf.
There are now around 30 alcoholic seltzer brands available in Australia, but data analytics and market research company IRI revealed during a webinar earlier this month that hard seltzers have faced an initial awareness battle in Australia. Both “hard” (meaning alcoholic) and “seltzer” (meaning sparkling water) are well-known terms in the US, but they currently don’t resonate with local buyers.
However, IRI believes the potential for hard seltzer sales in Australia could be as high as $300million by 2025.
Brindley agrees: “We believe seltzers will become a significant category here in Australia as they have in the US.
“It has cult status and what we’re seeing is a natural curiosity from consumers. People want to understand what the hype is all about — and when they try it they love it!”
The category is worth $2billion in the United States and is continuing to grow astronomically, with sales up 350% in 2019. There are currently almost 240 different seltzer products on shelf there, but White Claw dominates the market.
At the end of 2019, White Claw had a 76.2% dollar share of total seltzer, which IRI attributes to its health conscious image, broad appeal and wide reach on social media.
Price an impediment to growth?
There are concerns among retailers that higher prices will make hard selzters a more difficult sell to local consumers. IRI noted that the cost of Big Mac in the US is around $7.70 Australian dollars, while a hard seltzer 12-pack is $23. In Australia, a Big Mac is $6.65 and a seltzer 12-pack would be around $50.
White Claw comes in a four-pack in Australia, which retails for $23.99.
The premium price point could be a major drawback for selzter’s prime market, as 13% of Millennials report they have stopped buying alcohol because it doesn’t fit into their budget any more. Additionally, 20% are buying cheaper products.
“It’s cheaper and easier to make your own mixed spirit drinks with a $50 bottle of vodka or gin,” one retailer noted.
But does it have the same cache on Instagram? There are currently more than 200,000 #whiteclaw posts on the social media site.
How does it taste?
Drinks Digest has tried the lime version of White Claw and found it much lighter and more palatable that some of the other citrus seltzers on the market.
Buzzfeed Australia was equally impressed, saying it was “delicious, refreshing and the perfect thing to be sipping while you’re lying on the beach on a hot summer’s day”.
Pedestrian TV was concerned about the Australian version having an ABV of 4.5%, compared to 5% in the US, worried the taste would change as well. But writer Courtney Fry raves: “It tastes exactly the same as the US version and maintains my theory that all the flavour in a good hard seltzer is in the bubble.
“White Claw is not too aggressive on the fizz and doesn’t have an overpowering carbonation flavour. The Claw is the Law, and for good reason.”
Reports from the field are that White Claw is so popular, it’s hard to find.
“We have been trying to buy White Claw for weeks,” said one. “As soon as it hits the bottlo it is straight out the door again!”