If you were still seeking proof that alcoholic seltzer has totally hooked Australian consumers, Coles and Endeavour Group provided it this week in their latest financial results.
Coles Liquor reported that its sales remained elevated during the first half of FY22 – liquor revenue was $2billion for the half, an increase of 2.7% on the prior corresponding period.
“Spirits, RTD and wine performed strongly at the category level, supported by recent range activity in key growth products including gin and seltzers, and trending wine categories such as lighter red varietals and rose,” the retailer reported.
It was a similar story over at Endeavour Group. The drinks giant delivered sales of $6.3 billion in the first half of FY22, with its retail business delivered sales of $5.7 billion.
“We continue to see consumers move to craft offerings, more premium wines and spirits, with gin and seltzers particularly strong,” Endeavour noted.
As summer kicked off, Endeavour revealed that in the last 12 months, sales of seltzers have more than doubled and become one of the fastest growing sub-categories across Dan Murphy’s and BWS.
RTD Category Manager Lance Friedman said: “Seltzers is now a bigger RTD sub-category than gin-based premix and will soon be bigger than rum-based premix drinks.”
Data analytics and market research company IRI is bullish about the prospects for seltzer – it predicts sales in Australia will hit $300 million by 2025.
That’s a long way from the early days of the Australian hard seltzer market, which saw Lion launch the first locally produced seltzer into the market in October 2019, called Quincy. CUB and Asahi followed in early 2020, bringing out Actual and Good Tides.
However, retailers were still baffled by the category in July 2020, when Sips founders James McKay and his wife Jacqui started selling in their brand.
“Most bottle shop staff weren’t sure what it was,” McKay told Good Food last year. “By spring 2020 everyone had heard of hard seltzer.”
Two Birds Brewing – now part of Lion – began experimenting with seltzer recipes in its Melbourne brewery at the end of 2019.
“We started with grapefruit versions and realised there was something in it,” said co-owner Danielle Allen. “It’s very drinkable and fits where we have always tried to place ourselves in the market… to be different.”
“It turns out that everyone jumped on the bandwagon so ironically, we’re not that different. Hard seltzer isn’t going anywhere. It’s going to get bigger.”
Seltzer jumps on the NFT craze
Seltzer took another evolutionary leap this week when Queensland seltzer brand Hard FIZZ announced it’s collaborating with Salty Pirate Crew to hook into the NFT craze.
Sydney-based NFT agency Salty Pirate Crew and marketing agency No Standing will work with Hard FIZZ to release a new pirate-themed flavour.
Hard FIZZ CEO Wade Tiller said it’s about setting sail into the so called “metaverse” before a flotilla of other seltzer brands beat them to it.
“Hard seltzer itself is a bit of a trend in the beverage industry so it’s in our DNA to jump on ideas and concepts before they go mainstream,” Tiller explained.
Former Bacardi business manager Tiller, Australian DJ Paul Fisher, former Nine cameraman and The Mad Hueys co-founder Joel Scott, and US-based Libre Design executive creative director Justin Heit came up with the idea for Hard FIZZ seltzer in late 2019.
DJs Tigerlily and Brooke Evers, professional surfer Laura Enever, Fae Swim founders Adam and Bianca Bennetts and TV chef Hayden Quinn were soon recruited to the team.
The seltzer is now stocked in 3000 outlets across the country, including Dan Murphy’s and BWS. Hard FIZZ has also launched a brewery on the Gold Coast and the brand has about a 5.2% share of the Australian seltzer market.
According to IRI, Hard FIZZ is now the third most popular brand at independent retailers.
Tiller puts the brand’s success down to its focus on social media. Together the founding group have a reach of three million people across their various Instagram accounts and they set out to have the most social media followers of any hard seltzer in Australia.
“It wasn’t a strong point for the big competitors we were against, and we identified social media as our billboard, our version of outdoor advertising,” Tiller told the Australian Financial Review earlier this month.
“Fisher had been sharing with us about how he had been building his own brand and network through Instagram… and we had this underlying power through him.”
West Coast joins the seltzer boom
While seltzer may be relatively new in Australia, it’s revitalising some very old brands. Pernod Ricard announced the return West Coast Cooler- and the release of two West Coast Seltzers – this week with a new advertising campaign, Cool Since ‘84.
The brand aims to evoke nostalgia by filming a throwback video that pays tribute to its classic ad spots from the 1980s into 2022.
The ad features reality star and radio host, Abbie Chatfield, duo Linda Marigliano and Lewis McKirdy and Art Simone and Jojo Zaho from RuPaul Drag Race Down Under.
The video introduces of its seltzer range, which includes mango and lime flavours.
“We’re thrilled to welcome this new era for West Coast Cooler,” said Eric Thomson, global marketing director, Pernod Ricard Winemakers.
“The brand’s fresh look speaks to its retro roots while retaining the adored, original taste that West Coast fans know and love. With the seltzer category in Australia showing impressive growth, we are excited to launch our new lime and mango seltzers, aimed at recruiting the next wave of West Coast Cooler consumers in Australia.”
West Coast Cooler’s new bottle is available in bottle shops nationwide, while the seltzers range is now at Star Liquor stores in Queensland and select stores in NSW.