White Claw moves into premium vodka category

Australia’s biggest selling hard seltzer, White Claw, has announced the launch of new White Claw Premium Vodka in the United States.

According to CNBC, the move comes “amid an industry-wide shift away from hard seltzers” as “consumers increasingly turn to canned cocktails”. While the hard seltzer category experienced explosive growth from 2016 to 2020, sales declined in the US last year. However, White Claw remains the market leader in the US.

White Claw’s new release is the world’s first Triple Wave Filtered vodka, created using a first-of-its-kind filtration process that involves tremendous pressure equal to three 30-foot waves to create a spirit with distinctive taste, aroma, and smoothness.

It has been described as a new era for American vodka as previously it was required by law to be tasteless in the US. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Board (TTB) required the spirit to be “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color,” so American vodka was engineered to be the same, neutral at best. In 2020, regulators changed the rules to allow for distinction.

“We believe that quality vodka shouldn’t be defined by what it lacks and we seized the enormous opportunity to create a distinctive spirit,” said Anthony von Mandl, Founder & CEO, The Mark Anthony Group of Companies.

“Innovation has been at the heart of everything we do for 50 years. We disrupted the industry, creating an entirely new taste in the Hard Seltzer category with White Claw by bringing new thinking, technology breakthroughs, and our unmatched iconic flavors to market. The same innovative spirit and technological know-how inspired the creation of our premium vodka—we believe the vodka category is ready for its White Claw moment.”

White Claw Premium Vodka is made with 100% American grain and distilled five times in columns with copper plates and filtered through activated carbon from charred coconut shells.

“We spent almost a decade researching and developing a new way to show drinkers what complexity looks, tastes, and feels like within the minimalist experience of vodka,” added von Mandl. “We created one of the most complex production processes of any vodka in the world to produce a vodka unlike any other.”

As part of its expansion into vodka, White Claw has also announced the launch of its new ready-to-drink White Claw Vodka + Soda, available in Pineapple, Peach, Wild Cherry, and Watermelon varieties.

“Spirits-based RTDs are a key driver in the US, with the vast majority of the spirits-based RTD market falling into the premium and above price tiers,” said Brandy Rand, IWSR’s chief strategy officer.

While spirits-based RTDs still only accounted for 8% of the RTD market in the US in 2021, they’ve been the fastest mover, growing at a 59% CAGR from 2018 to 2021. Vodka-based RTDs overtook tequila as the leading RTD spirit base in 2021 in volume terms.

Taking on Tito’s

The Wall Street Journal reports that White Claw Premium Vodka is entering a U.S. market led by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which is made by Texas-based Fifth Generation Inc.

“Tito’s is a juggernaut that after its introduction in 1997 grew to outsell Diageo PLC’s Smirnoff vodka and become the biggest spirits brand in the US,” WSJ said. 

“The largest global spirits makers, Diageo and Pernod Ricard, have so far failed to unseat Tito’s hold on the US vodka market, as have upstart craft brands. US vodka sales growth was flat last year at $7.2 billion, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Tito’s represents 25% of vodka sales in US retail stores.”

White Claw is distributed in Australia by Lion. The company has not confirmed whether it will be taking White Claw Vodka global.

Last year White Claw chose Australia as the first country outside North America to launch its White Claw Surge range, a new RTD delivering a 6.5% ABV per 330ml can.

At the time, Mark Anthony Brands International President Scott Walton said: “We are excited to extend the White Claw range in Australia. When we first launched here in October 2020, we sold one million cans in the first week! The Hard Seltzer category is now worth $210million in Australia and growing 188% year on year, with White Claw being the number one contributor to value growth last summer.”

White Claw reveals three new flavours

White Claw is releasing a variety pack in Australia featuring three new flavours – Strawberry, Lemon and Passion Fruit – alongside the much-loved Pineapple.

Hitting local shores on March 29, White Claw Variety Pack No.2 will be available at bottle stores at a RRP of $62 for a 10-pack.

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