Alcoholic soft drinks: the next boom category in RTDs

Alcoholic soft drinks are predicted to be the smash hit of summer in Australia as brewers jump onto the trend.

Today, Lion has officially launched White Claw REFRSHR Alcoholic Lemonade in Australia just in time for summer. The range promises fuller flavoured combinations: Limón with a hint of Calamansi, Strawberry with a hint of Kiwi, Blood Orange with a hint of Black Raspberry and Blackberry with a hint of Red Cherry.

Alcoholic or “hard” lemonade has been a huge category in North America and was a precursor to hard seltzer. The parent company of White Claw, Mark Anthony Group, released the first mass market product in the category, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, in 1996 in Canada.

It was so popular that fights broke out in liquor stores when supplies ran short. In 1999, Mike’s was introduced to the United States. and sold two million cases in its first year.

Lion Brand Director RTD Penni Terrey said: “We’re thrilled to introduce White Claw REFRSHR Alcoholic Lemonade in Australia. In just under three years, White Claw has become Australia’s favourite hard seltzer, with one in three seltzers consumed in Australia being White Claw.

“Following the establishment of our signature hint of flavour through our classic range and the Surge range that debuted in 2022, we recognised an opportunity to meet a gap in the current Australian seltzer market with REFRSHR, offering a mindful choice with a range of exciting, bolder flavours.”

Other players in the alcoholic lemonade space in Australia include Matso’s, Woolshed Brewery, Truly and One Drop Brewing Co.

Smirnoff Sodas have also recently been launched, created to strike a balance between a seltzer and a classic RTD. Diageo said the range was created off the back of increasing demand for lighter premix options that don’t compromise on flavour.

Diageo Marketing Manager (Smirnoff) Maddy Stockwell said: “Sodas are an exciting, emerging segment of Vodka RTD that is quickly taking off in the Australian market and we’re excited to be adding to the hype with our new range of Smirnoff Sodas.

“We know the RTD trend continues to soar so we’re thrilled to be offering Australians a brand-new duo of ranges that deliver both low sugar and lower calorie options made with real fruit juice, as well as hard sodas that are all full of flavour.”

According to IWSR taste is still the most important reason prompting people to consume RTDs, with 49% naming it as their prime motivation for purchase, making flavour innovation key for brand owners.

The release of White Claw REFRSHR Alcoholic Lemonade also follows the huge success of CUB’s alcoholic version of Solo. which sold out at many Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Liquorland and independent bottle shops across country when it went on sale in July.

The Sydney Morning Herald described the release of Hard Solo as a “commercial masterstroke” by CUB.

US drinks companies bank on hard sodas

The release of Hard Solo follows an American boom in branded soft drinks creating “hard” versions of their best sellers.

Hard Mtn Dew

Last year Mountain Dew got a boozy boost when PepsiCo released Hard Mtn Dew.

The New York Times reports: “Hard Mtn Dew reflects a major change in the alcohol industry, which for the last century mainly produced drinks categorized as beer, wine or spirits. In recent years, those lines have blurred, and a fourth category of ready-to-drink beverages has emerged — hard seltzers and other flavored malt beverages, wine coolers and canned cocktails.”

Fans have literally lapped it up.

“I drank Hard Mountain Dew and felt like I was staring at God,” one online reviewer wrote.

Pepsico also released Lipton Hard Iced Tea, while Monster Beverage, a maker of energy drinks, began rolling out its first line of alcoholic drinks called The Beast Unleashed in February.

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