C-stores face the old conundrum with both hard seltzer and ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails: Consumers want old favorites, but they also want exciting new brands and line extensions.
IRI numbers for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 26, 2021, show the hard seltzer category at c-stores with sales of more than $2.1 billion, an increase of 25.9% year to year.
Within that category, White Claw was the leading brand, with sales just topping $1 billion, up 9.6%. Truly followed at nearly $529,000, a 56.2% gain. Bud Light Seltzer recorded sales of just over $199 million, a jump of 13.5%. Corona Hard Seltzer notched sales of almost $53 million, a decline of 16.8%.
“Single-serve cans will explode in volume this year,” said Bump Williams, the founder, president and CEO of Bump Williams Consulting in Shelton, Conn.
Key for growth will be a balance of what he called big, successful legacy brands like White Claw.
“Be selective on any and all new products and line extensions,” Williams warned. “Ask the question, ‘Where will these volumes be coming from? Brand switching or incremental business?’”
RTD Cocktail Sales Up
According to NielsenIQ, Total U.S. Convenience data for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 15, 2022, showed total spirits sales were $3.04 billion, up 9.8%. Within that category, prepared-cocktail sales were slightly over $167 million, a dramatic 62.4% rise.
“I’m seeing increases in our stores in both hard seltzer and ready-to-drink cocktails,” said Thelma Seguin, director of store operations for Fabulous Freddy’s Car Wash, which owns and operates five convenience stores in Las Vegas.
While RTD cocktail sales rose slightly for the chain in 2021, this year is already bringing larger-scale increases in business, she said.
“The industry, I think, is coming up with some new innovation,” Seguin added. “We’re always trying to bring in what’s new, and people are just trying more things. People have been home more.”
Consumers also appreciate the flavor profiles of some of the newer RTD cocktails, Seguin has found.
“They are fruity. It’s almost like everything is fruity and sweet,” she said. Young adult consumers are the age group gravitating toward the RTD cocktails, she noted.
Freddy’s dedicates a full shelf to RTD cocktails, as well as space in its cooler. The chain’s top seller is Monaco Cocktails, of which it stocks four varieties.
Like a great many c-store operators around the country, Freddy’s plans to present shoppers with lots of variety in RTD during 2022.
“Bringing in some of the new items that are coming out; that’s pretty much what the plan is,” Seguin said.
In a segment like RTD cocktails, Seguin stressed, newness is key.
“Consumers are always looking to try something new,” she said. “They do have their favorite, but you know, I have my favorite pizza, and I always want to try something new.”