Hard seltzer sales skyrocketed at c-stores during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when customers were stocking up to drink at home. Today, hard seltzer remains a popular segment at c-stores, appealing especially to young adult consumers.
There is no mysticism involved in boosting sales of hard seltzer in convenience stores (although one hot brand is leaning heavily on astrology): know what’s popular and new, stock it, merchandise, promote and shake.
And with the category maturing, acting sooner rather than later is recommended.
Discovery Drives Sales
Hard Seltzer brands are proliferating both to help offset slowing beer sales after previous pandemic highs, and because consumers can’t wait to explore and discover new beverages.
In this category more than some others, which prides itself on being hip and over-the-top outrageous, newness and variety are valued. Luckily there remains plenty of innovation to help c-stores grow sales. Savvy c-stores are keeping the category fresh and exciting for its customer base with a steady stream of new varieties and line extensions.
For example, top-selling brand White Claw — 5% ABV, 100 calories and one gram of carbs — recently introduced REFRSHR Lemonade, with “exotic, rare flavor additions.” The full flavor menu includes limón with calamansi, blood orange with black raspberry, blackberry with red cherry and strawberry with kiwi.
Hard seltzer customers love to act on impulse, and the key to stoking impulse sales in c-stores is catching consumers’ eyes in just about any way possible.
One method to drive impulse buys recently tried by Molson Coors Beverage Co. with its Vizzy Hard Seltzer was limited-time-only Vizzy Mercury Retrograde Edition Cans. A related sweepstakes let eligible winners receive a Vizzy ‘Good Vibes’ kit, which included charms like a neo-mystical candle, sage, incense and either a $15 Prepaid Mastercard or Vizzy Mercury Retrograde Edition cans.
While many hard-seltzers appeal to more health-conscious consumers or those seeking a low-calorie beverage, New Belgium Brewing’s Fruit Smash Hard Seltzer, appeals to a different subset of consumers, trumpeting the notion that it “wasn’t made to sip.”
The time to take action on building the category appears to be now. The maturing hard seltzer category’s headiest days may, however, be behind it.
While it has grown by almost 4% over the past 12 months, according to CNN Business, canned cocktails have grown faster.
Chicago-based market research firm IRI said market leader White Claw — despite offering exotic flavors with names like Citrus Yuzu Smash — has seen sales dip by 7% in the past year. Store shelves are now overflowing with more than 300 brands making competition fierce.