Veylinx Behavioral Research Reveals Top Hard Seltzer Trends
Hard seltzer sales in the United States have skyrocketed in recent years, with triple-digit increases in 2019 and 2020. However, with demand for leading brands slackening in the summer of 2021, questions have emerged about how long this hyper-growth can be sustained. Even as new entrants flood the market in the U.S. and around the world, uncertainty about the segment’s long-term prospects is building. We decided to use our unique behavioral methodology to understand better consumer demand for current top brands and growth opportunities from potential product innovations.
Unlike typical surveys in which consumers are simply asked about their preferences, Veylinx predicts how much someone will pay for a product or concept through a proprietary bidding platform using real money. Consumers reveal their true willingness to pay by placing sealed bids on products and then answering follow-up questions about their reasons to buy or not to buy. This approach avoids the hypothetical bias inherent in traditional methods and delivers insights that reflect reality with much higher confidence.
For this study, we tested eight hard seltzer brands: AriZona SunRise, Bon V!V, Bud Light, Corona, Smirnoff, Topo Chico, Truly, and White Claw. We evaluated eight added benefits across the brands (high alcohol, low alcohol, vitamins, kombucha, immunity, energy, sustainable packaging, and CBD) to determine which ones consumers value the most and how they impact demand.
We discovered that most added benefits drive greater purchase interest from consumers — but with considerable variation across benefits and brands. The study found that adding CBD boosts demand by 12% on average while enhancing the drinks with kombucha lowers demand by an average of 6%. Other added benefits, like sustainable packaging, shows potential for some brands but not others. For Corona, sustainable packaging boosts demand by 29% — however, it reduces demand for Truly by 23%.
The study also confirmed that White Claw leads the crowded category in overall willingness to pay, with 35% higher average demand than its competitors. Corona and Truly ranked second and third, respectively — but trail their market-leading rival by a wide margin.
Consumers don’t drink hard seltzer because it’s healthier
We were surprised to learn that the perceived healthfulness of seltzers compared to other alcoholic beverages is not an important demand driver (mentioned by only 22% of participants). “Refreshing taste” was listed by a majority of consumers (54%) as a primary purchase driver, with Truly, White Claw, and Bud Light scoring highest in this category.
Innovation drives greater demand for most brands
The study found that CBD, Energy, and High-Alcohol product variations perform well across most brands. For Topo Chico, five of the eight added benefits generate higher demand — including CBD, which provides an 18% lift. Every one of the added benefits for Smirnoff and Bon V!V performs better than their existing products. Conversely, while market leader White Claw commands the highest overall demand score, it enjoys no increase in added benefits. Every other brand we tested had at least one added benefit that boosts demand.
CBD draws the widest geographic appeal, while sustainability rules in the West.
The CBD-infused product variation drives the greatest purchase interest in the Northeast, South, and Midwest. In the West, sustainable packaging emerged as the most popular added benefit. Consumer demand for specific brands also varies across regions, with White Claw dominating the Northeast and Midwest. Smirnoff elicits the highest demand in the South, while Corona takes the crown in the West.
For more comprehensive findings from our Hard Seltzer research, visit info.veylinx.com/hard-seltzer-research to download the summary report. That report, in turn, only contains a glimpse into the overall results — if you are interested in even more data and insight into the hard seltzer market, please contact email@example.com, and we’d be happy to walk you through the complete results.