The Healthier Buzz: Understanding the Appeal of Low-Calorie Hard Seltzers
Across all industries, consumers have more options and awareness than ever before. More transparency from companies and greater knowledge on wellness has caused a shift in what consumers desire — convenience, affordability and, above all, a healthier way of life. Food and beverage industries are at the forefront of this movement and can enjoy the innovation and market opportunities that come with pioneering wellness consumables.
Understanding the appeal of low-calorie hard seltzers and other ready-to-drink (RDT) beverages can be a game-changer for beverage businesses. If you are in the industry, exploring the buzz around healthier alternatives and providing drinks that give consumers diverse wellness options can be the path to carving out your own private-label niche.
What Are Hard Seltzers and Low-ABV Beverages?
Hard seltzers are a type of ready-to-drink (RDT) beverage that blends alcohol with flavored carbonated water. In contrast to spirits with high alcohol content, low alcohol by volume (low-ABV) beverages are drinks that contain between 0.05% and 1.12% alcohol by volume. Light beers are examples of low-ABV beverages. And while most hard seltzers typically have 4%-6% ABV, they are flavorful, low-calorie alternatives with a committed market.
The Popularity of The Hard Seltzer Market
Better For You (BFY) products are precisely as branded — food and drink alternatives lower in salt and sugar and/or with more healthy ingredients like probiotics and vitamins. In the beverage business, BFY once meant low-calorie or non-alcoholic drinks. More recently, the concept of BFY beverages has evolved to include low-alcoholic and non-traditional drinks, as well as gluten-free, reduced-gluten and organic beverages.
Understanding the Appeal of Low-Calorie Alcoholic Beverages
Ready-to-drink hard seltzers and other low-calorie alcoholic beverages have enjoyed considerable market success in recent years. One of the leading factors behind the popularity of hard seltzers is that consumers view these beverages as a healthier alternative to drinks with high alcohol, sugar and calorie content. But, there are a host of other factors that all contribute toward the success of low-calorie, low-ABV drinks:
Are There Advantages to Low-Calorie Alcoholic Beverages?
Data shows that consumers are looking for more beverages that are low-sugar and low-calorie — including alcoholic beverages. Hard seltzers generally contain fewer calories than wines, regular beer and cocktails. But calories don't always indicate quality, so the question remains — are hard seltzers healthier than their full-calorie counterparts?
The straightforward answer is no — hard seltzers aren't exactly healthy or healthier than other alcoholic alternatives. Being a combination of sparkling water, alcohol and flavoring means that hard seltzers contain little nutritional value. However, there are some advantages consumers can enjoy from low-calorie alcoholic beverages:
- Less sugar: Low-ABV ready-to-drink beverages typically contain less sugar than other alcoholic drinks. This makes hard seltzers an ideal choice for consumers who need to watch their sugar intake.
- Low carb/ keto: There are many reasons for choosing a keto diet — treating chronic conditions like high cholesterol or blood pressure, weight loss and boosting energy. Low-calorie alcoholic beverages generally contain fewer carbs.
- Gluten-free: A gluten-free diet can be easier on the gut, causing fewer autoimmune responses and bloating, especially for consumers with celiac disease. Many hard seltzers are gluten-free, though some may contain malt.
While you may not be able to brand your beverages as healthy hard seltzers, they do offer advantages to consumers seeking to reduce or limit sugar, carbohydrates or gluten for health or wellness reasons.
According to a Consumption Habits Survey, half of Americans believe that drinking in moderation does not affect health, but a record 39% of Americans believe that one to two drinks daily can be detrimental to health. This shift in moderation awareness is another driving force behind the popularity of low-ABV drinks.
Flavor and Versatility
Flavor and versatility are essential considerations when you craft low-calorie seltzers. Consumers enjoy low-calorie, BFY options that allow them to explore diverse, sweet-tasting and flavorful palettes without worrying about extra sugar or unnecessary chemical additives. Consumers are more conscious about reading labels, so seeing fewer ingredients and additives while maintaining incredible flavor is crucial to crafting a memorable beverage.
Hard seltzers come in an assortment of fruit flavors, from passion fruit, cranberry, watermelon and lime to hibiscus and black cherry. Exploring unique tastes and blends is vital to launching a successful low-calorie drink.
A Look at The Hard Seltzer Market
The hard seltzer category has been trending upwards, but there is still plenty of room for continued innovation and approaches to making hard seltzers more crave-worthy. Some of the hard seltzer trends in the industry include:
- Unique flavor profiles: Most seltzers are fruity, but there are trends towards new profile flavors like chocolate or herbs while still using natural ingredients.
- BFY alternatives: Brands may focus more on enhancing hard seltzers by adding ingredients like antioxidants.
- Premium cues: With the success of hard seltzers, more brands are focused on premiumization — quality, customizable options may gain popularity.
Developing Beverages for Unique Niches
Part of creating a low-calorie or low-ABV beverage is being able to carve out a nice that appeals to several targeted demographics:
- Consumers who enjoy an alcoholic beverage but lean toward moderation and wellness.
- Consumers who are fans of sparkling water.
- People who typically purchase normal seltzers.
- People who want a low-ABV, low-calorie beverage that offers nutritional value, improves mood or provides other health benefits.
Combining these consumer preferences with insights into what makes low-calorie alcohols so popular is key to developing a successful beverage.
The Future of RTD Alcoholic Beverages
If one movement in the beverage industry is here to stay, it's the continued focus on BFY beverages. Consumers want to be able to indulge in little pleasures without compromising their well-being. Drinks that fit into the mindset of moderation, awareness, sustainability and diversity will enjoy more success.
The future of hard seltzers may include incorporating ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, or by meeting consumer demand for for flavorful, alternative nonalcoholic beverages that incorporate adaptogens and nootropics.
Add Low-ABV Beverages to Your Business With BevSource
Low-ABV Beverages like hard seltzers have a fresh and versatile BFY appeal that your consumers are looking for. With the dynamic shift toward wellness and moderation, consumers want healthy and convenient alternatives. At BevSource, we aim to help beverage businesses navigate the industry and see their products enter the markets with the support of our development, sourcing and production solutions.
Whether you are an entrepreneur hoping to launch or an established business looking to scale, our expertise, experience and industry relationships will help you build the brand you aspire to. Contact our specialists to take the next step!