As consumer demand for refreshing, effervescent flavoured drinks continues, a swathe of beverage alcohol players are launching their own versions of hard lemonade. From hard seltzers and other RTD styles to vodka and beer, lemonade line extensions are rapidly multiplying and gaining traction, particularly in the US market.
A new phenomenon in hard seltzers
The most prolific adopter is the hard seltzer category. With flavour innovation proving to be a necessary way to extend the longevity of the category, there are now a number of hard seltzer brands that are channeling the tart, citrus-forward flavours of lemonade.
Following the launch of Truly’s lemonade spin-off in 2020, Molson Coors is looking to take a lead on the emerging hard lemonade seltzer category with the launch of Vizzy Lemonade. Kirin Holdings’ New Belgium Brewing brand unveiled the Fruit Smash Pink Lemonade Hard Seltzer, while Constellation Brands launched the multi-flavoured Corona Hard Seltzer Limonada line. Meanwhile, the foremost hard lemonade brand – Mike’s – moved into seltzers with the launch of Mike’s Hard Lemonade Seltzer in March 2021.
Hard lemonades allow hard seltzer brands to combine their inherent attributes that consumers continue to find so appealing (low-alcohol, low-calorie and low-sugar, as well as conveniently packaged, light and refreshing) with the zesty, nostalgic flavours of this classic soda. The sweet flavour of these products also allows brands to tap into consumer desire for indulgence, while retaining their ‘better for you’ halo.
“Though hard lemonades and hard seltzers exist in their own right, the blending of the two styles means brands are able to tap into both need-states, with a tart product, that is still low-ABV, and low-calorie,” says Brandy Rand, IWSR’s COO of the Americas.
Crucially, hard seltzer lemonades could further assist the recruitment of drinkers from other categories. “Potential consumers are more willing to try a flavour they are familiar with, such as lemonade, which is bringing in new drinkers to the seltzer category,” adds Rand.
Current hard seltzer drinkers are also increasing their purchase frequency – particularly as they look for convenient on-trade replacements during the pandemic. As such, IWSR insight suggests a rise in hard seltzer lemonade volumes by the end of 2021.
Diversification or saturation?
As summer approaches, more lemon-flavoured iterations are set to enter the market, be they hard seltzers or other types of beverages. Other hybrids include radlers (Bavarian beer mixed with lemonade) and shandies (the British equivalent), though brands such as AB InBev’s Naturday’s and Saugatuck’s new shandy avoid referencing and reviving the radler/shandy trend itself. However, one producer that does so is Michigan’s Saugatuck Brewing Company, which has re-released its popular Blueberry Lemonade Shandy for the spring/summer period.
Spirits brands are also joining the trend. In 2019, E&J Gallo launched Pink Whitney, a pink lemonade-flavoured vodka inspired by the preferred New Amsterdam serve of Ryan Whitney, former NHL player and co-host of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast. Diageo-owned Smirnoff launched a pink lemonade-flavoured 30% ABV spirit in 2021, which will be accompanied by pink lemonade line extensions for Smirnoff Ice and Smirnoff Seltzer. The launch comes at a time when more spirits brands are promoting lemonade-topped serves as a means to connect with younger LDA drinkers.
Other hard lemonade adopters are looking to stand out from the crowd by using vitamins or antioxidants and adding ‘all natural’ claims, which gives their products a functional edge. Some brands are also highlighting particular varietals of lemon to enhance their provenance messaging. For instance, Fifty West Brewing Company’s Hard Lemonade is made with meyer lemons, a cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid, which is said to have a distinctive, sweet and fruity rather than sour flavour profile.
With large and small players alike moving into the hard lemonade space, the category is likely to further fragment into numerous sub-styles. Some level of saturation is inevitable, but, since IWSR data shows that consumers perceive RTD premiumisation mainly through flavour and branding, hard lemonades present an opportunity for parent brands to enhance the perceived value of their products.
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