Malt-Based Hard Lemonade's Impressive Gains

Malt-based hard lemonade posted impressive gains in the 52  weeks ending June 17 with dollar sales up 7.5% while case unit sales inched ahead 1.3% on Drizly. Among ready-to-drink cocktails, dollar sales for lemonade varieties surged 71 percent, reflecting the flavor’s popularity across categories.

“Part of the growth in the hard lemonade category can be attributed to new brand releases, especially Simply Spiked,” which is an extension of the well-known Simply juice brand, says Drizly’s head of consumer insights Liz Paquette. “In the past year it moved into the No. 2 best-selling brand position.”

Hard Lemonade Trends

Along with new brand entries, a couple of trends have emerged within the hard lemonade space in recent years. One, says Paquette, is messaging around real fruit juice and natural ingredients. “Another trend we expect to see,” she adds, “is a surge in lower-sugar options, as we have seen in similar categories like hard iced tea.”

In a recent report on the hottest beverage trends for the summer of 2023, NIQ called out “refreshing fruit infusions” among the top five, crediting consumer perceptions of these drinks as healthier and lower in calories than alternative options.

“Real juice” messaging certainly played a key role in the launch of Simply Spiked Lemonade. In a statement announcing the product’s 2022 release, Molson Coors Beverage Co. noted its mission to “bring real fruit juice credentials to the ready-to-drink alcohol beverage space.”

Joy Ghosh, vp of Molson Coors “Above Premium Flavor” portfolio, which includes Simply Spiked, notes that consumers are looking for bold flavors in hard lemonade. “Generally,” she says, “we’re seeing consumers shifting to more full-flavor lemonade options and away from seltzer lemonades.”

Going forward, Ghosh says she sees opportunities for category growth with higher-ABV and zero-sugar lemonade products. “We’re excited to continue to innovate and evolve in the space,” she says.

The top-selling hard lemonade brands on Drizly are Mike's Hard, Simply Spiked, Mike's Harder, Arnold Palmer Spiked and Smirnoff Ice, Drizly says, adding that  Simply Spiked replaced Mike’s Harder in the No. 2 position this year, demonstrating the new brand’s meteoric rise within the category. Smirnoff Ice replaced Four Loko in the No. 5 spot and Arnold Palmer slipped from No. 3 to the fourth position. Truly Hard Seltzer, which ranked fourth last year, did not make it into this year’s top five.

Hard lemonade buyers on Drizly skew younger than the platform’s average consumer. Gen Z accounted for a 10 percent share of the category’s sales over the past 12 months compared to five percent of overall sales on the platform.

Ghosh reports that Simply Spiked’s core consumer skews a bit older at age 45-plus, though the brand has also brought younger consumers aged 21 to 34 into the hard lemonade category.

Those who purchase hard lemonade on Drizly also tend to purchase other light-style beverages, with vodka, malt liquor, hard seltzer, white wine, and light lager making up the top five categories sold in the same order with hard lemonade.

In terms of regional sales, New Jersey is Drizly’s top market for hard lemonade. Other areas that over-index on hard lemonade relative to overall sales on the category include Denver, Boston, Baltimore, Phoenix, and Providence.

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