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Portman Group takes a hard line on hard seltzers

Published:  31 March, 2022

The Portman Group today issued updated guidance to drinks companies on the fast-growing hard seltzer category, after research found there is low understanding among consumers that the drink is alcoholic.

Hard seltzers have been a barnstorming success in the US, where they overtook vodka by volume in 2019.

Growth is also expected to rise exponentially in the UK over the next three years, with analysts predicting that the category will rise from £10m in 2020 to £600m by 2025 (Nielsen figures).

Today, the Portman Group said this growth is reflected in the UK, where consumer awareness of ‘hard seltzers’ has doubled – 14% of adults have now heard of the category.

However, understanding of the term is low, as 65% of consumers fail to recognise how the word ‘hard’ is linked to ‘seltzer’. The Portman Group is therefore calling on companies to ensure they ‘absolute clarity’ about what the drink contains.

“The UK is the leading European market for hard seltzers, but the phrase has yet to be anglicised and commonly understood,” Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, said. “It is therefore incumbent on producers to ensure that UK consumers have additional cues to ensure that they understand that ‘hard’ products are alcoholic and are not alluding to a product’s higher alcoholic strength.

“We would also remind producers not to make health or wellness claims. Our free Advisory Service can offer advice on the marketing of hard seltzers and other products.”

In the US, hard seltzers are often marketed as a healthier, low-calorie option for drinkers. In the UK, it is against the law to make any health claims by alcoholic drinks (1.2% abv and over) – a stipulation also included in the Group’s Code of Practice Naming, Packaging and Promotion.

The updated guidance on hard seltzers recommends that the alcohol by volume (abv) and references to ‘alcohol’ or the word ‘alcoholic’ is included on the front of the packaging to avoid consumer confusion.

The Advisory Service is also urging producers to seek independent legal advice, or guidance from Trading Standards. The updated guidance is available to read in full here.