Anheuser-Busch wades into hard soda with new seltzer launch


Dive Brief:

  • AB InBev’s Anheuser-Busch is introducing Bud Light-branded hard soda available in four flavors: cherry cola, citrus (lemon-lime), orange and classic cola. The beverage will hit store shelves in January.
  • The alcohol giant said each 12-ounce can of Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda will have 100 calories, 5% alcohol and no sugar or gluten.
  • The launch further blurs the line between traditional alcohol companies such as AB InBev and soda makers like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo who have crossed over into new categories with new products.

Dive Insight:

The decision by AB InBev to enter hard soda marks the latest iteration by the alcohol maker to expand its portfolio beyond its core beer offerings that have largely struggled in recent years amid a shift in consumer tastes. Bud Light, in particular, has been a prominent vehicle the company has used to enter or expand its reach into other adult offerings, including hard seltzer and frozen icicles.

A hard soda marks a logical extension for Bud Light Seltzer, a late entrant to the seltzer wars that has quickly grabbed market share. In the four weeks that included much of July, Bud Light Seltzer accounted for one-tenth of hard seltzer sales in the U.S., CNBC noted this summer.

The launch of Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, described by the company as having the “light, refreshing taste … of Bud Light Seltzer, but with the ‘pop’ of soda flavor,” could kickstart a resurgence of the hard soda category that was briefly popular a few years ago before losing ground to hard seltzers, teas and other drinks. 

In an interview with Beverage Daily in July, Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing with Bud Light, said the brand has “thrived on product innovation and providing consumers with unique options and classics alike that appeal to a variety of tastes.” He said the brand “will continue to think outside of the box to bring new offerings” to the marketplace.

As AB InBev moves into soda it could soon find itself clashing with soda giants, most notably PepsiCo. In August, Boston Beer partnered with the cola company to launch a Hard Mtn Dew alcoholic offering in the U.S. expected to reach shelves in early 2022.

Coca-Cola has made waves in alcohol, too, through its own partnership deal with Molson Coors. The two beverage makers first teamed up in 2020 to create Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, which hit U.S. shelves earlier this year in nine states. After a promising launch, Molson Coors announced it would roll out the beverage nationwide in 2022.

For alcohol companies as a whole, a hard soda offering would allow them to give consumers another opportunity to imbibe, even if they want to enjoy a soda at the same time. As beverage companies such as AB InBev roll out new hard seltzers, low-calorie brews, or beers with no or little alcohol, they are making a point to attract more consumers throughout the day depending on their mood or the occasion in which they are consuming a drink. 

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