Four Loko’s 12% ABV Hard Seltzer Hits Retailers; Anheuser-Busch to Launch Bud Light Seltzer in Q1

Phusion Projects officially rolled out its first Four Loko branded hard seltzer to retailers today, after going viral on social media over the summer.

“When we first posted about it on Four Loko’s social channels, we had no idea the response would be as massive as it was,” Phusion Project co-CEO Jaisen Freeman said in a press release. The tweet generated 25,600 retweets and 98,900 likes.

Four Loko Hard Seltzer’s first flavor, black cherry, checks in at 12% alcohol by volume (ABV) and is sold in 23.5 oz. single-serve cans. More flavors will launch next spring, a spokeswoman said. Phusion Projects touted the product as “the hardest hard seltzer in the universe,” according to the company’s website and the caption of the Instagram post announcing its debut.

Phusion Projects first teased Four Loko Hard Seltzer on its social channels in August, posting images of a Four Loko-branded “sour” hard seltzer “with a hint of Blue Razz.” The 23.5 oz. can shown in the image displayed a 14% ABV, however, that product was not released.

Although most nationally available hard seltzers check in between 4% and 5% ABV, Four Loko isn’t alone in launching a higher ABV hard seltzer brand. Pabst Brewing tested marketed a Pabst Blue Ribbon branded Stronger Seltzer, which checks in at 8% ABV, in Arizona, California, Montana and Texas earlier this year.

On the other end of the spectrum, Craft Brew Alliance’s pH Experiment launched Pacer, a 2% ABV hard seltzer, over the summer.

The hard seltzer category has generated $1.2 billion in sales year-to-date through October 5, according to market research firm Nielsen. The category crossed the $1 billion threshold in August. Hard seltzer sales could be triple that size over the next three years, according to a report from Rabobank beverage analyst Jim Watson.

The hard seltzer category has grown rapidly, although the category is dominated by two brands. Mark Anthony Brand’s White Claw Hard Seltzer leads the category, with 60% market share. Boston Beer Company’s Truly Hard Seltzer is a distant second, with 26% of the market.

The next three brands — Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer, Constellation Brands’ now-discontinued Svedka Spiked Sparkling Seltzer and MillerCoors’ Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water — account for 12% of the market, according to data compiled in late summer by market research firm IRI.

However, the hard seltzer shelves are about to get crowded with products from the largest beer makers.

A-B announced today that Bud Light Seltzer will launch in the first quarter of 2020 in four flavors: Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, Strawberry and Mango. Each flavor checks in at 5% ABV and contains 100 calories, 2 grams of carbs and fewer than 1 gram of sugar. The product was teased during the world’s largest beer manufacturer’s third-quarter earnings call on October 25.

“Our brewing team created the perfect hard seltzer for any occasion using a unique five-step filtration process and the highest quality ingredients like sparkling water, real cane sugar and natural fruit flavor,” Bud Light vice president of marketing Andy Goeler said in the release.

Bud Light Seltzer will come in variety 12-packs, single flavor 12-packs and 25 oz. single-serve cans.

Meanwhile, A-B InBev’s innovation arm, ZX Ventures, will launch Mike’s Hard Sparkling Water in the United Kingdom later this month, according to Just Drinks. Although Mark Anthony Brands owns the Mike’s Hard Lemonade line in the U.S., A-B owns the brand in the U.K. and Canada, the outlet reported.

Other upcoming entrants to the hard seltzer space include Corona Hard Seltzer from Constellation Brands and Vizzy from MillerCoors.

In a bid to stay competitive with White Claw, Boston Beer announced the reformulation of its entire Truly Hard Seltzer portfolio last month and the upcoming launch of Truly Lemonade Hard Seltzer next year.

Craft brewers continue to enter the hard seltzer market too. Night Shift Brewing launched Hoot Hard Seltzer in cans last month after a trial run on draft in its Boston-area taprooms. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Sycamore Brewing also launched its own hard seltzer brand, Bubs, in late October.

Harpoon parent company Mass Bay Brewing and Polar Seltzer’s Arctic Summer hard seltzer added distribution in California last month, expanding its footprint to 22 states.

Covington, Kentucky-based Braxton Brewing launched Vive Hard Seltzer earlier this year and expanded the brand through partnerships with professional sports teams, including the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and MLS’s FC Cincinnati.

CANarchy was among the first regional craft brewers to enter the space with the launch of Wild Basin Boozy Sparking Water under the Oskar Blues brand.

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