Boston’s Harpoon Brewery is latest craft brewery jumping into the hard seltzer space.
The new product line, a collaborative effort with Worcester, Massachusetts’ Polar Beverages, is called Arctic Summer.
Starting in late April, Harpoon will begin shipping four flavors – Ruby Red Grapefruit, Pineapple Pomelo, Raspberry Lime, and Black Cherry – to its Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic markets, according to brewery co-founder and CEO Dan Kenary.
Speaking to Brewbound, Kenary said the new venture marks the first time a beer company has teamed up with a non-alcoholic seltzer brand for the creation of spiked offerings.
“We had an opportunity to work with the leading seltzer brand in our market,” he said. “We are using their flavors in these seltzers, and they will be more highly carbonated – something that Polar is known for.”
Made with 100 percent cane sugar, the four flavors – which will be sold in 6-packs and variety 12-packs — will check in at 5 percent ABV. Flavored with “the same essences that Polar uses in its non-alcoholic products,” they will contain 110 calories and just 1 gram of sugar, Kenary said.
The alcoholic base liquid will be produced at Harpoon’s facility in Boston, and then transported to Polar’s facility in Worcester, where it will be carbonated and flavored, he added.
“I think the world of the Crowley family and the way they run their business,” Kenary, who is originally from Worcester, said of Polar’s ownership. “We were honored that they wanted to do this with us.”
The introduction of the new Arctic Summer line marks the second time that Harpoon has partnered with Polar. Last May, the two companies collaborated on a UFO wheat beer “brewed with the essence of Polar Seltzer’ade Blueberry Lemonade.”
But even as that project came to life, Kenary said the hard seltzer category still wasn’t something Harpoon was interested in expanding into.
“We are beer people to our bones,” he said. “But we started paying closer attention to the space about two years ago when all of a sudden our kids and friends were talking about hard seltzer and bringing it to parties.”
Kenary said Harpoon, which worried about brand loyalty within the segment, would not have entered the hard seltzer market without its partnership with Polar, which grew sales of its non-alcoholic seltzers 15.6 percent last year, according to market research firm IRI.
“There is an opportunity for branding, and it is going to be about flavor and story,” he said. “We believe people will give it a shot because they really like Polar, and that is what will allow us to be successful.”
Nevertheless, Harpoon is jumping into an already crowded hard seltzer space at a time when numerous craft breweries have recently rolled out products aimed at competing with dominate brands made by major players.
In recent months, companies such as Oskar Blues (Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water), Braxton Brewing (Vive Hard Seltzer), Perrin Brewing (Clear Coast Fresh Hard Seltzer) NoDa Brewing (Brizo Hard Seltzer), Perrin Brewing (Clear Coast Hard Seltzer) and Platform Beer Company have all entered the fray.
Their goal? To grab a piece of a $520 million hard seltzer segment, which grew 175 percent over the last 52 weeks, according to Nielsen.
Category leader Mark Anthony Brands sold nearly $195 million worth of its White Claw Hard Seltzer offerings at off-premise retailers last year, as the company grew its portfolio-wide depletions 29 percent.
Boston Beer Company’s recently rebranded Truly Hard Seltzer (originally called Truly Spiked & Sparkling) is the next largest brand in the segment, with sales of its variety pack offering alone eclipsing $59 million in 2018.
Other top brands include Bon & Viv spiked seltzer (Anheuser-Busch), Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water (MillerCoors), Svedka Spiked Premium Seltzer (Constellation Brands) and Smirnoff Hard Sparkling (Diageo).
Meanwhile, nearly a dozen other companies are currently making or have announced plans to introduce hard seltzer and other “spiked” products, including Wachusett Brewing (Nauti Seltzer), Two Beers Brewing (Sound Hard Seltzer), M.I.A Beer Company (HRD WTR), 3 Daughters Brewing (Florida Hard Seltzers), 2 Towns Ciderhouse (SeekOut Real Hard Seltzer) Briggs Hard Seltzer, Press Hard Seltzer, and Crook & Marker spiked and sparkling beverages. Utah’s Squatters Craft Beers, which is part of the Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective that also owns Oskar Blues and Perrin Brewing, is also developing a hard seltzer brand called Grandeur Peak.
For his part, Kenary said the introduction of Arctic Summer, which will be sold year-round, is the “largest launch” Harpoon has ever planned.
“We have the Polar team fired up,” he said. “They have incredible relationships with chains, and we think we can become a player in our market with a hard seltzer this summer.”