Nielsen: Hard Seltzers Post Strongest Sales Week Ever During July 4 Holiday Period

Facing tough comps with the 2019 July 4 holiday week, the hard seltzer segment still managed to post its strongest week in sales ever in off-premise retailers during the July 4 holiday week, according to market research firm Nielsen.

Off-premise dollar sales of hard seltzers increased 134%, to $138 million, compared to the same one-week period a year ago, according to Danelle Kosmal, Nielsen VP of beverage alcohol practice.

In fact, hard seltzers drove beer category growth for the one-week period, with beer, FMBs and cider increasing dollar sales 6.6%. Take out the beyond beer offerings, and beer dollar sales declined 0.8% compared to last year.

“This is the first time since the last week of February that core beer experienced negative growth trends,” Kosmal wrote.

Nevertheless, the week of July 4 was the highest off-premise dollar sales period of the year, totaling nearly $1.16 billion in Nielsen tracked off-premise channels, and a 15.3% increase over the prior week, Kosmal wrote.

“However, if we consider the bump that July 4 typically provides to the beer category, we would expect prior week comparisons to be even bigger,” Kosmal noted. “For example, for the week ending July 6, 2019, beer/FMB/cider dollar sales were up 26% compared to the prior week.

“Another way to look at it would be to compare July 4 sales to an average week of beer sales throughout the year,” she continued. “In 2019, category dollar sales for the week of July 4 were 43% higher than the average weekly sales in off premise channels. This year, sales were 36% higher than average weekly sales to date for 2020.”

Hard seltzers accounted for 11.9% of total beer category dollars in off-premise retailers during the July 4 holiday week, up more than a full share point over the previous week.

“Seltzers essentially carried the category for the July 4 holiday, with White Claw and Truly alone accounting for 70% of the category growth dollars,” Kosmal wrote.

The top 10 hard seltzer brand families ranked by total off-premise dollar sales for the week ending July 4 were:

  • White Claw (Mark Anthony Brands)
  • Truly (Boston Beer Company)
  • Bud Light (Anheuser-Busch)
  • Corona (Constellation Brands)
  • Smirnoff (Diageo)
  • Vizzy (Molson Coors)
  • Natty Light (Anheuser-Busch)
  • Bon Viv (Anheuser-Busch)
  • Wild Basin (Canarchy)
  • Press (Constellation Brands owns a minority stake)

The top four growth brand extensions for the entire beer category were all hard seltzers: White Claw’s variety pack No. 2, Truly Lemonade mix pack and variety packs of Bud Light and Corona hard seltzers.

Still, the week of July 4, 2020, will be plagued by what ifs in large part due to out of stock issues, including for Mexican imports, as dollar sales declined 2.5% compared to a year ago.

“Yes, this was the biggest week of off premise sales for beer/FMB/cider in 2020, however, how much bigger could it have been without the out of stock challenges?” Kosmal asked.

Additionally, these numbers come with a caveat: Some retailers may not have fully reported their weekend sales, Kosmal cautioned. So next week’s data may provide a clearer picture of the 2020 July 4 holiday.

“It’s possible that many consumers made some last-minute purchases on July 4, and this set of data may not fully reflect all of those purchases,” she wrote.

The super premium segment (think Michelob Ultra) increased dollar sales 5.6%, while craft beer dollar sales were flat (Brewers Association-defined draft increased sales 0.8%). Premium lights (-3.3%), below premium (-3.4%) and cider (-8.4%) each fell into decline. All of these numbers were expected to be stronger given the holiday week, as well as a second round of on-premise shutdowns across the country.

Dollar sales growth for total alcohol sales slowed to +11.5%, with the dollar sales growth of spirits (+23.2%) and wine (+15.2%) both outpacing beer.

Kosmal added that channel performance played a role in beer category trends for the July 4 holiday week. Beer category dollar sales in the food channel are up 27.4% during the COVID-19 period, but were only up 7.3% for the holiday week. However, beer category dollar sales in convenience stores were up 9.4% for the week — the first week that beer dollar sales growth in C-stores outpaced the growth in the grocery channel.

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