Trends & Challenges: Hard Soda

This is a sponsored post from Flavorman, a Louisville, KY-based beverage development company which has developed the drinks and helped iron-out the processes behind some of the most successful brands.

Life is all about choices and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen your choices in the ready-to- drink hard soda category expand over the last few years. Back in the day your hooch choice was limited to California Coolers, but now our options are wide open. With hard lemonades, apple ales, root beers, and ginger beers, the market has gone from famine to feast.

Most of the recent alcopop offerings have been in the malt-based, nostalgic flavors space. Lemonade, apple juice, and root beer are all things most of us enjoyed as kids. Now, as adults, we get to enjoy them again, only this time with alcohol. It’s true, life is good.

Of course, malt-based is not the only rodeo in town when it comes to hard sodas. There is also a myriad of wine-based and spirit-based alcopops on the market. However, lately the category seems to have been dominated by the malt-based formulas. But there’s a new wave coming that should give these malt-based beverages a run for their money.

What’s Next?

While predicting the future is tough, especially in such a, ahem, fluid market, at Flavorman we’re seeing the pendulum swing away from malt beverages and nostalgic flavors back toward distilled spirits and craft flavors.

Generally speaking, craft flavors will pair a familiar soda flavor like blackberry with a more exotic or unexpected flavor like basil. So, instead of a hard orange soda, you might soon see a clementine mint soda or something even crazier like a pear and turmeric soda. The idea is to combine unusual flavors that compliment each other rather than to mix for the sake of mixing.

With an entire world full of herbs and spices, the number of possible unique combinations are staggering; but one thing is for sure, these spirit based drinks won’t be the whiskey and cola drinks we’ve seen in the past. Rather, it will be neutral spirits carrying the load in this next round.

The Challenges

The main challenge for small manufacturers in making, marketing, and distributing malt-based hard sodas is shelf life. As most reading this blog already know, beer has a shelf-life of 3-6 months. After that, it’s skunk city. The same is true for alcopops if they sit too long.

The challenge for spirit-based hard soda is a little different. For spirits, the tax burden is higher, which means they’re generally more expensive and in danger of pricing themselves out of profitability. Since every state seems to have different laws saying where alcohol can be sold, it’s also hard to get wide distribution in popular multi-state retail outlets like Whole Foods.

Still the thought of spirit-based hard sodas with craft flavors is quite intriguing and our mouths are watering in anticipation of seeing what kind of creative flavor combinations our clients come up with. If you have any questions about this article or if you would like to perfect your flavor, please feel free to start a conversation.

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