Hard Seltzer... what is it?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hard seltzer, spiked seltzer or hard sparkling alcohol water is a type of highball drink containing carbonated water, alcohol, and often fruit flavouring. In the US the alcohol is usually made by fermenting cane sugar; sometimes malted barley is used. Hard seltzer products outside of the US have been found to use either neutral spirit or fermentation of fruit. The alcohol by volume is around 5% and the calorie-content is relatively low.
5th generation brewer Nick Shields invented the beverage style with "Spiked Seltzer", in Westport, Connecticut, and brewed the first commercial batches in November 2013. The category saw a spike in popularity around 2018–2019 in the U.S. As of 2019, in the U.S. the most popular brand is White Claw. Hard seltzer is expected to generate $2.5 billion in sales in the US by 2021. Analysts attribute the success of White Claw and the appeal of hard seltzer in general to increased demand from health-conscious consumers. The rise of hard seltzers in the beer category may also be seen as a reflection of the broader surge in popularity of non-alcoholic flavoured seltzers evidenced by the sudden and massive popularity of brands like LaCroix and Spindrift. On the back of this popularity, hard seltzer brands have launched in numerous countries outside of the U.S., including in Canada, Australia and the UK. In February 2020, White Claw launched in Canada and has a registered trademark in the UK.
Now that we know what "Hard Seltzer" or alcoholic flavoured sparkling water is, we thought we'd embark on a journey of discovery into what the UK has to offer within this space. We found a good range of brands but one stands out from all the noise. Long Shot! This fantastic British brand brings a great story of entrepreneurship so we thought we just had to get in touch with George and Hugo for a quickfire Q&A so our Lifestyle Guide community has the low down. Long Shot is carving their own path through the Hard Selzer space and we're delighted to bring you this exclusive interview.
The Who? Could you give us a bit of background about yourselves?
The Long Shot journey began with nothing more than a Soda Stream, some funky local flavours and a late night or two experimenting with a new drinks idea we’d been hearing so much about. We never had the classic ‘drinks’ background but what we did have was; bucket loads of ambition, a desire to do things differently, and a great idea.
Hugo, my business partner, had a brief stint in the corporate world – working as a chartered accountant, and I’d been bouncing around a few jobs in the marketing industry.
It wasn’t until a chance trip to the US in 2019, though, that we saw how big this new trend was for Hard Seltzers, and how passionate those that were drinking it were. We instantly fell in love with the idea, but still couldn’t find any options that weren’t crammed with artificial sugars and flavourings, so we decided to head home and make our own version in a way that would work for UK drinkers.
The What? Hard Seltzer... what is it all about?
A simple blend of alcohol, sparkling water and flavourings, hard seltzers are one of the newest and most exciting developments in the drinks world – having completely disrupted the US drinks scene, as more drinkers opted for lighter, lower-carb options.
Long Shot is a British take on this new craze, using all-natural fruit juices and high-quality ingredients to create a lighter alternative to the ready-to-drink space. People understand that when it comes to what they put in their bodies, less is sometimes more - and Long Shot, with only 4 separate ingredients per can, ticks all the boxes for the modern-day drinker.
The Why? Why did you decide to create and produce your own brand?
I’ve always struggled with the smorgasbord of great-sounding, but sadly overly-sweet and artificial canned cocktails and G&T’s on the market, which was why we were so excited when we started learning more about the whole hard seltzer thing.
But still, we found that many US versions couldn’t really offer that truly ‘clean’ ingredients list that we were after - with most being packed full of things we’d never heard of. So we wanted to strip it back as much as possible: Creating a strong flavour profile, but by using as few ingredients as possible to do it – all of which are proudly listed on our cans, alongside our nutritional values (something that bizarrely isn’t required of UK drinks manufacturers).
Unlike other UK seltzer brands we only use high-quality fruit juices (rather than fruit flavourings), which gives them a unique taste, colour and mouthfeel. We wanted our range to showcase some classic British flavour combinations, nearly all of which are grown within 20 miles of our manufacturer.
All of our drinks come in under 70 calories and cater to a wide variety of dietary and health-conscious diets – being vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly and low sugar.
The How? How have you created the products and the brand (& what makes Long Shot different/ USPs?
Creating our own brand from scratch has been great fun, but has definitely been a case of learning how to do something new every day, and not being afraid to admit when you don’t know something.
Lots of others have joined along the way and being able to surround ourselves with positive people has been invaluable during a somewhat less-than-opportune time to launch! Utilising any and all contacts in our networks and collaborating with freelancers to assist with the more technical aspects (can designs, website development etc.) has also allowed us to focus on other areas of the business.
We never want to compromise on taste. It means our drinks may end up towards the more ‘premium’ end of the seltzer spectrum, but we hope our drinkers can testify as to why that is.
The Where? Where do you see the business, and the brand, in terms of growth/expansion or product development over the next year or two?
We aim to make Long Shot the number 1 British hard seltzer brand but we want to always hang on to the small-batch feel and attention to detail that has got us to where we are today.
We’ll always stick to what we feel sets our drinks apart from the rest: never containing anything artificial, and always being shown exactly what goes into them. At the same time, we want to encourage a generation to break out of their comfort zone, try something new and take their own ‘Long Shot’.
Distribution Channels - On-line ? In stores? Clubs, Bars & Restaurants?
That’s the beauty of the hard seltzers – they can fit in anywhere! From picnics, to train stations and parties around the country – but we see the category going further than that.
Strangely the pandemic may have actually helped break down some of the classic barriers that canned drinks traditionally face in the on-trade. The emergence of food & drink ordering apps in bars has meant that consumers can easily explore an entire selection from their fingertips – rather than awkwardly peering over the bar and trying to see what’s hiding in the back of the fridge!
In a post-Covid world, we may see a greater appetite for packaged and ready-to-drink options appearing out and about, and don’t see it being too long until we see hard seltzers being a staple for bars up and down the country.
As the category continues to grow on a global scale, there may also be opportunities to take Long Shot abroad. Stay tuned!
George Blurton – Long Shot