Last October, we took a look at the emergence of licensing deals and collaborations in the hard seltzer category. At the time, a handful of brands, such as Hard Rock and Ralph’s Italian Ices, had entered the category through partnerships with alcoholic beverage makers. Since then, this space has become a go-to category for appropriate properties, with a number of celebrities and food/restaurant brands announcing deals in the months leading up to summer 2021. The segment offers a gluten-free and often lower-calorie and lower-alcohol alternative to beer, which many consumers find to be especially appealing during summer party season.
Some examples of recent hard seltzer deals:
- Chef Gordon Ramsay launched Hell’s Hard Seltzer in partnership with Brew Pipeline and Global Brews of London, with Lift Bridge Brewing serving as consultants. The assortment, sold in variety 12-packs, features four flavors inspired by menu items in Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurants. They include Berry Inferno (peach, blueberry, raspberry), Knicker Twist (passionfruit, pineapple, orange), Mean Green (kiwi, lime, mint, pineapple), and That’s Forked (key lime, vanilla, graham). The product was available initially in 25 states and is expected to be nationwide by mid-summer.
- Hip-hop group Run The Jewels and Solemn Oath Brewery’s City Water Hard Seltzer in Chicago launched a collaboration to produce Ooh La La Pink Lemonade Hard Seltzer. The product, inspired by the group’s 2020 album RTJ4, is distributed in the Chicagoland area. While this is its first hard seltzer, Run The Jewels has previously been involved with craft beers. It partnered last year with 13 international breweries for local variations of an India Pale Ale tied to its single “No Save Point,” featured in the video game Cyberpunk 2077. And it launched Stay G-O-L-D IPA with Creature Comforts Brewing in 2019.
- Sonic Drive-In, with its agency Brand Central, licensed COOP Ale Works to create a line of Sonic hard seltzers based on the quick-service chain’s slushie flavors, including its signature Cherry Limeade and Original Limeade, along with Classic Lemonade, Lemony Berry, Mango Guava, Melon Medley, Ocean Water, and Orange Pineapple. Introduced on May 1 in 12-can variety packs and individual large cans, the beverages’ distribution is limited at first to retailers in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas.
- Country singer Luke Bryan partnered with Constellation Brands to introduce Two Lane Hard Seltzer in Blueberry Lemonade, Cherry Limeade, Peach Tea, and Watermelon Punch flavors. First offered in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, the brand plans to expand to additional states in the future. Constellation and Bryan also offer Two Lane American Golden Lager, which is being relaunched after a COVID-19 hiatus.
- Rapper Travis Scott and his Cactus Jack lifestyle label teamed with Anheuser-Busch to make Cacti Agave Spiked Seltzer. The product saw strong demand upon launch, selling out immediately online and within a few days in physical stores before supplies were replenished, according to the beverage maker.
- The Warheads sour candy brand, owned by Impact Confections, paired with Artisanal Brew Works, a craft brewery in New York, to launch a line of Warheads Hard Seltzers. The two companies had launched Warheads Sours, a line of sour beers in Black Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Lemon, and Watermelon, last year; it has become part of Artisanal’s core assortment after a successful test. The hard seltzers, which come in the same flavors as the beers, are available initially only in the brewery’s taproom, but could be added to the company’s retail distribution, focused on the Northeast U.S. as well as California, Florida, and Nevada.
- Nelk, a YouTube collective whose channel specializes in pranks and partying and often finds itself at the center of controversy, launched a hard seltzer called Happy Dad. Nelk is overseeing product development and production internally and partnered with wine and spirits specialist TransWorld Alliance to handle sales and marketing. The product is lower-carb, lower-sugar, and lower-calorie, as well as higher in electrolytes, than many competing offerings. The brand will roll out on a state-by-state basis, starting with a first run of 50,000 cases in California.
The hard seltzer category is crowded. Specialist brands such as White Claw and Truly, multiple beer brands from the likes of Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors, and soft drink marketers such as Coca-Cola are all playing in this sector. Still, it is a relatively new segment that continues to show strong sales growth. IMARC Group predicted the global market will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 11% from 2021 to 2026. That suggests there is still space and opportunity for more licensing deals and collaborations involving relevant IP.
Watch for our Raugust Communications e-newsletter next Tuesday, June 15. The Licensing Topic of the Month will look at supply chain issues affecting the licensing business, while the Datapoint research spotlight will delve into an aspect of pet product licensing deals. Subscribe here if you do not yet receive this free monthly e-publication.
Note: This post was corrected to show Sonic Drive-In’s agency as Brand Central, not Brand Liaison as originally stated.