Art Lopez

Art Lopez, Marketing Director, Tea at Finlays Americas explores the hard seltzer trend and how tea, herbals and botanicals are becoming key ingredients.

There’s something special about that time of year when the days get a little longer and the warmth of the sun begs our inner spirit to venture outside into the sunshine. Whether it’s may in the northern hemisphere or December in the southern, the signs of summer are an exciting time of year.

There is an old saying that states “there’s nothing like a cold beer on a warm summer day”, however recent developments in the hard beverage category are now offering novel, refreshing and healthier options to enjoy our time in the sun.

The summer of 2019 in North America saw the emergence of a new type of summertime beverage: the ready-to-drink hard seltzer, an alcoholic and flavoured sparkling water. A brand named White Claw led the way in creating this category, combining the refreshing nature of seltzer with great summertime flavours, low sugar, under 100 calories, all in a convenient grab-and-go can. Consumers were immediately drawn to the healthy attributes of seltzer, which helped the category poach consumers from beer and post explosive growth for hard seltzers.

Consumers were immediately drawn to the healthy attributes of seltzer, which helped the category poach consumers from beer and post explosive growth for hard seltzers.

Other beer and alcoholic beverage brand owners looked to replicate White Claw’s success by adding hard seltzers to their line ups in time to meet the summer demand. Soon, the market was flooded with brands trying to steal hard seltzer market share. These entrants relied on branding and awareness more than exciting flavour innovation, and this led to a reliance on traditional flavours such as lemon, lime, raspberry and peach.

But for the summer of 2021, you can expect to see a shift towards differentiation. A race for exciting and exotic flavour combinations branching off the base flavours. Tea, herbals, and botanicals will be key ingredients.

The Hard Seltzer Market Growth


  • Growth from 82 million cases in 2019 to 281 million cases by 2023 [IWSR]
  • From 2018 to 2019, hard seltzers increased US market share x30 [Nielsen]

While the race for share within hard seltzer is taking place, the overlooked segment of hard tea will also be undergoing a renovation. US brand Twisted Tea has dominated the North American market for the past twenty years, in a category that hasn’t seen much recent innovation. Hard teas can look to take a page from the hard seltzer playbook by offering something healthy, refreshing and indulgent. These three factors demonstrate an exciting experience for consumers and are a recipe for success.

Existing players and new entrants will undoubtedly look to formulate a great tasting hard tea that is low sugar and 100 calories or fewer per serving. Look for brands to capitalise on the health halo of different tea types that keep caffeine content low, combined with unique flavours, and refreshing carbonation to deliver an elevated experience against existing hard tea products. If done well, this sub-category could very well steal some share from hard seltzers or even blur the lines between hard seltzer and hard tea.

And before we know it, summer will be here again, and we’ll find ourselves looking for beverages to enjoy with friends and family. Whichever beverage you choose, you can be sure that there will be more brands and more exciting flavours than ever before. Variety is a good thing for all of us, because now more than ever, we all deserve a drink to kick back, relax and enjoy summer.

Tap into the hard seltzer trends of 2021 with Finlays’ range of Tea Extracts