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By Kenneth Hein | Editor

April 25, 2022 | 8 min read

What drink will you be sipping on as the days turn warmer? The Drum interviewed leading beverage analysts to determine the top alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages that will end up in your hand this summer.

Thirsty for summer? You’re not alone. Beverage makers bank on the sultry days to drive a big spike in sales. Lots of new drinks are hitting the shelves, but only a select few will make it into your cooler. Here are four of the top alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages that will likely make the cut, according to beverage experts and sales trend data.

Top 4 non-alcoholic beverages

1. Celsius Energy Drink

Jonah Hill told GQ that Celsius “is like a health food Red Bull” and dubbed it one of the 10 things he can’t live without. He even bragged that he got the entire cast of Don’t Look Up hooked on it. Still, it’s women and health-conscious consumers that are driving sales of this energy drink, which claims to be clinically proven to boost metabolism and burn body fat – albeit when combined with exercise. Its ‘Live fit’ mantra is resonating with many who may not have previously considered buying an energy drink.

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“It’s not about masculine, extreme activities. It’s more about everyday fitness and performance,” says Duane Stanford, editor, Beverage Digest. “It’s a hot drink.”

Celsius

2. Athletic Brewing

Ever see someone drinking an O’Douls non-alcoholic beer? Probably not, because they obscured the label in the palm of their hand or just opted for club soda with lemon. Those days are over now that Athletic Brewing has made a zero-alcohol beer that looks cool and tastes more like the real thing. Whether it’s the 15 million Americans who suffer from alcohol use disorder, ‘sober curious’ millennials and gen Z, or people who want the taste without the buzz, Athletic has filled the void.

“They have incredible momentum and increasing availability,” says Gerry Khermouch, editor of Beverage Business Insights. Already the No 2 US craft beer brewer, Athletic is opening new breweries on each coast this year, so the Run Wild IPA will soon be sprinting to a shelf near you.

Athletic Brewing

3. Spindrift

Are you a drifter? If not, you may be soon. This is what Spindrift calls the loyal fans who love its sparkling seltzer with real squeezed fruit. There appear to be a lot of them as Spindrift, named for the spray that blows off a breaking wave, is now the fastest-growing sparkling water brand in the US. In fact, it grew more than 50% in terms of retail dollars last year, per Beverage Digest.

Unlike a lot of other players in the category, “it’s not just a La Croix copycat. It includes actual juice and water, which sets [it] apart,” says Ken Sadowsky, senior adviser to Verlinvest and industry beverage whisperer. Spindrift wants to make sure everyone understands its minimalist ingredients. That’s why its tagline is ‘Yup, that’s it.’ Gary Hemphill, managing director of research, Beverage Marketing Corporation, calls it “a healthy sparkling refreshment that delivers on taste.”

Spindrift

4. Nitro Pepsi

It’s soda, but it’s foamy. Pepsi got innovative by adding a nitrogen widget, which is more commonly found in nitro coffees and Guinness beer. The end result is Nitro Pepsi – the first-nitrogen infused soda.

“It’s pop without the belch,” says Sadowsky. This ‘smoother way to soda’ will likely grab consumers’ attention and help place the Pepsi trademark top of mind, says Stanford. “People will be talking about it. It’s a fun, weird thing that’s perfect for social media. It will create a halo effect for the entire Pepsi brand.”

To give the brand a boost on social, it tapped Khaby Lame, the silent superstar of TikTok, for a new ad campaign celebrating its release.

Pepsi Nitro

Top 4 alcoholic beverages

1. High Noon

You know a beverage is selling well when it is causing US state officials to rethink their laws. High Noon is a hard seltzer made with real vodka and juice (traditional hard seltzers do not include spirits). The brand, which “believes in always living like the sun’s out,” saw sales grow 199.5% last year, per Impact Databank. “Hard seltzer is declining, yet High Noon is still growing triple digits,” says David Steinman, executive editor, Beer Marketer’s Insights.

High Noon is part of the larger trend of consumers increasingly looking to ‘trade up’ to canned cocktails and ready-to-drink spirits. Yet it’s a bit tricky to find depending on where you live because it is considered a distilled spirit. This means in New York, for example, it can only be sold where wine and liquor are sold. “High Noon is challenging the status quo,” says Sadowsky. “It’s fascinating to watch the states bend.”

High Noon

2. Finnish Long Drink

An actor, a DJ and a golfer walk into a bar... kind of sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. Actor Miles Teller, DJ Kygo and pro golfer Rickie Fowler are the force behind the US success of Finnish Long Drink. Created after World War II, Long Drink is the top-selling category in Finland. Its traditional recipe is gin and grapefruit soda.

Finnish Long Drink, which soft launched in 2018 and has since exploded, is “capturing the attention of college students and consumers who are bored with hard seltzers and looking for the next thing to post on Instagram,” says Beverage Digest’s Stanford. Dubbed a “refreshing citrus soda with a premium liquor kick,” it has proven so popular that it already has a copycat in the form of Bevy Long Drink. Boston Beer rolled out its challenger brand late last year. This is good news for Finnish Long Drink, says Sadowsky. “Once you get a foil, you have a category because you now have two people investing in it ... I’m a fan.”

Finnish Long Drink

3. Hard MTN Dew

Consumers are dying to do the alcohol version of the Dew. The problem, again, is state regulations. You can only currently buy Hard MTN Dew in Florida, Iowa and Tennessee. Yet the PepsiCo/Boston Beer-created product is already a top-100-selling beer brand (hard seltzers are included in the beer category). “It jumped out of the gate,” says Steinman. It had $4.3m in sales last month alone, per Beer Marketer’s Insights. Next month, its availability will be expanded to 15 states – so expect sales numbers to surge.

The allure is simple. “People who love Dew want to try it. You don’t have to educate consumers about it,” says Stanford. The scarcity of Hard MTN Dew is only working in its favor. “I get calls, constantly, from convenience and liquor store owners who are trying to get their hands on it,” says Stanford.

MTN Dew Hard Seltzer

4. White Claw Surf

And then there is the brand that started the entire hard seltzer craze: White Claw. Although the category is leveling off after years of dynamic growth, there is still immense interest in new products. White Claw Surf, in particular, will end up at plenty of beaches and barbecues this summer. This premium version of White Claw features “a collision of complex flavors for sensational refreshment.” They are Citrus Yuzu, Tropical Pomelo, Wildberry Acai and Watermelon Lime.

To get the hype machine rolling, the brand rolled out a national TV spot called ‘Surf like no other’ starring top professional surfers. “It will be everywhere for sure,” says Steinman. “No one’s given up on hard seltzer. It’s too big of a category at this point with too many big brands.”

White Claw Surf

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