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Portman Group gives guidance on hard seltzers

UK watchdog the Portman Group has released guidance on hard seltzers after research showed 93% of consumers were unfamiliar with the name.

White Claw is a leading hard seltzer brand in the US

Hard seltzers soared to success in the US and are steadily expanding overseas. In the States, the use of the word ‘hard’ is frequently linked with alcohol, particularly cider.

However, in other markets, the term ‘hard’ isn’t translating as well, according to the Portman Group.

In November 2020, the responsibility and regulatory body commissioned YouGov to conduct a consumer poll on perceptions and understanding of ‘hard’ and ‘hard seltzer’.

The results showed 93% of UK consumers had not heard of hard seltzers.

Furthermore, only 21% of respondents had heard of at least one of the following terms: ‘hard water’, ‘alcoholic sparkling water’ or ‘hard seltzer’.

Those who were somewhat familiar with any of these terms were typically aged between 18 and 24, the target audience for the burgeoning category.

In addition, 68% of those surveyed did not know if the use of the word ‘hard’ was meant to explain the alcoholic strength of a product, the alcoholic content, or both.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of those polled did not think it was a useful way to indicate alcoholic content of soft drinks or alcoholic drinks.

Matt Lambert, Portman Group CEO, said: “Our research shows there is consumer confusion on the use of various hard seltzer terms. This is perhaps unsurprising given the relative newness of the category in the UK. However, we expect it to grow rapidly.

“As such the guidance has been issued in anticipation of the growth in order to help producers avoid potential pitfalls as they innovate and launch.

“The Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) is the final arbiter of the code and will assess complaints about products on a case-by-case basis, accounting for all relevant information.”

As a result, the Portman Group has created specific hard seltzer guidance to ensure products communicate their alcohol content and strength with ‘absolute clarity’.

Producers are encouraged to include alcohol volume and reference to ‘alcohol’ on the front of packaging.

The Portman Group is also advising brands to be wary about using fruit images and descriptors on packaging.

A number of brands have entered the growing hard seltzer category in the past year, including: Slingsby Gin, Moskovskaya vodka, Loch Lomond and East London Liquor Company.

Celebrity faces have also joined the popular sector, such as chef Gordon Ramsay and American rapper Travis Scott.

Last month, a new report predicted the UK hard seltzer market would be worth £75 million (US$102.5m) by 2023.

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