The Fizz Factor: Hard Seltzer's Rise in India
Image Credit: Seltzers are growing in popularity | Unsplash

The global RTD market has long been at the forefront of innovation in the spirits industry, churning out entire subcategories nearly every year. The last decade focused on the development of RTD cocktails, with various conglomerates manufacturing nearly every conceivable cocktail, from simple G&Ts to intricate penicillins, in pre-mixed form. It wasn't until late 2016 that the industry would get a much-needed breath of fresh air via the advent of a new category: hard seltzers. Seltzer is a type of carbonated water that is characterized by having a distinct "bite" and no mineral content. This provides a perfect medium for presenting a natural flavor, as opposed to other options such as soda water, which contain minerals that can alter the taste of the flavorant. There are no rules or criteria that a manufacturer needs to meet to call their beverage a hard seltzer; however, the beverage is typically made with fermented sugar or corn, seltzer, and natural flavors.

The US was the first country where the category really took off, with the launch of the ever-popular White Claw, a type of hard seltzer made using malted grain as a base. The alcopop proved to be extremely popular amongst millennials, who found the many fruit-based flavors to be much more accessible as opposed to RTD cocktails. The news of the beverage’s success spread far and wide, which led to several other companies launching their own offerings around the world in the years to come. India wasn't one to miss out on this craze; as many as six different homegrown brands have launched a variety of seltzers in the domestic RTD market to rave reviews. Hard seltzers have quickly gained a reputation as a refreshing and low-calorie alternative to traditional beers and cocktails, with the country’s millennial population actively seeking out these bubbly beverages as a means to quench their thirst and enjoy a night out with friends.

Seltzers are very versatile | Unsplash

One major reason for hard seltzer's appeal in India is its versatility. Hard seltzers can be enjoyed on their own, but they can also be used as a base for cocktails, offering a new level of creativity for mixologists and home bartenders. Hard seltzers also tend to have a lower alcohol content than other types of alcoholic beverages, making them a more casual and relaxed option for socializing. The sheer range of flavors, combined with the use of different base spirits, make a strong case for the beverage over other popular fizzy alcohols such as beer and sparkling wine.

In addition to their taste and versatility, hard seltzers have also gained popularity in India due to their convenient packaging and easy availability; nearly every liquor store in the country stocks the beverage in pint-sized bottles or cans. These convenient packaging options make hard seltzers a compelling choice for outdoor events, picnics, and beach trips, as well as for enjoying at home.

The beverage is also considered a healthier alternative to sugar-laden alcopops; most manufacturers use zero-calorie sweeteners such as stevia or sucralose to sweeten their offerings. Some manufacturers may use sucrose for the task, albeit in small amounts. Most hard seltzers clock in at under 100 calories, regardless of the sweetener used.

The method of flavoring the beverage is critical to the end product's flavor accuracy. Indian manufacturers employ one of two methods for the task: either distilling the beverage with botanicals in a manner similar to gin and carbonating it after, or adding natural or natural flavor directly to spiked seltzer water. The first method is less common owing to a more expensive and labor-intensive process, which is also reflected in the cost of the end product.

The most popular brands of hard seltzer in India include the likes of Raya, IST, Pursue, and Barneys. All these brands have plenty of options when it comes to flavor, from pomegranate mint to strawberry and blueberry. All seltzers from the aforementioned brands retail between 100 and 150 rupees.

As hard seltzers continue to rise in popularity in India, it's clear that they have become more than just a passing trend. With their refreshing flavors, low alcohol content, and convenient packaging, it's no surprise that hard seltzers are here to stay. Whether enjoyed on their own or mixed into cocktails, hard seltzers offer a new and exciting option for those looking to mix up their beverage choices.

As the market for hard seltzers grows in India, it's likely that we'll see even more innovation and experimentation from both established brands and new entrants. With so much potential for growth and variety, it's an exciting time for hard seltzer lovers in India. Whether you're a seasoned fan or just getting introduced to the world of hard seltzer, there's no denying the fizz factor that has made these bubbly beverages a hit in India.