Hard seltzers shine in convenience stores, appealing to new shopper segments, trips.
Rajeev-sharma-1
Rajeev Sharma
June 9, 2021

Hard seltzers shine in convenience stores, appealing to new shopper segments, trips.

Hard seltzers had a meteoric growth in c-stores moving from 1.2% share of total alcoholic beverage sales in 2019 to 9.7% in the first quarter of 2021. (Source: VideoMining C-Store Shopper Insights Tracker).

Examining the shopper behaviors closely during the same period reveals interesting shifts in demographics, trip missions and brand preferences in hard seltzers for each region in USA.

C-store shoppers and overall Beer is male dominated, but the hard seltzers segment over-indexes for females. Before the pandemic, 33% of hard seltzer buyers in c-stores were women, compared to only 17% for beer. During the pandemic last year, however there was an uptick in the interest in men towards hard seltzers, with that trend continuing into 2021.

Women tend to spend 4% more in c-stores compared to men (with that sales difference for gender being 10% for Hispanic shoppers), so if hard seltzers can draw more women into c-stores that can really help the overall store sales.

The pack sizes for hard seltzers are showing an interesting trend. The proportion of sales from 12-Packs for hard seltzers grew from 45.9% to 65.8% in past two years, indicative of the shifting role of the channel for this emerging segment, attracting new shopper segments and alcoholic beverage trips.

60% of time hard seltzers are cross-purchased in c-stores with some other products that vary by region. For example, in California snacks were cross-purchased 20% of the time with hard seltzers compared to 15% in east coast.

White Claw and Truly still dominate the segment. In 2019 these two brands together cornered 95% of the c-store hard seltzer sales. Despite the entry of numerous new brands including the big ones like Bud Light, the share of the White Claw and Truly was still an impressive 80% in Q1 2021.

The shopper profiles and behaviors varied for the two brands, especially regionally. In California, for example, Truly buyers skew more towards salty snacks compared to White Claw.

The two brands also achieved different levels of share boost during the Holidays. For example, in 2020 Truly increased its market share during the July 4th week in all regions except in west coast. There were other examples of well executed promotions leading to dramatic shifts in shares in the relatively new alcoholic beverage segment.

There are also significant opportunities in improving the at-shelf “closure rates” in this new alcoholic beverage segment, as more than 60% of shoppers who browse hard seltzers still end up not buying in that trip. C-store shoppers tend to make very quick decisions, spending only 16 second shopping alcoholic beverages, though they spend a little more time shopping hard seltzers.

Analyzing the shopping behaviors of hard seltzers “non-buyers”, or those who browse then walk away without buying, reveals that almost 50% of them spend less than 10 seconds, while more than 10% spend a significant time (30 seconds or more) before walking away. Analyzing the detailed behaviors of these shoppers will help in identifying the barriers to purchase. Lowering these barriers to improve the “shopper to buyer” conversion rates can really help in strengthening brand/category performance and sustained segment growth.

With the opening of bars and restaurants, the overall alcoholic beverage sales in c-stores may slow down a little, but as the current brands and new entrants target different shopper segments and trips missions regionally, the hard seltzer segment in c-stores is likely to be very dynamic in the near future.

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