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Hard soda category gets even more crowded

Hard soda offerings are on the rise

The hard soda trend shows no signs of going flat.

The Seagram's brand is the latest entrant in this booming category. A line of Seagram's Hard Sodas that feature Cherry Cola, Grape Soda, Lemon n' Lime and Orange Cream will be produced at High Falls Brewery in Rochester, New York, which is a part of the North American Breweries family.

Anheuser-Busch also unveiled a new flavor for its hard soda line: Best Damn Cherry Cola. Cherry will be the second national offering from the Best Damn Brewing Co, which Anheuser-Busch created with the release of its Best Damn Root Beer in December.

Anheuser-Busch announces the upcoming launch of Best Damn Cherry Cola, aged on whole cherries after brewing for a flavorful, harder take on the timeless taste of cherry cola. (
Source: Anheuser-Busch

The latest hard soda announcements build on a trend that began last June with the national release of Not Your Father's Root Beer by Small Town Brewing. That brand went on to sell more than $75 million by year's end, according to market research group IRI. Many others quickly entered the marketplace, including Boston Beer's Coney Island Brewing brand; MillerCoors' Henry's Hard Soda line, which debuted in January; and Anheuser-Busch's Best Damn Root Beer.

While Anheuser-Busch InBev didn't specifically mention the Hard Soda category in its fourth-quarter results, it did highlight one of its four strategic priorities as being "developing the near-beer segment."

"We are competing more effectively for share of total alcohol by launching innovative products that offer malt beverage alternatives to wine and hard liquor," the company said.

While many of alcoholic root beers drape themselves in the cloak of craft brewing, they and other hard soda variants like Ginger Ale and Orange Soda, as well as other flavored malt beverage brands like Anheuser-Busch InBev's MixxTail, MillerCoors Redd's and Boston Beer's Twisted Tea brands reflect brewers' desire to capture the evolving tastes of alcohol drinkers, who continue to seek out options beyond the beer category.

According to the latest figures from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, beer remains the leader in alcoholic beverage market share, but distilled spirits have gained market share, while beer has declined for six straight years.

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