If you didn’t hear about or try a White Claw this summer, did you really experience summer? The drink that took over U.S. markets seemed to come out of nowhere — at one point the alcoholic bubbly drink was so popular there was a brief shortage in the U.S. How exactly did this drink became all the craze seemingly out of nowhere?
Hard seltzers are categorized as flavored malt beverages (FMBs), “with White Claw performing as one of the most dominant brands on the market,” according to Beverage Daily, one of the largest news platforms for the beverage industry.
The hard seltzer is “currently a $550 million business and is projected to keep growing,” according to a Vox article. White Claw is responsible for half of those sales.
According to the Wall Street Journal, IWSR Drinks Market Analysis data shows the U.S. alcohol consumption volumes dropped over 0.5% last year. The decrease in consumption is due to “a growing trend toward mindful drinking or complete abstinence, particularly among the millennial cohort,” Brandy Rand, IWSR’s U.S. head, said.
White Claw advertises itself as a healthier and lighter alternative, as boasting is made with seltzer water and a “gluten-free alcohol base.” White Claw is only 100 calories, 2 grams of carbs and 5% alcohol per volume, therefore perfect for the growing demographic.
One appealing aspect of White Claw is its assortment of flavors: natural lime, ruby grapefruit, black cherry, raspberry, mango and for a limited time they had a “pure” flavor. The “pure” flavor has no flavor and is “designed to serve as a base for other drinks or enjoyed alone as a vodka soda alternative,” according to Beverage Daily.
But spiked seltzer is not new: four brands have been around since 2016. The flavor profiles of competitors like Truly Spiked & Sparkling, SpikedSeltzer and Nauti Seltzer, to name a few, are similar and some more creative. Flavors include blueberry & acai, passionfruit, watermelon, pear elderflower and clementine hibiscus, among others.
The one aspect that made White Claw stand out? Their branding and packaging.
White Claw’s logo and design are very distinct when compared to the other canned spiked seltzers. The can design is simple, but still very sleek: the can itself is all white, save the pull tab and rim of the can are a metallic version of the flavor’s color. The White Claw logo of a large rolling wave is prominent and unmissable. The fonts are consistent with the rest of the lettering across the can. The flavor’s color looks painted on, its shape mimicking the logo’s wave. Close to the bottom of the can is a black and white circle with the number of calories and alcohol content.
Without a photo or even just having seen the can once, its design stands in stark contrast to its competitors, who have lots of colors, designs and fonts. Simply put, they’re not aesthetic enough compared to the reputations of other drinks with “seltzer” in its name.
White Claw, with its comparatively gender-neutral packaging, inexpensive price tag and low alcohol content made itself a hit this year. Summer 2019 truly was “White Claw Summer.”
Correction on the morning of Oct. 22: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that data came from International Wines and Spirits Record. The company's correct name is IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.