Introduced as an alternative to beer and wine, “Hard Seltzer,” which is very popular in the United States, is hoping to break out in France, where a number of local brands are going up against larger, more established names.
Hugely successful in the Unites States, “Hard Seltzers” – sparkling, flavored alcoholic waters – are just starting to hit the French market. Every month, new “Made in France” brands with premium positioning (organic, local, sugar-free, etc) are cropping up. They include Opéan, Natz, Fefe, Ôbé and more.
“We were intrigued by the phenomenon, which is going through the roof in the U.S.A. It’s presented as an alternative to beer and wine for cocktail hour or pre-dinner drinks,” explains François Bassnagel, co-founder of Opéan, which has ben selling a sparkling water brewed in Burgundy for a year now. The recipe is simple: water, cane sugar, natural extracts, and an alcohol level that hovers around 5%, obtained by fermenting the water and sugar.
A €4-billion market in the USA
“We were intrigued by the phenomenon, which is going through the roof in the U.S.A. It’s presented as an alternative to beer and wine for cocktail hour or pre-dinner drinks,” explains François Bassnagel, co-founder of Opéan.
Nonetheless, the phenomenon is still quite limited in France: according to Nielsen’s market-measurement services, it generated €250,000 in supermarkets and large grocery stores from November 2020 to April 2021. But the room for improvement is enormous when you know that in the United States, sales of alcoholic sparkling waters soared to approximately $4 billion in 2020.
“The product still needs to be introduced to French consumers,” François Bassnagel acknowledges. But he is confident that the sugar-free, half-the-calories-of-traditional-drinks aspect will soon appeal to more and more young professionals, who are attentive to what they consume. The large beverage brands would seem to agree with him, as they are mushrooming on the French hard-seltzer market. Behind Topo Chico is Coca-Cola; Plume & Pétal is sold by Bacardi-Martini; Pure Piraña by Heineken, and Bewiz by Pernod Ricard, number two worldwide in the spirits (hard liquor) sector.