The Portman Group releases new guidance for hard seltzer producers

The Portman Group has released new guidance on hard seltzers.

The social responsibility and regulatory body has also released the results of consumer research, which shows that just 7% of UK consumers have heard of the term ‘hard seltzer’.

In November 2020, the Portman Group commissioned YouGov to carry out consumer polling on perceptions and understanding of the terms ‘hard’ and ‘hard seltzers’.

Highlighting their relatively new arrival to the market, 93% of UK consumers had not heard of hard seltzers. In total, less than a quarter (21%) had heard of at least one of ‘hard water’, ‘alcoholic sparkling water’ or ‘hard seltzer’.

Polling showed that understanding of the terms associated with alcoholic seltzers was highest in younger consumers aged 18-24, predominantly because hard seltzers are specifically targeted at this market.

The Portman Group also noted that more than two thirds (68%) of British consumers didn’t understand whether ‘hard’ was being used to convey either the alcoholic content, alcoholic strength, or both.

The drinks, which are made by blending alcohol and sparkling water, are popular in the US where the term “hard” is commonly associated with alcohol, particularly cider.

In response to these results, the Portman Group has issued specific Hard Seltzer Guidance stipulating that products must communicate their alcoholic nature with absolute clarity. For best practice purposes, producers are encouraged to include alcohol volume and references to ‘alcohol’ on the front of packaging and ensure that these elements are given more emphasis than other design features. Caution is advised when using fruit images and descriptors, a popular feature for the category.

Matt Lambert, Portman Group chief executive, said: “Our research shows there is consumer confusion on the use of the various hard seltzer terms. This is perhaps unsurprising given the relative newness of the category in the UK; however, we expect it to grow rapidly.

“As such the guidance has been issued in anticipation of the growth in order to help producers avoid potential pitfalls as they innovate and launch. The Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) is the final arbiter of the Code and will assess complaints about products on a case-by-case basis, accounting for all relevant information.”

The Portman Group also noted its Advisory Service offers a free, confidential, and impartial service where producers can seek advice on how the Codes apply to their products and promotions and discuss possible improvements if necessary.

Related articles: