Utah Bill Could Push Hard Seltzers Out of C-Stores

Depending on how they’re brewed and flavored, sales of the libations would be restricted to liquor stores.

February 17, 2022

Bud Light Seltzer

SALT LAKE CITY—A bill in the Utah Senate could move certain hard seltzer brands and flavors from convenience and grocery stores to Utah state-run liquor stores, depending on how they were brewed, reports FOX13.

Currently, Utah has a legal definition of beer, and some seltzers don’t currently meet the definition. Where the seltzers would be sold would come down to how they are brewed and what flavorings are in them.

“It’s going to be a little bit confusing to consumers why they might see a cherry- or a lime-flavored seltzer in a grocery or convenience store," Kate Bradshaw, president of the Utah Beer Wholesalers Association, told FOX13. “That same brand’s watermelon or blackberry flavor is going to be in the state liquor store.”

Bradshaw described it as a “nuanced problem” that comes down to chemistry. She said that certain seltzer flavors that meet the glycol-based flavoring standards of Utah’s law would be sold in a convenience or grocery store, but other seltzers that use an ethyl-alcohol-based flavoring component would be sold at a state-run liquor store.

There are 106 hard seltzer products being sold in Utah, and a little over half meet Utah’s definition of beer and can be sold in a convenience or grocery store, says Bradshaw.

NACS treats alcoholic seltzers as a subcategory under beer, according to the NACS Category Definitions & Numbering Guide–Version 8.0. The new definitions, released last year, are now in effect.

NACS Daily reported last summer that the demand for hard seltzer has cooled. Boston Beer’s founder and chairman Jim Koch says the decline is due to slow growth in household penetration as the market matures, and there is less new trial, a transition of volume from off-premise to on-premise, more hard seltzer choices and a challenging comparison period to last year. However, Anheuser-Busch is bullish on spiked seltzers and is doubling-down on the category.

Coca-Cola recently announced a spirits-based, ready-to-drink, canned cocktail under Coke’s FRESCA brand and introduced Topo Chico hard seltzer last year in partnership with Molson Coors. PepsiCo will release a hard Mountain Dew this year, partnering with Boston Beer Co.

For more on ready-to-drink cocktails, read the NACS Magazine article “Bottoms Up.”