Portman Group issues guidance after research shows Brits yet to understand hard seltzers

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Bodega Bay hard seltzer

The Portman Group has released new guidance on hard seltzers, following research that showed seltzers aren’t understood by consumers.

The consumer research commissioned by the self-regulatory body for alcohol in the UK revealed that just 7 per cent of the consumers had heard of the term ‘hard seltzer’.

Popular in the US, hard seltzers are essentially alcoholic sparkling water. While the term ‘hard’ is commonly associated with alcohol, particularly cider, in the US, it isn’t currently translating across the Atlantic, the study by YouGov for the Portman Group found.

Highlighting their relatively new arrival to the market, 93 per cent 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’.

Over two thirds (68%) of British consumers didn’t understand whether ‘hard’ was being used to convey either the alcoholic content, alcoholic strength, or both. Additionally, nearly two thirds (64%) did not feel the term was useful when used to indicate alcoholic content on soft drinks or alcoholic drinks.

The specific Hard Seltzer Guidance issued by the Portman Group stipulates 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.

“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,” commented Matt Lambert, Portman Group chief executive.

“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.”