They make up a relatively small part of the market— but most flavored malt beverages (aka malternatives) and, in many cases, flavored, ready-to-drink wine-based cocktails, continue to hold their own against other alcohol segments, even with the advancing charge of cider and craft beer. “Malt alternative beverages have been stagnant, like how the yogurt industry was on the grocery side. Then Greek yogurt came along and the category was reinvigorated. We’re looking to do the same with our brands,” says Rich Simon, founder and managing partner of the Social Blends LLC, that produces the Slim Lizzy line low-calorie cocktails, whose offerings include Golden Margarita, Cranberry Cosmo and Strawberry Daiquiri. The company, whose products are wine-based, sees growth potential in marketing directly to women. It spent 18 months with female consumers and formulated and branded a product based on their responses. The company also is introducing kegs for on-premise and event accounts.
Mike’s Hard Lemonade remains the No. 1 brand in the segment, with a 31.3 percent share, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC). Among the plans Mike’s has for 2014 is a new look. The entire Mike’s brand is undergoing a package refresh in 2014 with new longneck bottles that emphasize the familiar lemon logo and the Mike’s name. The company also will introduce seasonal flavors through its Harder line that will be available in three limited edition offerings this year, starting with mike’s Harder Blood Orange. Consumers will be invited to help pick subsequent flavors as well as label art. “We know it’s important for the millennial generation to be part of the brand experience and co-create with brands and we’re excited to offer consumers the chance to do that,” says Gio D’Alessandro, chief marketing officer for Mike’s parent company Mark Anthony Brands.
The news is not all positive for some familiar names in the segment, as some of the Diageo brands, like Smirnoff Ice and its brethren, saw volume dip for the eighth year in a row, according to BMC. But one brand to keep an eye on in 2014 is the Bud Light ’Ritas, which saw tremendous growth in the past year and staked out 5.6 percent of the FMB market in it’s first year, according to BMC.