Coca-Cola will enter U.S. hard seltzer market in first half of 2021, CEO says

Business

Coca-Cola aims to release its first hard seltzer in the U.S. in the first half of 2021, CEO James Quincey told CNBC on Monday.

The excursion into the fast-growing category is a noteworthy pivot for the beverage giant, which hasn’t had a presence in the market since the early 1980s, when it sold off its wine business.

“I think what it does say is: Look, we’re going to follow the consumer,” Quincey said in a “Mad Money” interview. It’s the latest update on the new product since the move was first announced in July.

Coca-Cola will release a hard seltzer under Topo Chico, a drink brand the company acquired in 2017. The U.S. launch of Topo Chico Hard Seltzer will follow its launch in Mexico, where the brand was founded making sparkling water, and Brazil later this month. The company released an alcoholic drink called Lemon-Do in Japan in 2018.

Hard seltzers are appealing to consumers for their lower content of calories and alcohol. As consumer tastes shift, U.S. hard seltzer sales reached $3 billion over the course of a year ending in mid-July, based on research from Bump Williams Consulting Co.

Mike’s Hard Lemonade’s White Claw and Boston Beer’s Truly are the biggest brands in the hard seltzer category, and more companies have joined the market, including Corona earlier this year. Boston Beer CEO Dave Burwick told CNBC earlier this year that the shift to hard seltzer is the biggest category shift he’s seen since the introduction of light beer in the 1970s.

“I think these innovations that we’ve seen, including hard seltzer, are a trend of the consumer looking for new things, and if we want to be consumer-centric … then that’s what’s taking us to this opportunity,” Quincey said.

Shares of Coca-Cola slid almost 3% to $49.09 in the broad stock market sell-off Monday. The stock is down double digits year to date.

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