Fifth-generation beermaker Nick Shields had an epiphany about six years ago.
“I was sitting in a dive bar in Westport, Connecticut, and I noticed five patrons ordering vodka sodas, one after the other,” Shields told VICE News. “I realized in that moment that I could create something just as clean, crisp, refreshing and popular as a vodka soda, without the bite of distilled spirits and with lower alcohol content.”
Shortly after, he created the first-ever hard seltzer. His invention filled a giant hole in the beverage industry left by declining beer sales. In the past year, hard seltzer sales have more than doubled. But the secret to its long-term success isn’t how brands are marketing it, but who they’re marketing it to.
Beer companies realize they can’t survive on frat boys and Homer Simpsons alone and have set their sights on female customers. While women aren’t the only people drinking hard seltzer, few demographics have grown more in the last couple of years than educated women with disposable income and something to drink about.
And as consumers in general continue to move away from sugar and gluten, beer companies are positioning hard seltzer as the “healthy” option by comparison. But dieticians warn that it’s really not all that different from light beer.
This segment originally aired August 30, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.