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“No beverage product has received more publicity over the past year than hard seltzers. These colorless carbonated alcoholic drinks often come with the same faint fruit flavors of La Criox. Hard seltzer brands such as White Claw, Bon & Viv, and Truly advertise their low calories, lack of gluten, and inclusion of fruit. It’s nice to think that consumers, jaded on the repeated, deceptive, manipulative, and sometimes overtly corrupt efforts to connect alcohol to health, are immune to the “healthy drinking” scam. But hard seltzers are one of the most rapidly growing product groups in the industry. According to Vox.com, their current market share is estimated at $550 million, and at least one forecaster has that growing to as much as $2.5 billion by 2021.

The rise of hard seltzers are the dark side of a hopeful trend: younger generations may be less likely to use alcohol than their forerunners. It is unclear whether this decline comes from the economic hardships Milennials and “Gen Z” face, from the rise of legal cannabis, from effective prevention campaigns, or from shifting trends. What is clear is that Big Alcohol is concerned, and hard seltzers are what they hope to be the magic bullet. Speaking the Brewbound (subscription required), Molson Coors confirmed that their new hard seltzer, Vizzy, is targeted directly at the 21 to 34-year-old market. Ultimately, hard seltzers are just another incarnation of flavored malt beverages–cheap, easy-to-drink alcohol that carries significant appeal to novice drinkers, especially those underage.

Needless to say, the marketing surrounding hard seltzer is an overt, if well-worn, lie. Alcohol use alone carries health risks. Even low levels of drinking can leave a consumer vulnerable to cancers and certain cardiovascular diseases. As consumption rises, organ damage, accidental injury, motor vehicle crashes, violence, and self-harm become significant risks as well. Alcohol dehydrates, may slow muscle recovery, and interferes with metabolism–never mind the hangover (and potential for long-term mental decline). This is part of why this same lie needs to be constantly repackaged for new generations.

As the old lies recur, so do the old bad actors. FourLoko, a manufacturer notorious for selling products in such large containers and at such high concentration that a single can becomes the equivalent of binge drinking, has introduced its own line of 12% ABV seltzers in 22 oz. cans. This is the equivalent of 5 White Claws, which, at 5%, are already towards the higher end of canned alcohols. Multiple bars, meanwhile, use the seltzers as a base to build mix drinks.”

Read more from Alcohol Justice (USA, February 2020)

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