The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Beer or seltzer? Innovation for consumer choice

By Dylan Firth, Executive Director, Brewers Association of New Zealand

Dylan Firth

For an alcoholic product to be sold in a supermarket it can only be beer, wine or cider. So why then have we come to see the newest, fastest-growing beverage trend – seltzers – on the shelves of your local supermarket?

In many international markets, seltzers are generally just alcoholic sodas flavoured with natural fruit juices, including some brands in New Zealand.

The word seltzers comes from the German town Selters, famous for its natural mineral springs.

So, for these products to be sold in supermarkets in New Zealand they need to be made from a beer or cider base – which can be a difficult process to get that crisp flavour seltzers are known for.

The Australasian Food Code describes beer as: The product, characterised by the presence of hops or preparations of hops prepared by the yeast fermentation of an aqueous extract of malted or unmalted cereals, or both; or such a product with any of the following added during production: cereal products or other sources of carbohydrate; sugar; salt; herbs and spices.

That’s a pretty narrow scope considering the range of beers available. By sticking to this recipe and using light grain and hop flavours there has been a steady increase in the number of beer based seltzers in market. I expect to see more as brewers see the growing demand from consumers.

What this and the formulation of beer based seltzers shows us is that innovation is key to providing new options to consumers where they want to purchase their beverages.

While I don’t see seltzers as overtaking beer in the market, I do see the beer category having to continue to innovate and differentiate itself to maintain relevance in an ever increasingly crowded marketplace.

Originally published in the March issue of The Shout NZ. Read the full issue below.

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